Food & Drink

Boston's 6 best bowls of ramen

Published On 12/10/2014 Published On 12/10/2014

As the phrase "polar vortex" reenters the local vernacular, having a go-to bowl of hot noodles is almost as essential as a winter coat. Possibly more essential.
With the exploding popularity of ramen, it seems every day you're hearing about a new mid-day/late-night/Arbor-day only ramen pop-up. But you need something you KNOW is going to be there for you. With that in mind, here are the best fail-safe shops in the city:

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Yume Wo Katare

Porter Square
It's perch at the top of the ramen hierarchy is seldom disputed, and it isn't uncommon to witness the line outside stretch past the building. Customers brave what can be up to a two-hour wait in order to get a seat in the tiny slurp shop. Yume is unique in that they are the only spot in town to find Jiro-style ramen; the broth is made from slowly simmering pork bones for over 24 hours, resulting in an incredibly thick broth, full of flavor and fat. This ramen has thicker noodles (made in-house!), a pile of pork (your choice between two and five slices), and a heaping mound of fresh garlic. Yume is only open for dinner, and it's recommended to get there as early as possible in order to dodge the infamous line.

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Sapporo

Porter Square
While there are now two Sapporo locations in the city, most people would agree that the older location inside of Porter Exchange reigns far supreme. Open since 1990, this unassuming food court spot houses one of the original go-to bowls of ramen in the city. While they offer a few selections of broth style, the Shoyu is a real standout.

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Snappy Ramen

Davis Square
Home to the former Snappy Sushi, this restaurant became a noodle shop overnight. Perhaps due to its Davis Square location, it remains slightly off the ramen-grid. They offer more varieties of broth than other shops in the city (even a non-traditional tomato) but most importantly, it's the only place in the city to find Tsukemen-style ramen -- the noodles and vegetables are plated separately from the broth in a "dipping style".

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Pikaichi

Allston
Located inside the Asian megaplex that is the Super 88, Pikaichi is a no-frills stop. There are a variety of different broth styles available and arguably the most generous portions of noodles in the city. Most importantly, Pikaichi is the only place in the city where you'll be able to find legit ramen available for take out. The thoughtful folks over at Pikaichi package the noodles and broth separately, and even include instructions for how to prepare it at home without sacrificing too much in terms of noodle quality.

Jacqueline Dole

Totto

Allston
Totto's arrival in Allston was a true sign of the times that Boston's officially catching up to the nationwide ramen craze. The New York-based chain opened rather recently, and like most of its competitors, typically sports a line during prime times. Specializing in Paitan-style chicken ramen, this is one of the heartiest broths in the city. The broth is so thick, many people suspect an addition of corn starch, but employees attribute this to the potatoes that simmer in the broth. Starch additives or not, sit back and watch the staff blowtorch the pork in front of your very eyes.

Mark O'leary

Shojo

Chinatown
No conversation about ramen in Boston would be complete without mention of Mark O'Leary. Part of the team behind Guchi's Midnight Ramen and an alum of O Ya, he's now the executive chef at Shojo. He was previously offering his ramen for Kitchensurfing classes and private events, but now the public is again in luck. Due to the recent acquisition of one-hell-of-a-noodle-machine, O'Leary and his team are up to their knees in oodles of noodles. While there are a limited number of bowls available off-the-menu for now, be on the lookout for ramen to become a fixture on the lunch menu starting in January.

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1. Yume Wo Katare 1923 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140 (Porter Square)

Yume Wo Katare serves ramen, and nothing but ramen. Each bowl is filled with rich and silky broth, a mountain of long noodles, and thick-cut slices of tender pork. The portions are huge, and once you've slurped your last noodle, a waiter will give you a piece of paper to write your life goals, which will then be hung on the wall. The tiny Cambridge spot racks up quite a crowd, so be prepared to wait at peak lunch and dinner hours.

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2. Sapporo Ramen 1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140 (Porter Square)

Ensuring that Lesley students never go without ramen, this cash-only food court spot in Porter Exchange's Little Tokyo brings an authentic noodle game with 10 choices that range from house kim chi and curry, to sesame-flavored Tan Tan Men and the popular spicy miso w/ ground pork.

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3. Snappy Ramen 420 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02144 (Back Bay)

Housed in the old Snappy Sushi space, this noodle-focused joint still has great sushi, but be sure to try some of those brothy noodles, too.

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4. Pikaichi 1 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134 (Allston Brighton)

Allston ramen spot Pikaichi offers a variety of broth styles and arguably the most generous portions of noodles in the city. Most importantly, it's the only place in the city where you'll be able to find ramen available for take out. The thoughtful folks over at Pikaichi package the noodles and broth separately and even include instructions for preparing at home.

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5. Totto Ramen 169 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134 (Allston Brighton)

Totto's, the New York based ramen chain, hardly ceases to have a line during prime times. Specializing in Paitan-style chicken ramen, this is one of the thickest broths in the city. The broth is so thick, many people suspect an addition of potato or corn starch, but employees attribute this to the potatoes that simmer in the broth. Starch additives or not, sit back and watch the staff blowtorch the pork in front of your very eyes.

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6. Shojo 9 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111 (Chinatown)

Tucked away in Downtown Boston's Chinatown and named for a Japanese sea spirit, Shojo focuses their Asian fusion far on small plates of meats and steamed buns alongside savory noodle bowls. Much like its customers who order a slew of plates and share them amongst themselves, this hidden treasure covered with urban takes on famous Japanese art has also got a penchant for sake and inventive house cocktails.

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