Soul Food

Asian flavors mix with local ingredients at Chef Tim Groody’s newest restaurant.

It’s not often we ask you to venture outside of the loop for a new dining adventure, but some chefs warrant a drive north. Chef Tim Groody is one of those worthy reasons. His newest concept, Ramen Soul, lives high up in Mooresville (exit 35, to be exact) and is a seemingly radical departure from Fork!, his hyperlocal restaurant in Cornelius.

In actuality, though, the menu at Ramen Soul is full of dim sum (Chinese-style small plates) and steamy bowls of ramen, and maintains Groody’s longstanding ethos to use local ingredients from local farmers. Groody is a veteran of Charlotte’s culinary scene and one of its farm-to-fork pioneers ever since his tenure at the now-defunct Sonoma in the early 2000s, a restaurant that bred some of Charlotte’s most well-respected chefs.

One may have gotten an inkling of Groody’s affinity for Asian flavors at Fork!—where pork dumplings with soy pearls and spicy chicken spring rolls adorn the starter menu. But he cites his wife and business partner Melanie Groody’s love of ramen as the driving inspiration for their second venture. The couple loves to eat the famous Japanese noodle bowl. Any chance they get, they explore ramen establishments.

Ramen Soul, a play off The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, is tucked into a business strip off Brawley School Road. The outside belies the playful interior of the place. Once inside, the atmosphere is fun, surprisingly roomy, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Guests are greeted by an inviting L-shaped bar, with hanging globe lights and a full bar menu that features sake flights and sake-infused cocktails. Big screen televisions play movies like “Kung-Fu Panda” and “Karate Kid.” On the walls are quotes from famous musicians—Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and The Beatles, to name a few—paired with cheeky artwork from Charlotte artist Scott Partridge that fuses classic rock album covers with ramen innuendo.

Hot and cold small plates make up the dim sum portion of the Ramen Soul menu. Spring for the tuna poke tossed in a coconut jalapeño dressing or the spicy lamb gyoza filled with local lamb. The Pastrami Reuben egg roll is another standout, and a convivial twist to the traditional egg roll.

Groody offers seven different ramen styles, from the rich pork broth known as Tonkatsu to Tsukemen, the chilled noodle bowl with dipping broth. He says learning the complexities of building a great ramen bowl is an ongoing process. He is currently perfecting the long-simmered broth. For the special alkaline noodles needed for ramen, Groody uses Sun Noodle, an artisan noodle company. Until he can make a better noodle, he says, he’ll use expert artisans.

The ginger and garlic miso bowl was flavor-packed with crispy garlic chips, pulled chicken, smoked pork belly, and shiitake mushrooms. And the addition of a soy-marinated egg (locally sourced) proved to be a very good idea. Guests can build their own bowl with a host of add-ons like bamboo shoots, kimchi, or 60-degree egg. 

Whatever you choose at Ramen Soul, it’s all in good fun and definitely worth the drive. 

Photography by LunahZon Photography