Little Big Diner
Food & Drink

The Best Places in Boston for a Warm Bowl of Ramen

Updated On 10/31/2018 at 04:12PM EST
Yume Wo Katare

Yume Wo Katare

Porter Square

Serving up just one style -- with a crucial gimmick
One of the most renowned ramen locations in New England, Yume Wo Katare is laid out like a classroom with communal tables facing the chefs who are hard at work churning out bowl after bowl of Jiro-style ramen. You’ll only find one style served here, so you know it has to be good. After all these years, customers still only have to make two choices when it comes to ordering -- whether or not you want a mound of fresh garlic and whether you want two or five slices of pork. Sorry, vegetarians, you’re out of luck. This decadent broth is made from slowly simmering pork bones for over 24 hours, and the super thick noodles are made in-house. A warning to the shy, Yume Wo roughly translates to “talk about your dreams,” and diners here are encouraged to do just that. After finishing (or trying to finish) your hearty bowl, customers are asked to stand and share their life goals in front of fellow patrons...while the noodle master grades your attempt to finish your meal.

Ruckus Boston

Ruckus

Chinatown

If the Wu-Tang Clan served up noodles, they'd look like this
With Shojo and BLR (Best Little Restaurant), the team behind the Ruckus helped change the attitude and quality of Boston’s Chinatown cuisine. Now, two years since it opened, noodle heads from all over the city have proclaimed Ruckus the best recent ramen opening in Boston. Think classic ramen dishes offered in a hip-hop vernacular. The crowd-pleasing tori paitan ramen comes with chicken broth, a soy egg, leeks, purple cauliflower, and crispy-skinned fried chicken -- yes, fried chicken. Customers can also choose from the tsukamen dip (buckwheat noodles and squash curry), shoryuken ramen (pork neck, yuba and shoyu broth), black garlic mazemen (togarashi lamb, soy egg, nori, and chili), or the miso lit ramen (spicy miso broth, ground pork, soy, egg, nori, and Ruckus paste). Plus, any dish can be personalized with additional sides, known here as “Swag.”

Little Big Diner

Little Big Diner

Newton

Newton’s premier noodle pop-in
Nearby in neighboring Newton, you’ll find Little Big Diner. Little in size and huge on taste, the suburban sensation’s pan-Asian menu offers five varieties of ramen and a seasonal selection to boot. Choose from paitan chicken, chili chashu pork paitan, miso ramen (spicy or not), shoyu ramen -- and yes, even a vegetarian pumpkin ramen prime for fall in New England. But, if you’re really hungry and willing to put your fate in the chef’s hands, upgrade to the Chef’s Ultra Ramen, which combines each of the options into one bowl. Add-ons are also available with each selection for a nominal fee.

Snappy Ramen

Davis Square

You can enjoy both sushi and ramen here
Once known as Snappy Sushi, then Snappy Ramen, the restaurant now combines both skill sets under one banner -- Snappy Kitchen. Snappy’s offers a wide variety of broths that suit the carnivore and vegetarian alike. Start with Spicy, Miso, Tantan, Veggie or Shoyu and build upon that base with nine add-on options that can satisfy even the pickiest and most refined palates.

Uni

Uni

Fenway, Back Bay

Your go-to spot for a late-night bowl
Ken Oringer and Tony Messina’s famous izakaya at the Eliot Hotel has long been revered for inventive (yet pricey) makimono, sashimi, and nigiri. A few years back, the duo decided to spice things up by introducing an affordably priced late-night ramen menu with local nighthawks and service industry workers in mind. Now, on Friday and Saturday nights from 11pm-1am, three options of ramen are written on a cardboard menu, placed somewhat in view, and that’s that. These late night offerings quickly became a local sensation and their cult following continues to grow as many in-the-know foodies cite this as the best ramen secret in town.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Back Bay, Harvard Square

Lower-sodium ramen that doesn't skimp on flavor
What began as a simple mission by founder Santouka in the 1980s to “make delicious ramen” has since spread around the globe and recently to two spots in the Boston area -- one in Harvard Square and one in Boston’s Back Bay. Instead of the often elitist take on the traditional fatty, salty, meat-heavy noodle soup, Hokkaido offers a variety of ramen that is often lower in sodium and proclaims a mission to offer more appealing options to health-conscious customers, children, and vegetarians. This is ramen for the people, and that being said, you may have to enjoy it at a large communal table with all of those other people. From traditional pork broth and soy-based vegan broth with mushrooms to a brothless ramen, your options here should satisfy everyone.

Flickr/Dave Liao

Totto

Allston, Assembly Square

The small chain with a killer, thick broth
With three locations in NYC, two in Taipei, and now two locations in the Boston area, Totto Ramen is quickly spreading influence over the world ramen community. Specializing in paitan-style ramen, this is one of the thickest and heartiest broths in the city. Though it’s one of the few places without a pork broth option, you can still choose from four broths (three chicken and one vegetarian) and top your base with as much sliced pork as your hunger desires.

