Ramen: it's great. Waiting in line for ramen: not so great. For all the times you want the former, but not the latter, consult this: NYC's eight best under-the-radar ramen options, which don't appear on every single "Best Ramen in NYC" list ever made (so not Ippudo, or Momofuku Noodle Bar, or Ivan Ramen...), but do still deserve your noodle-ttention.
Lower East Side
This late-night ramen spot is located in Hill & Dale, which converts itself into a ramen ya pop-up at the stroke of midnight every Monday through Thursday, pumping out noodles until 4am (Sundays you can eat there from 5pm-2am). Chef Ito's charshu is legendary (order up a side dish as an appetizer), and his Tonkotsu is rich and creamy, but the move for people in the know is actually the Kaisen (seafood!) ramen. The bowl comes with a fresh clam, a huge scallop, shrimp, menma, and egg, and a broth that really shows off Ito's talent. At times, ramen service can be a little slow, but you can (over)compensate by sipping one of Hill & Dale's fancy-pants artisanal drinks. (Get the spicy, tequila-filled Smokey Joe.)
Deep inside Chelsea Market you'll discover this gem of a ramen ya run by Chef Esther, who infuses her Korean roots into amazing (and decidedly unique) bowls of ramen, including her kimchi ramen, which's based off of a popular Korean stew called jjigae. Armed with an intoxicating aroma, the bowl of piping hot broth is filled with kimchi and bacon, and then topped with braised pork and stewed kimchi. Other toppings include a poached egg and rice cakes. If that's not enough to get you excited, you’re weird, but also there’s the perfectly cooked Sun Noodles. The whole thing is addictive -- consider yourself warned.
If you're a fan of perpetually packed Minca Ramen Factory (and you should be), then you'll be a fan of its not-nearly-as-perpetually-packed sister spot Kambi Ramen House, too. The only real difference between the two? The decor and wait -- Kambi is twice the size of Minca. Make sure to start things off with the pork gyoza and a Sapporo and follow that up with Kambi's tsukemen (dipping noodles). Another solid option: the basic spicy shio ramen, paired with a thick wavy noodle. Pro tip: pay close attention to the ever-changing ramen specials and take a chance on one of the unique creations, it usually pays off.
Misoya has one of the biggest bowls of ramen in the city and offers a deep variety of toppings. It specializes in three types of miso -- kome, mame, and shiro -- and its the only ramen ya in NYC that does this. Miso ramens are traditionally served hotter than other ramens and butter is a standard topping to sweeten up the lightly bitter miso flavor. The order here is the shiro miso Kyoto-style with butter, fried shrimp, potato, and egg. At times, Misoya offers a special miso curry chicken chashu ramen. Get that and add potato, egg, and corn. You're welcome.
Just a short walk from Misoya, this spot was around waaaayyyy before the Ramen renaissance we’re currently experiencing was born. Get the Gekikara Tsukemen with BBQ pork, egg, bamboo shoot, scallion, onion, cabbage, bean sprouts. Warning: the fiery red-looking broth is the real deal, so proceed with caution.
Hidden inside what looks like a white West Village townhouse, you'll find a delicious little cash-only ramen ya named... wait for it... Ramen-Ya (don't worry, the ramen is more creative than the name). New to the NYC ramen game, this 20-seat joint has wonderful service, offering a small but well rounded selection. Before you slurp, order the spicy pork gyoza, then when you do slurp, make sure it's from a bowl of the kojiro shio black, which'll give you flashbacks to your Bubbie's chicken soup. The black garlic oil is extremely aromatic and sticks to your lips like candy, and if you get the right noodle (wavy, get the wavy) it works perfectly with the thin broth. Bonus: it's open ’til 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.
There are two Tabata Noodle ramen yas in the city, but only one you most definitely want to hit up. We're talking about the Tabata behind the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The chef and owner, Maung Htein Linn, is from Burma, and moved to Tokyo after college, where he worked in a ramen ya for years learning the art of broths and noodles. His signature dish, Tabata Ramen, showcases his Burmese heritage with a broth consisting of coconut milk topped with mild spiced chicken stew, cilantro, and red onions. The broth is super creamy and fresh tasting and it won't break your budget, priced at just $10. There's really no other bowl of ramen like this in the city, making it a unique experience for ramen hunters.
