Where to Slurp Seattle's Best Ramen
After the great ramen boom of 2017, the new noodle openings have slowed to a steady drip and the older places have entrenched themselves as the go-to spots to slurp and savor. Seattle's ramen scene has matured, but you'll still want to make sure you separate the uninspired with bland broth and soft noodles from the experts sliding out bowls with soup so rich it qualifies for Trump’s tax breaks.
Or, better yet, let us do it for you. Here’s where to find the fattiest meat and the most tender, gentle noodles, ready to tangle up in chopsticks like a ‘90’s teenager in a telephone cord.
South Lake Union
A lighter bowl of broth
An under-the-radar gem in the maze of big-names in Amazonia, this little izakaya from the former chef of Seattle's Japanese consulate puts out a gentler ramen than most. While most of Seattle's bowls go big on pork power, this one specializes in chicken broth-based bowls. Many of the ramen options still come with the standard pork slices (though not all), so the biggest difference comes in the more subtle soup portion, which is soft and silky and tastes like coziness.
I dip, you dip, we dip
The second U.S. location of this International Japan-based chain opened in 2018 to little fanfare, but for lovers of the tsukemen -- or dipping-style ramen -- it was an important development for the Seattle ramen scene. For this specialty, Menya Musashi serves a thick, rich pork and seafood broth on the side, and the flat, fettuccine-width noodles separately, so that diners can dip the noodles as they eat. For noodle lovers, this is the place. They nail the texture, and the dipping style keeps them from overcooking as you eat.
A Japanese import shows off precision soups
The velvety-rich soups that this Japanese chain puts out, in each of its tonkotsu broth options (shio, shoyu, and miso), expertly wield the double-edged sword of heavy flavor and light texture better than anyone else in town. Meanwhile, as if the impeccable execution on the braised pork belly (or special pork cheeks) isn’t buttery enough, diners can (and should) order it Hokkaido-style: with butter and corn.
So creamy you’ll think there’s milk in it
Dreamy, creamy, and delicious, the broth here -- made exclusively from pork bones -- is the only base available, but you don’t need other options when something is this good. Condiments like garlic, soy sauce, and chili paste sit on the tables at this hallway of a spot, but the only accompaniment this soup needs is cold beer from the selection of imports. Open late and consistently packed, it expects diners to eat just as in Japan: sit down, slurp up, and scram.
A bowl worth the wait
Every Saturday at lunch (and only on Saturday, only at lunch -- a change from the longstanding Friday schedule), the teeny-tiny Tsukushinbo dishes up its famously good and infamously hard-to-get ramen. The line outside is because this spot only slings a few dozen bowls. Their richly flavored broth takes forever to make, so you have to get it while it’s hot, or you don't get it. Until next week. Maybe.
A subtle but stunning restaurant makes soup that’s the same
Quietly tucked into a busy restaurant row, this izakaya receives far less attention and accolades than it deserves. But the food, like the restaurant itself, doesn’t scream the loudest nor show-off in memorable ways. Rather, the kitchen sends out sensational but simple bowls, like its miso broth, which brings the complex, salty flavors of fermented soy bean into perfect balance with the slippery slices of braised pork belly.
Customizable bowls offer a tailored slurping session
This Japanese chain’s first US venture brings the most customizable ramen experience to the list. The standard base is Fukuoka-style pork broth, though the menu has shio, miso, and even vegan options. From there, diners choose not only their broth and toppings, but a litany of other options: noodle thickness and doneness, broth thickness and fattiness, and spice level. With that strong start, if you don’t like the ramen here, you’ve got only yourself to blame.
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