ANDREA MERRILL

Little Donkey

Central Square

Matzo ball ramen, anyone?
Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette continue to tingle your taste buds. Chefs and co-owners of Coppa and Toro (Boston, NYC, and Bangkok), the two opened Little Donkey a little over two years ago boasting a worldly tapas menu that includes eccentric takes on some already esoteric global dishes. If you’re looking for authentic ramen, keep looking, but if you want to try something different then you’ll want to sip and slurp your way through the matzo ball ramen. Made with chicken broth, burnt onion, schmaltz tare, and corn and fleshed out with spicy chicken, the hearty bowl comes in two sizes and has been heralded as a successful fusion of Japanese and Jewish staples.

Chick Chick Boom

Central Square

Give the people what they want: wings and ramen
You really have to be really, really good to pull off a kitschy restaurant name, and CCB has done it. Quickly winning over the hearts of Central Square and Lower Allston, Chick Chick Boom is a welcomed spot for neighborhood nosh in an otherwise dead zone for food. When it comes to comfort cuisine, what better to scratch those itches than wings and ramen. While Chick Chick Boom boasts Parisian picnic tables and free wifi, their offerings are often enjoyed “To Go” as patrons head down the freshly groomed bike trail from Cambridge back to their Allston apartments. While their menu may not offer the most traditional styles of ramen, CCB does offer up some delicious Asian fusion options like the Green Curry Chicken Ramen and Honey-Glazed Pork Ramen.

Tsurumen Davis

Tsurumen Davis

Davis Square

A cash-only experiment 1,000 days in the making
The best noodle shops in town tend to be backed up with some sort of local folklore that’s as rich as their secret broth. Tsurumen Davis is the most recent startup with a story to tell. Head chef, Masuo Onishi, opened this past spring and intriguingly said from the start that he will remain open for 1,000 business days before figuring out his next move. While we hope he sticks around, Onishi hails from Osaka and has lived in Honolulu and North Carolina, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he brings his noodles of joy to another town once those 1,000 days are up. Don’t think of this as deadline as much as a beautiful Japanese take on impermanence. At the least, it still gives you a few years to grab one of his traditional Osaka-style ramen bowls that has everyone in town talking. Then again, since he only serves 50 bowls per day and keeps the strangest of hours (noon-1pm and 6-8pm), it may just come down to being in the right place at the right time. Like everything good in life, this may take some effort, persistence and patience. Oh, and of course: cash only.

Ganko Ittetsu Ramen Brookline

Ganko Ittetsu

Coolidge Corner

A nod to Sapporo's past for delicious noodles in Boston today
Ganko Ittestu serves up traditional Sapporo-style ramen, and since Sapporo and Boston have similar climates, following these traditional recipes provide the perfect ramen for our fair city, no matter what the season. With strong attention to detail, each bowl of Ganko’s ramen allows the tare to caramelize with the vegetables while a base broth is added for a more aromatic flavor. Each meat is cooked at a different temperature and added at the appropriate time. And the noodles? Well, the noodles are none other than the much sought-after Nishiyama Seimen Noodles, which were selected to match Ganko Ittestu’s unique flavor profile.

Oisa Ramen

Oisa Ramen

Downtown

From pop-up hotspot to slurp-and-go noodle haven
After “popping up” around town since 2015, chef Moe Kuroki finally found a downtown brick-and-mortar location for her ramen in early 2018. The cozy nine-seat nook is meant for a fresh, quick bite for those on the run, and very reminiscent of the street food experience back in her native Japan. While in Boston she’s worked with some of the city’s best noodle purveyors (many of whom are mentioned above), but now she has a place all her own she’s garnering some great reviews and getting the respect she deserves.  The “Smokey” and the “Truffle” are available hot or chilled, and then, of course, there’s the “Oisa Tonkotsu” packed with pork, burnt garlic oil, sesame seeds, pickled mustard greens, soy egg, scallion, and pickled ginger. Oh, and by the way, Kuroki is also offering up four varieties of ramen salad bowls. Haven’t heard of that before? Us neither, but if they don't catch on, we’ll be surprised.

