International locations: 12 in Japan, with outposts in 10 other countries
US locations: Two (plus a pair of fast-casual Kuro-Obi versions)
What it is: Most slurp-happy Americans know Ippudo as one of the 33 best ramen shops in the country, but even nerdy noodle-heads might not be aware of its status as an international chain. The tonkotsu broth is part of what jumpstarted the whole NYC ramen craze of the mid-'00s and inspired countless other ramen-yas across the country.
Why it might blow up: Despite the ubiquity of ramen shops these days, Ippudo is still top of its class. That ability to set the bar, along with a long-rumored desire to expand throughout the country, makes it a prime candidate for national dominance. Plus, it's already splintered into a fast-casual concept, Kuro-Obi. And while a couple locations might seem like a drop in the bowl, Ippudo is actually ahead of the curve as other ramen concepts start testing the waters. Which is to say, the gospel of ramen is spreading, so get ready to see it everywhere.
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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. He can't wait to eat sushi off of a conveyor belt. Follow him to robot nigiri at @Dannosphere.