ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Buya Ramen

In Sarasota for business one weekend and with time to kill, I decided to drive about 45 minutes north, to St. Petersburg, to check out a restaurant I'd seen featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It turned out to be more than worth the trip!

A selection of sakes
The restaurant, Buya Ramen, is decidedly an upscale Ramen house. While it was featured on Triple D, I don't think it really matches ANY of those descriptors. The interior is done in dark tones with a concrete bar -- very urban and hip -- but the service was delightfully old-school. And the food? As Guy Fieri would say, "Off the HOOK!"

Maybe because I've tended bar myself, the first thing I noticed was a line of different bitters on the counter. Bars don't invest in those (they're not cheap) unless their bartenders know how to use them, and the folks at Buya apparently do. They also have a huge selection of Japanese whiskeys as well as other potent potables.

I didn't want to get crazy that early in the afternoon, so I stuck with a glass of unfiltered sake, which was light and smooth, and reminiscent of scotch notes, as many sakes are.

After looking over their lunch menu and not being able to decide, I spotted the "lunch special" which offered 1/2 of a ramen dish and 1/2 of an izakaya plate. Perfect! I'd been going back and forth between the two, so I selected a chicken ramen with a soft shell crab bun.


Lunch special: 1/2 ramen, 1/2 izakaya
I was very impressed that one of the owners was making the rounds, making sure people had what they needed and were happy. An owner working the floor shows that s/he cares, and I believe it makes a huge difference.

Buya Ramen is a little pricier than you might expect for a "ramen restaurant" but it is totally worth it!

Number 1 restaurant in the area according to several social media sites? I am not at all surprised. Go, spend the money, and you too will be impressed. I guarantee it!

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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