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Jul 12, 2010 09:21 PM

Looking for good Japanese restaurant

Dear Twin Cities Hounds -- I'm in LA and will be in the Cities this coming weekend visiting a friend who moved there two years ago. While in LA, our tradition was often good Japanese food and I'd love to relive that experience in her newly adopted home. We prefer casual (read: blue jeans considered appropriate attire), and neither of us are sushi fans. We enjoy good, traditional Japanese cuisine in a low-key environment. She lives in Fridley and anything in about a 15-mile radius will be great. Thanks for any suggestions you can give!

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  1. I think Tanpopo fits the bill. Low key, comfortable, noodle-centered fare executed very well. They also have teishoku. It's in downtown St. Paul. Let us know where you end up!

    Tanpopo Noodle Shop
    308 Prince St, Saint Paul, MN 55101

    13 Replies
    1. re: diesel

      I know "me toos" aren't too helpful, but please take diesel's advice. Tanpopo would be perfect. Very delicious food and laid back atmosphere. Make sure to try the ginger ice cream if they have it.

      1. re: diesel

        +3 --the op & friend sound like they'd love tanpopo

        1. re: soupkitten

          +4. wonderful noodle soups. relaxed setting. we love this place.

          1. re: karykat

            +5 - "me toos" are helpful to me because they indicate consensus. That said, if noodle soups are not your thing, Obento-ya is a fine choice.

            1. re: kevin47

              Hey now...Obento Ya's kake udon and soba are darn good (good dashi = good soup). The pork ramen is good...but way too rich for my blood.

              But I'd agree not as good as Tanpopos.

              1. re: Foureyes137

                I didn't mean that as a put down on Obento Ya. I was trying to say that if noodle soups (and sushi) aren't your thing, you should look beyond Tanpopo.

                OY's pork ramen is quite nice, but only available Monday's, by my understanding.

                Also, to the OP, if you have the chance, make time for a visit to one of our Vietnamese restaurants and our farmer's markets. The latter are in peak season, and the former is always in season.

                1. re: kevin47

                  Can you go into more detail about the ramen? I'm curious as to what type of broth they use... wondering is it clear or dark? And, do you have any other particular favorites for the daily specials - would you go out of your way to stop by Obento-ya on a given day?

                  1. re: air

                    Dark broth. Far too rich to be dashi.

                    They have a special right now that is sliced pork with kimchi and egg that is good, but that is available daily.

                    Presently, I wouldn't say there is a special that drives me to Obento-Ya, but I'm driven to eat there rather often none-the-less.

                2. re: Foureyes137

                  A coworker from Japan is in town, and he wonders if we have any "Ramen shops" in the twin cities?

                  I suspect the answer is no, and that if he wants to get a sense of what kind of Ramen dishes we serve here, he'll be heading to one of our Japanese restaurant (Obento-Ya, Tanpopo, Moto-I) that might include one or two Ramen dishes on their menu.

                  Do you all agree?

                  1. re: baronworm

                    Correct, although Masu Sushi and Robata has several options. I haven't had their ramen, but found their other offerings tasty.

                    Masu Sushi and Robata
                    330 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                    1. re: baronworm

                      I haven't been there personally yet, but I've heard good things about the new Tim McKee venture, Masu Sushi & Robata. They have four kinds of ramen among other noodle dishes. I don't think it's a "ramen shop," but it's another option among the other Japanese restaurants with noodles.


                      I love Tanpopo and would never discourage anyone from going there, but unless they've changed, they just have udon and soba noodles - not ramen.

                      1. re: baronworm

                        One of the servers at Fuji-Ya in Minneapolis mentioned that she goes to the Fuiji-ya location in St. Paul (lunch only) for the ramen. I have not had a chance to try it yet.

                        1. re: BigSal

                          My japanese friend went to Masu this past weekend, and said it was "not bad" aka "the best Ramen I've had in the United States." (He admits he is very picky about his Ramen...)

                          I think this week we might try the St Paul Fuji-Ya for lunch, per the recommendation from BigSal.

            2. Obento-Ya.

              Close to Fridley. Terrific patio. Great place for a laid-back meal.


              2 Replies
              1. re: Foureyes137

                Second Obento-Ya. I love the Black Cod Bento Box so much. But the sushi is also good. I've only been for lunch, but here dinner is just as good.

                And I can't think of a single Japanese restaurant that jeans wouldn't be okay in.

                1. re: Foureyes137

                  doh. apparently i don't know where fridley is. thought it was south.

                  if obento-ya is closer, it's a great bet too! the op should check out the menus at both places.

                2. A thousand thanks, Twin Cities Hounds. I'm back in LA and have wonderful memories of a fabulous dinner at Tanpopo. Both my friend and I *loved* it! It simply couldn't have been better -- great food, interesting location, friendly staff. It's some of the best Japanese food we've ever tasted, and we enjoyed the urban / transitional environment. Thanks so much for your suggestions -- can't wait to return to St. Paul and go again. We've decided it will be our "LA reunion" place every time I pass through.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: broccoliluv

                    there is some construction near Tanpopo. and it apparently is only open for dinner now. but a recent thread gives a slick trick for parking so you will completely avoid all the construction. so look for that. (I'm going to try that myself on our weekend trip to the farmers market nearby.)

                    1. re: karykat

                      Here's that parking tip that will help you avoid all the construction, courtesy of Steve_in_StPaul :

                      One tip for people who want to park in that Prince Street lot is that the street leading from Tanpopo/Black Dog to the parking lot is kind of a mess at the moment, but if you're driving along Kellogg, there is an entrance to that lot a block east of the light at Broadway & Kellogg (last light before the bridge as you head east; first light you see as you head west) -- near that row-house looking building.

                      So just get on Kellogg and stay on it til you are one block east of the light at Broadway.

                    2. re: broccoliluv

                      If you like the Tanpopo neighborhood, there are two other interesting things you might enjoy.

                      First, the Lowertown farmer's market is within spittin' distance of Tanpopo. It's in operation on Saturday's and Sunday's from 8 am to 1 pm. Come down for the lunch and pick up some interesting local foods. They only allow farmers/craftsmen from within a 75 mile radius (if I recall correctly).

                      Second, if you're able to coordinate your dates, the neighborhood has the 2nd highest concentration of working artists in the Twin Cities (the other being NE Minneapolis). Check the artcrawl dates if you like art you can't necessarily eat at:

                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                        Thanks for the reminder about the Lowertown art crawls (monthly, I think). Me, I love having dinner at Tanpopo or Black Dog Cafe (love the cracker-crust pizza) before an artistic immersion. For big spenders, the bar at Heartland would be great, too.

                        Don't worry about the construction - at worst, it's a one-block detour. Think of it as a way to work off an extra 25 calories as you stroll back to your car...


                        Black Dog Restaurant
                        308 Prince St Ste 100, Saint Paul, MN 55101