It wasn’t all that long ago that ramen in America meant a hard crinkly puck that you’d pull out of a plastic sheath and its broth was some sticky... substance. Now, we’re debating how long the pork bones were boiled and if the noodles are handmade or from Sun Noodle while waiting on line for two hours in a parking lot of some “up and coming” neighborhood (was that a rat?). How things have changed.
The Japanese soul food has spread to cities across America, and in places like New York City, it’s damn near impossible to keep up with the latest hyped ramen-ya. In this rapidly changing noodle-scape, new upstarts have opened and some older favorites lost their luster, so we checked in around the country to see which spots are worth the slurp. (And if you're unsure of the right way to go about it, learn how those in the know order ramen.)
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What you’re getting: Furious ramen
Chef/owner Shin Thompson opened his tiny Wicker Park outpost following the closure of his less-focused “Japanese Brasserie” Kabocha, and based on the lines and subsequent expansions into other Chi hoods, he made a wise choice. As for wise choices you might make, the namesake Furious ramen is the way to go, sporting an addictive pork-miso broth and generous helpings of both white pepper chicken and pork belly. Oh, and a poached egg. This is Chicago, did you really think you were going to get by with just one protein?
What you’re getting: Mayu ramen
Terakawa may have originated in New York but the food is straight outta Kumamoto, an island prefecture in southern Japan. Mayu is a regional style topped with black garlic oil (mayu), crunchy wood ear mushrooms, and straight, white noodles (the most privileged of all pasta products). The two-day natural heritage pork bone broth might be a little milder than you’re used to, but that’s what the assortment of table-side condiments are for.
San Diego, CA
What you're getting: Oxtail ramen
Yes, the menu is an unfocused jumble of past and present food trends (ramen burgers, frozen beer slushies, poke sushi burritos, you get the picture). And yes, there’s a large mural of chef/owner Junya Watanabe as John Lennon with the phrase “reality leaves a lot to the imagination” stenciled behind him. But don’t let those Liberace elements put you off eating at Rakiraki, which -- fair warning -- will probably require a wait of at least half an hour. Because then you’d miss out on the fatty, tender braised oxtail ramen (a specialty of Watanabe’s mentor back in Japan) and then you’d feel like an idiot.
New Orleans, LA
What you're getting: Huxta bowl
Kin transformed from a fine-dining spot to a dedicated ramen-ya in April, but it still has a haute-fusion sensibility. That means you might not be familiar with all the ingredients on your plate (or maybe you cook with yuzu kosho and ras el hanout all the time, who knows?) but it won’t matter because they’re insanely delicious. As in wait-on-line-for-an-hour-or-two delicious. The fanciness just makes the food sexier and more drool-worthy. Like if you had to find the ramen equivalent of George Clooney sipping Nespresso in a Tom Ford suit, it would probably be the Huxta bowl: lemongrass pork shoulder confit and miso garlic buttered corn in a chicken and pork double soup. The menu is small and changes often, which gives you all the more reason to visit regularly.
What you're getting: Kimchi ramen
Getting to Unideli requires a voyage to the center of the 15,000sqft United Noodles supermarket, wading through seas of shoppers, lucky cats, and deliciously mysterious Japanese candy. But stay focused: This quest ends with Minneapolis’ greatest ramen, served from a deli counter and not for the faint-of-heartburn. The layered, steaming broths ladled by Unideli include fantastic takes on the usual suspects -- a mild miso with crispy house-cut pork belly and vegan shoyu among them -- but it’s in the kimchi ramen that things really take flight. With fiery house kimchi serving as the base, it’s basically a KBBQ spread in a bowl, with bulgogi, sprouts, gochu, and shredded pepper commingling into something that’s not exactly traditional, but earns this spot the hype it’s garnered for years. And hey, you can grab a lucky cat and some candy on your way out. Plus maybe some Tums.