Don’t expect this spot to stay under the radar much longer thanks to its must-order: the spicy chili ramen. If you were to cross ramen with a hearty bowl of slow-cooked chili, 1) you’d be a genius, and 2) you'd have an idea of what this bowl at Mei-Jin tastes like. You'll also find a few uncommon, nontraditional toppings (think arugula and watercress) that somehow work well with the smoky ground beef.
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Jordy Trachtenberg freelances for Thrillist, chiefly to support his ramen addiction. He's the heavily tattooed head noodle behind the blog Ramentology. You can slurp along and follow his one-man ramen riot on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
1. Benkei Ramen115 Allen St, New York
2. Mokbar75 9th Ave, New York
3. Kambi Ramen House351 E 14th St, New York
4. Ramen Misoya129 2nd Ave, New York
5. Ramen Setagaya34 1/2 St Marks Pl, New York
6. Ramen-Ya181 W 4th St, New York
7. Tabata Noodle Restaurant540 9th Ave, New York
8. Mei-Jin Ramen1574 2nd Ave, New York
When the moon is at it's highest, this ramen noodle house opens it's doors slinging Tonkotsu Ramen with it's assorted pig parts and a Gyoza you won't want to share with your tablemates. In the same space as the Hill&Dale gastropub, the spot is known for quite a bit of a wait, but is well worth the effort.
This Korean-style ramen stand in Chelsea Market makes two styles of the noodle soup: "brothy" and "saucy," both of which infuse traditional Korean soups with ramen noodles. The brothy kimchi Jigae -- a kimchee bacon broth topped with braised pork, stewed kimchee, and scallion -- is by far the best bowl on the menu. The thick, bright orange soup tastes and smells pungent (spicy kimchee and smoked bacon are in a league of their own), so for the sake of others, eat your ramen at Mokbar's counter instead of taking it elsewhere in the market. Kimchee fans will find a nice selection of the fermented speciality to take home, as well.
If you're a fan of perpetually packed Minca Ramen Factory (and you should be) then you'll be a fan of their not nearly as perpetually packed sister spot, Kambi Ramen factory, too. The only real difference between the two? The decor and the wait - Kambi is twice the size of Minca. Make sure to start things off with the pork gyoza and a Sapporo, and follow up with Kambi's Tsukemen (dipping noodles).
Misoya has one of the biggest bowls of ramen in the city, and offers a wide variety of toppings. Three types of miso -- namely Kome, Mame, and Shiro -- are their calling card, though, and you won't find any other place in the city that serves 'em.
This spot was around waaaayyyy before the Ramen renaissance we’re currently experiencing was born. Get the Gekikara Tsukemen with BBQ pork, egg, bamboo shoot, scallion, onion, cabbage, bean sprouts. Warning: the fire red looking broth is the real deal, proceed with caution.
Located inside a West Village townhouse, Ramen-Ya is a tiny cash-only joint that serves a small but well-rounded selection of the Japanese noodle soup. The top bowls to order are the pork Shio black and the chicken Shio red; the first features straight thin noodles and a tonkotsu broth, while the second is made with thicker and wavier egg noodles in a spicy red chicken broth. Make sure to order the spicy pork gyoza as an appetizer -- the pan-fried dumplings come with a fiery topping of chili oil that'll get your tastebuds ready for the main event.
There are two Tabata Noodle ramen ya's in the city, but only one you most definitely want to hit up. We're talking about the Tabata behind the Port Authority bus terminal. The chef and owner, Maung Htein Linn, is from Burma and moved to Tokyo after college, where he worked in a ramen ya for years learning the art of broths and noodles. His signature dish, Tabata Ramen, showcases his Burmese heritage with a broth consisting of coconut milk topped with mild spiced chicken stew, cilantro, and red onions.
This low-key Japanese restaurant serves ramen and izakaya-style small plates in an intimate setting on Second Avenue. Instead of the pork-based tonkotsu broth typical of many New York ramen joints, Mei-Jin specializes in a fatty, marrow-infused beef broth. The broth has a refreshing but rich taste, and is augmented in texture with wavy noodles, fermented bamboo shoots, garlic chips, and green onion. Nontraditional accouterments like arugula and meat chili round out the selection.