Tanpopo is the place to go

By Jenny Ledig

Tanpopo Noodle Shop is a St. Paul gem that specializes in udon and soba noodles, located in Lowertown right by the farmers market. This is not the $0.40 instant ramen college staple, but rather a healthy and hearty meal in a classy restaurant that has a surprisingly calming effect for a space that is a converted warehouse. While Tanpopo offers sushi, this does not seem to be the focus, and you would probably be disappointed by what comes out. Instead for a starter, try the organic spinach with sesame salad with a tangy ginger and sesame dressing. Zach Huffman ’13 enjoyed this melt in your mouth appetizer, claiming it was “the most delicious spinach [he] ever had.” The salad comes highly recommended and is a great dish to share. Other appetizers range from edamame and different types of tempura to chicken wings in a ginger-soy sauce and deep fried tofu.

There are five variations of soup that can be served with the thin soba noodles or thick udon noodles. Min Kyu “M” Kim ’13 tried nabeyaki udon that comes with a variety of ingredients: shrimp tempura, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, fish cake, Japanese omelet and wakame (seaweed). M wasn’t bowled over by the dish, but I liked it a lot. Other soups are simpler like the wild mushroom, beef or tori (chicken) soba/udon dishes. The prices range from $8.95 for the simpler soups to $11.95 for the heartier nabeyaki udon entree.

The alternative entrees are teishoku or set meals that are “a home-style meal” that come with miso soup, white rice, salad, a side of eggplant or pickles and your protein of choice. I opted for the tonkatsu teishoku, a panko-breaded pork cutlet with a tangy tonkatsu sauce, which was delicious. I thought it was a lot of high quality food and a good deal for $13. Zach Huffman ordered and devoured the chicken kara-age: pieces of marinated chicken with ponzu and a citrus sauce garnished with grated daikon, a type of radish.

In contrast to his positive review of the food, Zach was completely dissatisfied with the decorations and ambience of the restaurant. While M and I enjoyed the sleek décor and peaceful vibe, Zach thought they were skimping and did not appreciate the stark furnishings. I liked that each table has a tiny vase of flowers that manages to be cute and not cheap looking like at many establishments, and that there is seating with character like the neat U-shaped wood table perfect for bigger groups.

The service was attentive and helpful, and although it does not bother me, some are miffed or at the very least surprised to find that there is an automatic 15% gratuity added to your check, no matter the size of your party.

I really enjoyed the food and it’s a chill place to come have a filling, high quality meal.

08 Prince St. #140
Saint Paul, MN 55101
Monday – Thursday: 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

Friday – Saturday: 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

Closed Sunday