What you're getting: Shio ramen with a side of karaage chicken
The bad news? Biwa -- long the king of Portland’s ramen scene -- celebrated its 10th anniversary by ditching noodles and its off-menu burger in favor of higher-end sashimi and other fare. The good news? Noraneko serves that same explosive shoyu and shio ramen Gabe Rosen made famous a decade ago, and it’s still loaded with herbs from Biwa’s garden. Even better, Noraneko’s more izakaya-style menu eliminates the temptation of the Biwa’s higher-end fare with even more ramen options -- the slightly spicy curry ramen is a standout, especially with the added glory of the spot-on pork-belly chasyu -- plus that famous burger, a karaage (fried chicken) banh mi, and hamachi poke. It’s brighter (that’ll happen when you’re not in a basement) and more casual than Biwa ever was, but with all the flavor in the broth that made it a West Coast favorite for a decade.
What you're getting: Tonkotsu ramen
For most Wisconsinites, the word “soup” is preceded by “beer cheese” and “ramen” with “instant.” For years, Red Light worked to change that, offering up a twice-weekly pop-up in the back of Beard-nominated New American restaurant Ardent. Chef Justin Carlisle served nothing but boozy slushies and an explosive tonkotsu loaded with springy noodles, mushrooms, tender pork, and pink-lined fish cake that’s the polar opposite of the Milwaukee fish fry. The lines were endless. The ramen spectacular. And in August, Red Light opened up its own digs. Blessedly, that sesame-kissed tonkotsu remains a picture of ramen beauty. It’s joined by a mushroom-based miso for Milwaukee’s three vegetarians, plus a rice-loaded Japanese beef curry with fermented corn; beef-tongue shabu shabu; and a “snack pack” with nori and -- no shit -- whipped spam. That’s a bit more out there, but consider this: Most of the crowd only recently got turned onto ramen. Whipped spam might be the next frontier... especially after a few of those slushies.
San Francisco, CA
What you're getting: Tonkotsu ramen and fried pork belly
Some of the best ramen joints in the world are hidden gems, tiny little holes in the wall more akin to walk-in closets than restaurants. This is not one of them. Izakaya Sozai is a bona-fide, bustling San Francisco-based Japanese bistro with a full menu of traditional Japanese skewers, fish, and vegetable dishes. But in spite of their limited ramen menu, they've carved out a space for themselves as one of the best noodlers in the Bay area. So you should have no qualms about skipping their much ballyhooed nasu dengaku eggplant, for example, and going straight for the tonkotsu ramen. This ramen showcases a blessedly thick, creamy broth without a spice overload. For toppings, the only way to go is the fried pork belly. It captures that perfect, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside texture that most chefs would kill their own sous-chefs for. Just make sure to get a reservation -- this place is no secret.
What you're getting: Shiitake mushroom mazemen
If you like your ramen served hot with a side of trendy nightlife (and who the heck wouldn't?), Shojo is your ideal spot. Located in Boston's Chinatown and helmed by executive Chef Mark O’Leary -- who found noodle-fame with his super-popular Guchi's Midnight Ramen Boston pop-ups -- Shojo has become one of the most revered ramen joints in the entire country, and a bustling night-life destination for hungry Mass-holes. This is possibly due to the fact that they make their own noodles in their basement. Which is definitely not as sketchy as it sounds (it's delicious). But be warned, the ramen you want here is a little different. It's mazemen: thick soup noodles, sans soup, designed so all the ingredients mix together without getting lost in the broth. It's definitely an underserved contingency in the ramen world, and Shojo nails it right on its broth-less head. It's wicked good.
