Located at 4929 West Market Street in Greensboro’s FantaCity International Shopping Center, Tampopo Ramen & Hibachi specializes in ramen but also offers hibachi dishes and Japanese appetizers. The restaurant is open from 11 to 9 every day except for Sunday.
Instant ramen may be a staple of college dorm sustenance, but it also gives the real thing a bad name. For those who have never had a chance to experience genuine ramen, Tampopo will deliciously illuminate all you have been missing.
Tampopo is a smallish space though patterned chair covers and wall art give the domain some personality. It seems to do a brisk lunch trade, which is great for its coffers but puts a strain on the constantly bustling servers, who are at least polite and helpful (a thick noodle suggestion proved to be a good call) when available.
The menu here offers the expected apps (gyoza, tempura, edamame) and hibachi plates (chicken, shrimp, steak, veggies, etc.), but the ramen offerings are really what set Tampopo apart. There are about half a dozen ramen offerings here, varying in broths (pork, chicken, or vegetable), flavor profiles (miso, soy, or spicy), and toppings. Additional toppings can be added for an upcharge, allowing for a highly customizable experience.
For our first visit, I went with a champon ramen (a Nagasaki specialty with seafood and a spicy broth) while my wife opted for the classic tonkatsu (pork broth) ramen. The dishes were a good value at $12 and $10, respectively, as they came in huge bowls that easily yielded two meals apiece.
Both bowls presented well with plenty of meat, vegetables, and noodles. The champon ramen was tasty but punishing: plan on drinking plenty of water if you want to take it on. The tonkatsu ramen, ordered spicy, still had a kick, but its flavors were more complex. Both dishes were hearty and filling.
Tampopo is not the only place in Greensboro that offers real ramen, but it certainly provides the most variety and the most intriguing examples thereof. Whether or not it becomes a favorite depends on your taste for the titular dish, but the next time you find yourself craving soup on a cold or rainy day, give it a try.