Slurp Down Some Noodles at These Boston Ramen Spots
As temperatures begin to drop, New Englanders prepare for the cold by filling their bellies with food that is best slurped and sipped. That means ramen, of course. And while instant-noodle packets like Maruchan and Top Ramen have their place, you can find tastier takes on the popular Asian noodle bowl all over town, with more popping up every year. Every region of Japan has their own take on the dish, and most of them are available in noodle nooks around the Boston area. Below is a list of our favorite ramen restaurants. Some specialize solely in ramen, some offer ramen alongside other Japanese delicacies, and some aren’t ramen restaurants at all -- but just offer a unique take on an ancient recipe.
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.
What would a ramen place be like if it were run by the Wu-Tang Clan? Probably something 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. This restaurant focuses solely on ramen, and for the past few years has left noodle heads from all around singing its praises. 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 tsukemen 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 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.
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.
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.
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. Head chef Masuo Onishi opened for two springs 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 Ittestu serves up traditional Sapporo-style ramen, and since Sapporo and Boston have similar climates, following these recipes are ideal for our fair city, no matter 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.
After “popping up” around town since 2015, chef Moe Kuroki finally found a downtown brick-and-mortar location for her ramen early last year. 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, but now she has a place all her own. 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. By the way, Kuroki is also offering up four varieties of ramen salad bowls, which sounds strange but we’d be surprised if they didn’t catch on.
Finally Jamaica Plain makes a restaurant that focuses on the broths of the East. With six ramen bases to choose from, Soup Shack allows you to configure your bowl to your liking with its lengthy list of add-ons. Or, if you want to jump continents, you can opt for alternative broths in the form of Thai noodles or pho. While the JP location continues to thrive, a second location in Brookline is already underway.
One of the most exciting places in the city for exotic food and drink, Hojoko (located in the Verb Hotel) has made quite a name for itself over the years thanks to its unique take on Asian classics and its thriving late night party atmosphere. You’ll only find one ramen on the menu, so you can assume it’s a tried and true recipe that has been labored over until it reached perfection. The “Funky Chicken Ramen” comes with a fragrant 48-hour chicken broth, soy egg, menma, and robata grilled koji chicken. If you like things a little spicy, we recommend you add the house-made fermented chili relish for just a buck.
Filling the void left by Pikaichi in the infamous Super 88 food court, Allston residents were lucky that they were able to trade one great ramen counter for another. Isshindo, which opened in early 2019, focuses on the traditional bone-rendered tonkotsu broth, but it also makes things easy for their vegetarian friends with miso and tomato alternatives.
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