What you're getting: Shio ramen
The name Daikaya translates directly to "house of big cooking pot." And, yeah that pretty much sums up the vibe of this DC favorite. The place has zero frills. Its 40-seat interior is barren, and is a little stark, design-wise. But who cares? You are here for the food. And food is what you shall find here -- along with hordes of crowds fighting for said food. Head Chef Katsuya Fukushima brings fresh, chewy wheat noodles from renowned... um... noodlers Sapporo Nishiyama, mixing them with a light broth made from a medley of beef, pork, and chicken bone. And that light broth is what separates it from the glut of thicker, creamier tonkotsu ramen that makes up most of DC's ramen scene. Look, the people populating our nation's capital can't agree on anything -- except for this place. This place is the best. Across party lines, even.
Los Angeles, CA
What you’re getting: OG ramen
At this take-out ramen counter located in Downtown Los Angeles’s Grand Central Market, chef Ilan Hall is stealing from the ramen rich (meat eaters) and giving to the ramen poor (vegetarians and vegans). Sadly too often, meatless ramen is little more than soy sauce-spiked lukewarm veggie water with a couple of noodles chucked in. It’s rarely a slurp-worthy bowl like those bowls of porky tonkotsu everyone dreams about. But the OG ramen, made with a sunflower seed broth, is creamy and packed with flavor thanks in part to toppings like king oyster mushrooms, chili threads, and a vegan egg (made from soy milk and nutritional yeast) that looks shockingly like the real thing.
San Francisco, CA
What you’re getting: Tori Paitan
Mensho is one of Tokyo’s most acclaimed chains with six locations in Japan’s capital city (and one more on the way). It opened its first US outpost this year in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, and while you no longer have to take a long and expensive plane ride to Japan to get a bowl, you will most definitely have to wait in line. Seriously. When the restaurant first opened, people were braving three hour lines just to get a bowl of the signature Tori Paitan. It’s hard to blame them: The ramen has rich and milky broth made from boiling chicken bones and it comes topped with slices of both pork and duck chashu, meaning you get to eat a decent portion of the animal kingdom for just $16. The lines are a bit shorter now (that would still be an hour or so wait), but the ramen is still just as good.
New York, NY
What you’re getting: Torigara ramen
Stunt foods come and go, but some recipes stick around for centuries. The Torigara ramen at Nakamura, a tiny ramen-ya in New York City’s Lower East Side, is one of those recipes. The dish in question features a clear (and not fatty) chicken broth base and is based on a recipe that is more than a 100 years old. Owner Shigetoshi Nakamura, who has been making ramen for 17 years, tops each bowl with simple toppings like pork chashu, pickled bamboo shoots, and a handful of spinach. Each bowl is chicken soup for your ramen loving soul, minus the inspirational stories, and plus some really good noodles.
What you're getting: Brisket ramen
The dudes at Cheu prioritize “keeping it real” over traditional values to the point that their shop was originally going to be called “Roundeye.” After opting for a less offensive moniker, Cheu has noodled its way into the hearts of Philadelphians with a tiny 28-seat restaurant whose walls are decked with ramen blocks, and bowls are filled with some of the most inventive takes on the noodle in the country. The coconut curry is a favorite, but the don't-miss bowl is the brisket ramen with matzo balls and kimchi.
What you're getting: Belly Bowl with pork belly, applewood bacon, and Japanese Kurobuta sausage
The broth is the benchmark of any good ramen-ya, and Lucky Belly's is what makes it stand out. The steaming soup is a mix of miso, pork, and sesame, aiming to represent the melting pot of Hawaiian cultures. Their brisket-loaded Beast and mushroom-heavy Fungi are good choices, but the Belly's the move, because where else are you going to find Japanese sausage?
What you're getting: Oxtail tonkotsu
At $20+ per bowl, Momi's tonkotsu comes with a hefty price, but the sticker-shock disappears once you're nose-down in the intoxicatingly rich, five-times-filtered pork broth. They make their noodles in-house using Japanese flour, scour out rare authentic ingredients like nameko mushrooms, and soup-up the soup with creative meats like shredded oxtail. Adventurous ramenites might also opt for a seldom-seen jellyfish salad.
