Where to Find Boston’s Best Ramen This Winter
From bowls of rich tonkotsu broth to vegetarian options.
Our cravings for comfort fare have barely abated over the last two years—and there’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of belly-warming ramen, especially as we stare down another winter. While instant-noodle packets like Maruchan and Top Ramen have their place—there’s no shame in buying them by the 12-pack—you can find far tastier takes on the popular Asian noodle bowl all over town. Below is a list of our favorite ramen spots, some specializing solely in ramen, some offering ramen alongside other Japanese delicacies, and some that aren’t ramen restaurants at all but happen to offer a unique take on an ancient recipe.
Ganko Ittetsu Ramen
With strong attention to detail, each bowl of Ganko’s Sapporo-style 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.
One of the most exciting places in the city for exotic food and drink, Hojoko 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 two types of ramen on the menu, so you can assume each is a tried-and-true recipe. 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. The spicy miso ramen, meanwhile, features the same chicken broth but swaps out chicken for spicy pork and adds corn tempura.
Filling the void left by Pikaichi in the infamous Super 88 food court, Allston residents are 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 vegetarian friends with miso and tomato alternatives.
Little Big Diner
Little in size and huge on taste, this suburban sensation’s pan-Asian menu offers six varieties of ramen and a seasonal selection to boot. Choose from Tokyo basic ramen, paitan chicken, chili chashu pork paitan, miso ramen (spicy or not), and shoyu ramen. 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. A plethora of add-ons are also available with each selection for a nominal fee.
Lots of folks thought this beloved ramen spot was closed for good, but it rose like a Phoenix in October with a slightly revised menu that still puts its indelible ramen front and center. Neponset Cafe offers a Kagoshima-style ramen, with a rich, cloudy broth made from pork and chicken. Opt for the spicy version if you’re feeling, well, spicy.
Chef-owner Tracy Chang first made her name around town with the beloved pop-up Guchi’s Midnight Ramen, one of the most elusive tickets in town in the early 2010s. So it’s no wonder she now serves one of the best ramens in town from her brick-and-mortar spot—and the best part is, you don’t have to stay up past midnight to score this bowl. You just have one choice here: The Guchi’s Midnight Ramen featuring a slow-simmered pork and seafood broth, six-minute soy egg, thinly sliced pork belly, umami, nori, and the handmade QQ noodles which are bouncy, chewy, and transcendent.
It’s the definition of a hole in the wall, even after all these years. This Porter Exchange lunch mainstay entices with its chicken and veggie broth—simmered for over 10 hours—and its eight different ramen options, all served with Premium Wave noodles. The house ramen is the obvious choice, but you can also go to the spicier side with the hot and sour ramen, with tofu and roast pork, or the spicy miso varietal with spicy ground pork.
Finally, a restaurant mini-chain 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 thanks to a lengthy list of add-ons. Or, if you want to jump countries, you can opt to create your own Thai noodle soup or pho. While the JP and Brookline locations continue to thrive, a third location will open soon in Cambridge.
A newer ramen entry from the team behind Japanese restaurant Tora, and a most welcome one at that. A menu of five different ramen choices gives you options while also letting you cut to the chase: original, spicy, black garlic, Shoyu, and vegetarian miso broth, with an extensive menu of add-ons. Throw in a couple of hot apps, and you have a comfort meal that can carry you through anything.
With three locations in NYC, two in Taipei, and three in the Boston area, Totto Ramen is quickly spreading influence over the world. 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 bases (three chicken and one vegetarian) and top it 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 intriguingly said from the start that he would remain open for 1,000 business days before figuring out his next move, but we’re glad he’s stuck around. Onishi hails from Osaka and has lived in Honolulu and North Carolina, but this is a traditional Osaka-style ramen bowl that still has everyone in town talking. Then again, since he only serves 50 bowls per day, 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.
Yume Wo Katare
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, 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. This decadent broth is made from slowly simmering pork bones for more than 24 hours, and the super thick noodles are made in-house.