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Drinking Buddies: Ichicoro Ramen
Over the last few years, Tampa Bay, or “The Big Guava”, has become a melting pot of people, places, and things to do. From St. Pete to Ybor City there’s a wide variety of great eateries, ranging from traditional establishments to hip, new concept restaurants. In a saturated market it may be hard to stand out, but for the folks over at Ichicoro Ramen, that’s exactly what they’re doing – standing out. Their self-described “mod-casual authentic ramen-ya” has become a must-go destination for tourists and Tampa Bay natives alike. At each of their three bay area locations – Ichicoro Ramen, Ichicoro Imoto, and Ichicoro Ane – they’re serving up a unique and thoughtful customer experience (and a killer sake selection). We spent some time with our friends Kelly, John, and Noel at Ichicoro Ramen, and asked them a few questions about their drink menu, where they see trends heading, and the strangest questions they’ve ever been asked.
What’s the most popular drink on your menu?: Definitely our Ochu. It’s a punch made with sake, elderflower, citrus juices, and it’s super light and refreshing. We make it by the bottle, and usually in a week we go through about 13 bottles. Sometimes we have to make more by Wednesday!
What drink best matches your personality?: Red Maple, an aged sake from Hiroshima, Japan. It’s mature and lavish and knows what it wants. Anymore, if we’re going to go out, it’s going to be expensive, but worth it.
Why Ramen?: Because ramen. It’s delicious and homey. There are so many varieties that match any pallet, and it’s a creative niche that no one else is really perusing. Our locations are actually named like a family, Ichicoro, Ichicoro Imoto (little sister), and Ichicoro Ane (big sister). They’re all unique but still part of the ramen family.
What is the next big trend you see for the alcohol industry?: We’re hitting a point with cocktails where they’re sort of becoming pretentious. You go to a bar and it’s not just a bartender, it’s a “drink curator” pouring drinks with 16 different liquors and 35 herbs and spices. While those might be delicious, I think we’re going to start to see a movement towards really great bartenders serving up well made drinks that are almost satirical. We can also see a resurgence of the dive bar scene, great places where they’re pouring up shots of Jameson and PBR, but they can also make killer cocktails if you ask for them.
What is your favorite thing to do in Tampa Bay?: Everything we like to do revolves around food really, but we’d say Bern’s Steak House or Armature Works. Bern’s is a Tampa staple – something everyone should do at least once. Armature Works is just a really cool food hall, and it’s a neat place to visit during their monthly indie markets. (Side note from Fintech; don’t forget to grab some CuBaoNo Pressed Buns at Ichicoro Imoto!)
What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked by a guest?: Do you have soup here? or What’s broth? When people come here they look at the menu and get overwhelmed by the Japanese, it’s almost like they lose all their English. I think it’s more that people overthink the words, but it’s still funny.
Rest assured this isn’t your college dorm room, $0.25 ramen – this is authentic, delicious, and all homemade. Be sure to slurp some noodles on your next visit to Tampa!