Santa Clara, CA
What you're getting: The Orenchi ramen, duh
From master ramen wizard Yoshiyuki Maruyama, Orenchi is more of an experience than just dinner, as it often includes wait times that would rival any of the most popular rides at Disney World. (Except the Jungle Cruise. No one is really going on that anymore.) But there is a reason for that, and it is his almost perfect broth, made with Kurobuta pork simmered for 18 hours, plus more pork, green onion, and a soft-boiled egg. Just make sure you go early. Like, really early.
What you're getting: Whatever miso ramen they’ve got
Here’s a recipe for success: Take three chefs from the legendary Chez Panisse and have them break away to start a casual noodle shop in Downtown Oakland offering up a limited menu of three types of ramen, plus a few apps and ice cream sandwiches. Since it opened, Ramen Shop has been a runaway success, thanks to its superlative broth. The last time we were there, they had a kogashi miso ramen with ground pork belly, and some sort of shoyu-marinated egg that was mind-melting. And then, of course, we ate black sesame ice cream sandwiches. Life was good.
What you're getting: Tonkotsu ramen
Started by a DJ who also staged at a Michelin-starred LA sushi joint, Tatsu-Ya cooks their pork broth for 60 hours, resulting in a soup you can't help but slurp. Topped with a soft-boiled egg, wood-ear mushrooms, scallions, and charred chasu (marinated, braised pork belly), a bowl of tonkotsu is definitely worth the hour-plus wait. Wash it down with a Sapporo or a canned brew from Austin Beerworks.
What you’re getting: Tonkotsu ramen
A few years back, Strings raised the stakes in an already ascendant Chicago ramen boom when they opened their Chinatown shop equipped with a machine turning out fresh ramen noodles -- but noodles are only half the ramen battle! Each of the broths holds up its end of the bargain with impressive depth of flavor, but nothing tops their tonkotsu, made with a Berkshire pork base that’s cooked for 48-hours to achieve its impossibly rich, almost milk-like quality.
New York, NY
What you're getting: Totto spicy ramen
A spin-off of the Bourdain-approved Yakitori Totto, this bare-bones Hell's Kitchen hide-out chars each piece of pork with a blowtorch. The tiny space leaves little elbow room: If you're sitting at the bar, you'll probably feel some of the heat from the torch. The chicken stock of their original paitan ramen is souped up with spicy sesame oil that exponentially increases the umami. For competitive eaters, they've also got a mega-bowl loaded to the brim with pork.
Los Angeles, CA
What you're getting: Tsukemen
Tucked away in a back alley, this LA institution is no secret, thanks to its house-made curly noodles and a rowdy atmosphere that splits the difference between welcoming and exclusive. It's open until midnight, but expect a wait, made much more pleasant by a BYOB patio and neighboring Asian outposts hawking snacks like chicken lollipops. The move is the tsukemen, a bowl of fresh noodles accompanied by a concentrated dose of artery-clogging pork broth that will make your eyes roll back in your head.
What you're getting: Old-school shoyu ramen
Six days a week, Tsukushinbo serves up some of the best sushi in Seattle, and on the seventh day they do the opposite of rest -- they ladle out perhaps the hardest-to-get ramen on this list. The broth of their old-school shoyu ramen takes four days to make, so they can only cook enough to feed a few dozen hungry fanatics on Friday afternoons. Wash it down with a side of crispy gyoza dumplings.
What you're getting: Red curry
If you're looking for sliders in the D, you go to Green Dot Stables. If you're looking for slurpers, you hit their other spot -- Johnny Noodle King. They do the typical shoyu and miso, but also lesser-known variants like the seafood-filled champon, and off-the-wall bowls like the pickled tomatillo Southwest and tomato broth minestrone. Bonus points for the table-side torched mackerel and bacon fried rice.
