Finally, Charlotte Has a Ramen House Thanks to Futo Buta

Finally, Charlotte Has a Ramen House Thanks to Futo Buta

Anyone who has experienced the first season of “Mind of a Chef” on PBS (but most importantly also on Netflix) has been drooling over the brothy Japanese noodle craze that is upscale ramen. But even if you haven’t, forget whatever instant mess of noodles you remember having in college, unless you’re cooking it like this, and drop by the cozy new restaurant run by Chef Michael Shortino, formerly of Baku in SouthPark.

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The interior of Futo Buta is paneled in sleek oak boards. ©Rémy Thurston

Futo Buta, located on the Bland Street Station in SouthEnd, is everything we love about a new upstart eatery in the Queen City. It’s intimate, delicious, full of natural light and has quirky design elements throughout the dining room—plus an ever-pleasurable patio. At its roots, Futo Buta (roughly translating to “fat pig” in English) is humble. The meal you go there to have is nothing more than some broth, some noodles and some simple but tasty garnishes. Except that the execution and care put into each dish portends of an establishment steeped in exceptional class, culture and composition. The decorations are stark but fun, so the overall experience is layered with clean simplicity and complex flavors.

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The exterior looks out over the Charlotte skyline and the light rail. ©Rémy Thurston

For example, through the pass window, customers can look at the water tower-sized stock pots that simmer their contents for hours on end wringing every molecule of flavor from animal bones and stewing vegetables out until a savory pungent stock is wrought from their depths. The ramen bowls, which were individually handmade by William Baker Pottery for Futo Buta, come out laden with everything from silky leeks and crunchy cabbage to perfectly soft boiled eggs and pork belly that envelopes the tongue with a creamy umami flavor generally only attributed to confits or foie gras—I would very literally spread that pork belly fat on bread if I could. That said, there is also vegan ramen on the menu.

So here is what you need to know: the ramen house is open everyday of the week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., except on Friday and Saturday when it is open “until.” They are on a limited menu currently, but expect to roll out the full list of dishes soon (including sushi). No cocktails on the menu, but the beer, wine and sake selection is adequate. Their prized—and praised—tonkatsu ramen, made with a house pork bone broth, sells out very quickly, so don’t expect to order it after being out all night (we see you all riding home full of booze on the LYNX), but not to worry because their other ramen bowls are still lightyears beyond other late-night eats in the area, and you’re already on the light rail so there’s no reason not to stop in. Go for the ramen, but stay for the steam buns. The Lowcountry pork belly bun is definitely a highlight. It also brings to mind another point I liked about Futo Buta. They serve classically Japanese cuisine, but put a spin on the ingredients to reflect local produce and heritage. Did I mention they also make their own noodles in house? Because they do, and they are meant to be slurped and burped Japanese style.

When you do make it out to Futo Buta, let us know how it was and either comment below or message us on social media.

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The tori kara age Japanese fried chicken is served simply with a lime wedge, mint leaves and more than you’d ever need of chili mayonnaise. ©RĂ©my Thurston

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The miso ramen has sweet corn, smoked pork belly, scallions, bean sprouts, cabbage, onsen (essentially soft boiled) egg and sesame seeds. ©Rémy Thurston

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The shoyu ramen comes with a healthy portion of smoked pork belly, bamboo shoots, scallions, an onsen egg, roasted spring onions (that I thought were leaks) and wakame—delicious seaweed. ©Rémy Thurston

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The soft serve flavor changes daily, but I tried the strawberry yuzu sprinkled with Himalayan salt flake and fell in love. Who needs sprinkles when you can have salt? ©Rémy Thurston

RĂ©my
My love affair with well-executed food, drink and service culminates in my writing, editing and photography.

6 Comments

  1. What a horrible location. The previous restaurant lasted 5 months. You can’t see it. Out of sight, out of mind.

  2. Give them a chance. If the food is good, they will come. I will agree probably not the best location as far as visibility goes. Time will tell.

  3. ……It’s directly next to the Bland Street Station, underneath the Post apartment complex…..in the heart of South End. Not quite sure how there could be a better location. I checked them out yesterday…..people will take the time to find them, their food is unreal.

  4. However you can’t see it from South Blvd so I would agree that it is far from a great location. If the food is great they have a chance.

  5. Lea

    South End is becoming one of, if not the most, walkable neighborhoods in Charlotte. Foot traffic from the adjacent South Blvd. apartments alone can keep them in business. As previously mentioned, if the food is good people will come.

    With that being said, how the heck is Carraba’s still on South Blvd?!

  6. We found it. We were determined. Having lived in Japan, the search for authentic soba soup has been an ongoing quest ending in disappointment UNTIL we walked in here and ate! Amazing and authentic. You cannot imagine my surprise and delight.

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