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Published On 11/13/2017
B oston's culinary year wasn’t about big, splashy openings, but instead filled with sneaky surprises. We got a delightful little Quebecois bistro, a new Mario Batali Italian grill, a sleek yet unpretentious Japanese fusion spot, and more from restaurateurs both new and established. In general, eating in 2017 felt less about being seen and more about eating well -- a refreshing change of pace that felt right for our tumultuous times. Field & Vine's fried chicken and Frenchie's steak frites might have had something to do with that. As you browse our picks for Boston’s best new restaurants, just remember: none of these tables comes easy, so book your end-of-year dining plans now.
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Kendall Square

The ne plus ultra of Boston's French Canadian fare
Who would have thought a French Canadian restaurant would be one of the year’s most exciting debuts? But the State Park/Mamaleh’s team lured us in immediately with dishes both familiar -- oysters, charcuterie, a crispy, fatty half-duck -- and uniquely Quebecois, including poutine, mushroom oreilles de crisse (a vegetarian twist on fried pork jowls), and tarte du sucre, or maple sugar pie. Even the sourdough bread slathered in butter and topped with radish slices is a snack to be savored. The dark, atmospheric back room is for romance, the brighter front space for large-group conviviality; for the sake of eating your way through the whole menu, we suggest multiple visits to both.

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Frenchie Wine Bistro

South End

Cozy, accommodating French bistro and wine bar
There’s a little Francophile in all of us, which is why it’s so hard to resist even the most mediocre French bistro. But co-owners Sandrine Rossi and Loic Le Garrec (Petit Robert Bistro) know their way around an authentic French meal, and Frenchie is thus a small-scale revelation. The diminutive, subterranean space serves mostly small-plate versions of classic dishes: think escargot toast, a drumstick coq au vin, mussels with chorizo, and beef bourguignon. The 32 wines by the glass seal the deal, and a solo diner could do far worse than cozying up to the snug bar and ordering steak frites with a couple of glasses of French red.

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Cultivar

Downtown

Sustainable, beautifully arranged new American cuisine
If there was one unambiguous Instagram food-porn star of 2017, Cultivar was it. The moment Mary Dumont’s hotel restaurant opened, stunningly plated entrees started populating our feeds. But none of this is about flashiness for its own sake; Dumont merely seeks to please as many of your senses as possible. Though sustainable seafood and dry-aged meats feature prominently on the menu, the on-site hydroponic garden is what elevates so many of the dishes, with bright, fresh vegetables adding texture and depth of flavor to both the pastas and entrees.

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Les Sablons

Cambridge

Europe by way of Harvard Square and excellent for cocktails or foie gras
From the supergroup behind Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and Row 34 comes yet another unabashed winner, this one housed in Harvard Square’s historic Conductor’s Building. The first floor is bartender Jackson Cannon’s masterpiece, a funky, expansive cocktail space with a long bar, cow-print bar stools, and some booth seating. After you’ve downed a French 75 or three, head upstairs to the austere, narrow dining room for a decidedly European repast. Beef tartare and foie gras torchon are two of the decadent starters that segue into equally rich entrees like braised rabbit and beef tournedos with bordelaise. If you seek a less hedonistic spread, the lunch or brunch menus are your gateway drugs.

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PAGU

Central Square

Japanese fusion in sleek loft space
Chef-owner Tracy Chang may not yet be 30, but the wunderkind has already cut her teeth at O Ya, built buzz with a late-night ramen pop-up, and now hit the big leagues with her restaurant debut. Hers is a Japanese menu with many twists and surprises: mazeman and fried rice and sashimi and a sumptuous pork belly bao, yes, but also ikura avocado toast, curry crab croquetas, and a tortilla espanola (Chang draws inspiration from many of her overseas travels). Don’t be fooled by the polished loft space: PAGU is a place of warmth and sociability, even in the early mornings when it serves a cafe menu that includes bottomless congee -- the ultimate comfort food before 9am.

Field & Vine

Field & Vine

Somerville

Neighborhood spot celebrating locally sourced comfort fare
Why can’t every restaurant be like this? Field & Vine plates simple American dishes impeccably prepared with seasonal, sustainable ingredients -- so simple, so straightforward, so successful. There isn’t a single miss on this small-plate menu, but highlights include the fried chicken, the gnocchi with foraged mushrooms and kale, and the bluefish pâté. The chocolate lavender pot de crème, meanwhile, arguably deserves its own Instagram account. The former Journeyman space, once chilly and inaccessible, now feels homey and pretension-free, with wood tables and an open kitchen  where you can watch the magic happen. This is a neighborhood spot you’d visit for some oysters and glass of sauvignon blanc on Monday and a multi-hour, multi-course spread with friends the following Saturday.

Courtesy of Eataly Boston

Terra

Back Bay

Eataly's homage to all things wood-grilled
This massive space feels a world removed from the controlled Eataly chaos downstairs, but you can feel Batali’s imprint nonetheless. Terra delivers on rugged, rich, primal cooking driven by the behemoth wood-fire burning stove in the center of the restaurant. You could eat your way through the skewers menu and leave sated and raving, but every entree offering gives you the salt and fat fix you crave, from the crispy, brick-grilled chicken to the extra-rare grilled lamb chop, seasoned only with lemon and mint. But gluten lovers needn’t fret: the bruschetta and pasta menus deserve equal love.

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