What you're getting: Pork broth ramen
After dark, this Cleveland Italian restaurant goes Gremlin and mutates into a devilishly delicious noodle house. Take a seat at the guitar-shaped bar and enjoy pork broth ramen with a side of Michelin star until am. Pro tip: Ask for an extra egg. Extra pro tip: After eating, head downstairs for a cocktail.
New York, NY
What you're getting: Tokyo shio ramen
Ivan Orkin is an unlikely ramen master. After a post-college stint in Japan, he went to the CIA and returned to the Land of the Rising Sun to open his own ramen shop. He gained unprecedented respect for a foreigner in Tokyo, then brought his skills back stateside to start a stand at the Gotham West Market and an LES brick-and-mortar. The broth leans more Japanese than most, using a double-broth technique with two separate stocks to create a flavor as complex as tonkotsu, but far lighter. Creative ingredients like rye noodles and roasted tomatoes further distinguish him from the pack. If you want to go experimental, try the triple-pork mazemen.
New York, NY
What you're getting: Akamaru Modern
Enter the sleek flagship location -- there are three shops in NYC -- and staff will yell out “IRASSHAIMASE” to you as you walk through the dim, clamorous dining room. A worldwide ramen empire launched by “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara in Toyko in 1985, Ippudo changed the game for NYC's ramen scene when it arrived in 2008. And its popularity has shown no signs of abating, with waits still topping two hours. Their famed classic tonkotsu, a ridiculously rich, but still nuanced emulsion of pork and pork fat, is the star of the Akamaru Modern, which also boasts homemade noodles, pork chasu, mushrooms, garlic oil, and a “secret” miso paste.
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1. Strings Ramen Shop2141 S Archer Ave, Chicago
2. Ramen Tatsu-Ya8557 Research Blvd, Austin
3. Tsujita Annex2014 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
4. Dante2247 Professor Ave, Cleveland
5. CHeU noodle bar255 S 10th St, Philadelphia
6. Johnny Noodle King2601 W Fort St, Detroit
7. Orenchi Ramen3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
8. Ramen Shop5812 College Ave, Oakland
9. Ippudo65 4th Ave, New York
10. Totto Ramen366 W 52nd St, New York
11. Ivan Ramen25 Clinton St, New York
12. Lucky Belly50 N Hotel St, Honolulu
13. Momi Ramen5 SW 11th St, Miami
14. Tsukushinbo515 S Main St, Seattle
15. Furious Spoon1571 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
16. Terakawa Ramen204 N 9th St, Philadelphia
17. Rakiraki Ramen & Tsukemen4646 Convoy St, San Diego
18. Kin4600 Washington Ave, New Orleans
19. United Noodles and UniDeli2015 E 24th St, Minneapolis
20. Noraneko1430 SE Water Ave, Portland
21. Red Light Ramen1751 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee
22. Izakaya Sozai1500 Irving St, San Francisco
23. Shojo9 Tyler St, Boston
24. Daikaya705 6th St NW, Washington
25. Ramen Hood317 S Broadway, Los Angeles
26. Mensho Tokyo676 Geary St, San Francisco
27. Nakamura172 Delancey St, New York
Using a Japanese noodle-making machine, Strings churns out some of the best bowls of ramen in town. Thick, flavorful pork broth and perfectly textured noodles bring this place to the next level of slurpy goodness.
Nothing compares to the lovingly simmered broth made at Ramen Tatsu-ya. The gang here has managed to create a cult classic with their menu. Try their signature bowl of ramen is a rich, complex, pork bone broth filled with thin noodles, tender chashu pork (soy braised pork belly), a marinated soft boiled egg, wood ear mushrooms, scallions, and your choice of add-ins. There is often a line but service moves lightning fast.
A small noodle house known for their extra-thick broth.
After dark, this Cleveland Italian restaurant goes Gremlin and mutates into a devilishly delicious noodle house.
Owned by the Philly boys behind Bing Bing Dim Sum, CheU serves traditional Asian noodle dishes with plenty of added Philadelphia flavor. Rather than attempting to recreate authentic Asian cuisine, the restaurant makes classic ramen and soba bowls local, adding brisket, pork shoulder, and matzo balls to the typical miso broth, rice-noodle combo. The space itself is narrow with low-hanging paper lamps, and the eclectic noodle soups are meant to be eaten at stools along the bar. While the wood-paneled bar is primarily for noodles, the place has excellent happy hour deals on wine, beer, sake, and its collection of creative house cocktails.
Motor City was due for some ramen-y goodness, and Johnny Noodle King delivers with an eclectic menu full up with some Thai-style red curry ramen, a little Vietnamese pho, and plenty of Japanese-style goodness.
Long before Orenchi Beyond opened to eager ramen-lovers in the Mission, folks made the trek to Santa Clara for these unparalleled bowls. The OG Orenchi may look unassuming, tucked away in a run-down strip mall, but their ramen still attracts waits of two hours or more. Don't get cute, just get the signature Orenchi ramen made with kurobuta pork simmered for 18 hours, plus more pork, green onion, and a perfect soft-boiled egg. Oh, and don't get there late. You'll be waiting even longer.
Not just what you once subsisted on in college (and that one time after you spent a little too much in Vegas), ramen's a legit meal, further proved by Oakland's newest noodly spot appropriately called Ramen Shop. They're featuring a rotating menu of threeish ramens and a full cocktail menu including 12-yr-old Japanese whiskeys.
As the flagship (and first international) location of the acclaimed Japanese ramen empire, the East Village's Ippudo holds one of the catalyst titles for the noodle craze. Get there past 5pm and you'll bear witness to the restaurant's absurd popularity due to its ultra-rich tonkotsu pork ramen with house-made noodles, and secret "Umami Dama" in the Akamaru Modern bowl.
Though located in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen, Totto Ramen mimics the atmosphere of a high-volume, lunch-hour ramen shop in Tokyo. Deviating from the standard pork-based broth, Totto touts its penchant for poultry and spice with chicken-based ramen, but fear not, there’s plenty of pork to be had beyond the broth (like in the steamed bun appetizers). There are four staple bowls to choose from, plus a few rotating specials and toppings like poached eggs, bamboo shoots, and kikurage mushrooms. The below-street level spot is open for lunch and dinner, leaving its upstairs neighbor, Hide-Chan Ramen, responsible for the 2am ramen seekers -- but only on Fridays.
There’s so much more than noodles to be had at Ivan Orkin’s NYC flagship, especially at lunch when fusion sandwiches like the Herbie’s International (Chinese-style roast pork and Tokyo duck sauce on a toasted miso garlic hero) and pork meatballs make an appearance. But don’t get us wrong, there’s a reason “ramen” is the name of the game: noodle guru Ivan Orkin has fused his Long Island upbringing and Tokyo training with age-old ramen traditions to make original and delicious dishes right here at home. The weekend brunch features a combination of whole-wheat noodles, cheddar broth, crispy bacon and scallion omelet ramen.
This Chinatown spot serves Asian style dishes like shrimp gyoza, ramen, oxtail dumplings, and thai red curry with coconut gnocchi. Lucky Belly itself might be a popular nighttime spot, but the late-night takeout window is the real pro move -- the menu is constantly changing, but the bites will only cost you around $5. Past window menu items have included bacon kimchi fried rice and a pork belly bao.
Unlike the cheap ramen you had back in college, Momi (who traveled Japan for a half-dozen years) has mastered the ramen to its purest perfection.
The teeny-tiny Tsukushinbo dishes up its infamous ramen just once a week, only on Fridays. The spot only makes about 50 bowls, so check 'em out to get it while it’s hot.
Shin Thompson's small-but-mighty Furious Spoon in Wicker Park stands well above the rest of Chicago's ramen shops for its bowls of handmade noodle soups. The menu features a few kinds of ramen with suggested toppings, like the house apple chili sauce. The signature Furious Ramen, a soul-warming blend of tonkotsu broth and spicy miso, pairs well with a Surly Furious Beer. The restaurant is sleek and narrow with a minimalist, artsy vibe that fits in perfectly with the trendy neighborhood.
Terakawa Ramenis is serving up delicious Kyushu Ramen from the Kumamoto Prefecture. The Japan-inspired ambiance feels authentic, as if you were actually across the sea. The casual environment is great for groups or one-on-ones, and you can tell the service cares about providing you with the best dining experience. Try the curry chicken cutlet that’s seasoned to perfection and served with rice and a small salad.
A colorful mural of John Lennon on the wall at Rakiraki Ramen & Tsukemen sets a quirky scene for the poke and soup noodle bowls this fast-casual Little Italy joint is known for. In addition to ramen -- coming in pork, curry, and shoyu broths -- there's a rich selection of fun fusion foods, like ramen burgers in a noodle buns and sushi burritos packed with raw seafood. Japanese beers like Sapporo, sakes, soju, and wine by-the-glass may have you humming 'Imagine.'
In the hands of NOLA native Chef Hieu Than (who trained in both New York under Tom Colicchio and in New Orleans under Sue Zemanick, so...pedigree) Kin brands itself as “New American,” although its menu, particularly its stellar ramen, makes it seem slightly more eclectic. There are options for everyone, from oxtail ramen to vegan versions, and there's an ever-changing list of small plates made with unique ingredients. Kin doesn't take reservations, so you may have to wait a bit: the space is no bigger than a phone booth.
Located in the center of an Asian market under the guise of a typical deli, this place is bringing it on extra hard with its ramen. The broth is rich and its silky texture coats the inside of your mouth, which is likely to be on fire from all of the delicious kimchi that they pack into it.
Fledgling to its parent restaurant Biwa, Noraneko is equal in quality, just more to the point. The straightforward menu eschews the ever-popular tonkotsu in favor of subtler shio, shoyu, and miso broths, and also features snacks like chicken kara age. The full menu is served until 2am, so come by whenever you're ready for some serious noodles and sake.
Ardent, everyone's favorite Milwaukee restaurant, transforms on Friday and Saturday nights from 11:30-1:30 into a ramen house with a cult following. Every college kid's dream.
Inner Sunset's Sozai is one of San Francisco's original izakayas. It specializes in yakitori chicken skewers; fried tofu, oysters, and chicken wings; and grilled fish dishes. Its extensive sake collection includes Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo, and Nijori varieties. Sozai serves tonkotsu ramen too, but according to house rules, you can't have it until you're at least one round of sake in.
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.
Don’t let the wait for this Chinatown ramen shop deter you: it’s more than worth it for the chewy noodles imported from Japan and the chicken, pork, and beef Chintan stock that’s cooked over 16 hours for extra richness. An unsuspecting standout among the Sapporo-style ramen on offer is the vegan version topped with Brussels sprouts, snow peas, carrots, and braised shiitake mushrooms. As if the ramen didn’t already, Daikaya’s wooden accents, dangling lightbulbs, and blue- and yellow-striped walls will have you feeling warm and cozy.
Ilan Hall's vegan ramen resto serves the slurpable noodles in all their brothy glory sans meat. Located in Grand Central Market, this stall promises delicious umami flavor with every spoonful.
The first location outside of Japan, Mensho Tokyo's Tenderloin slurp shop brings Western-style broths to The Golden Gate City. Three styles are offered here: ramen, tsukemen (in which noodles are served separately) and mazesoba (noodles without broth). Lines are typically long, and for good reason: this is some of the best ramen in SF.
Leading ramen master Shigetoshi Nakamura recently debuted this ramen resto in NYC's Lower East Side. Hailed as a "Ramen God" in his native Japan, Nakamura's noodles are purportedly life-changing. Expect crowds to gather for this sure to be be awe-inspiring ramen.