Where to Slurp Great Ramen from Coast to Coast
Photo By: Mitchell Leff
Photo By: Jeff Marini
Photo By: Tuan Huynh
Photo By: J. Pollack Photography ©2012, J. Pollack Photography
Photo By: Michael Dubicki
Photo By: Andrea Behrends ©Andrea Behrends 2014
Photo By: Waites Laseter
Photo By: Sang Nguyen ©Sang Nguyen
Get Your Ramen Fix
Forget about those packets of instant noodles you ate in college — these craveworthy bowls of ramen are the real deal. You’ll now find this slippery noodle dish all across the country, not just in dorms and Japanese enclaves. Chefs are putting their spin on it, creating their own mash-up versions with everything from coconut curry broth to toppings like matzo balls or cheese.
Ganso is run by Harris Salat, a Brooklyn native and Japanese cookbook author, who trained in Japanese restaurant kitchens in New York, Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. The shop sources ingredients locally as well as from Japan. The ramen menu is divided into classics and Brooklyn classics. In addition to tonkotsu and miso ramen, they serve shoyu ramen, their signature Tokyo-style bowl with deep soy sauce-chicken broth, toothsome Tokyo noodles, roasted pork belly chashu, ajitama egg and greens.
Photo courtesy of Todd Coleman
More About: Ganso
Rook is a casual and contemporary Asian restaurant with an open kitchen. A native of the Philippines, Chef Carlos Salazar has worked at some of the most-popular restaurants in the Indianapolis area. A fan of simple but bold and exciting flavors in street food, Salazar makes a cold ramen with Old Bay-seasoned shrimp and a coconut-curry ramen with jumbo prawns, corn, tomato, sprouts, seaweed and a 63-degree egg that draws fans from far and wide.
Photo courtesy of Sergio Bennett
More About: Rook
This ramen and sake house brews all their own sake onsite and serves several different versions of ramen. While many rave about the classic pork ramen with pork broth, with two kinds of pork, others are devotees of the bright and refreshing brothless abura ramen with smoked pork shoulder, an egg, pickled red onions, scallions, chili oil, ponzu sauce and bonito flakes. There’s also a vegetarian brothless ramen with maitake mushrooms. Slurp the noodles with soup or without, depending upon your mood.
More About: Moto-i
Ann Arbor: Slurping Turtle
Japanese Chef Takashi Yagihashi branched out beyond his home base in Chicago to open Slurping Turtle in Ann Arbor in the spring of 2014. He offers a variety of bowls, including a cold chilled version, red miso, spicy tan tan and spicy seafood “chiyan pon” with crisp ramen noodles. His classic tonkotsu ramen is tremendously satisfying, made with thin homemade ramen noodles, silky pork broth, lean pork chashu, bok choy, pickled mustard greens and braised wood ear mushrooms, and drizzled with chili oil.
More About: Slurping Turtle
Philadelphia: Cheu Noodle Bar
Something you won’t likely find in Japan is ramen with brisket and matzo balls. Or perhaps coconut curry ramen with peas, herbs and peanut sambal. But this is Philly, not Tokyo. Fans of this nontraditional noodle joint wax poetic about the luxuriously buttery miso ramen with pork shoulder, egg, sea beans, bean sprouts, scallions and black garlic.
Photo courtesy of Mitchell Leff
More About: Cheu Noodle Bar
Executive Chef and Partner Doug Psaltis isn’t Japanese, but his ramen broth and noodles are still very traditional. His ramen broth comes in three styles — pork tonkotsu, shoyu and a shiitake vegetarian — and the Tokyo wavy-style noodles are made to his exact specification by Ken Shiro at the Sun Noodle factory. The piece de resistance is the massive hearty sumo bowl, with chashu pork, beef brisket and a molten egg.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Marini
More About: Ramen-san
Decatur: Taiyo Ramen
Taiyo, in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, serves dishes inspired by Asian street food, made with local and seasonal ingredients. Their version of ramen is the Korean “ramyun,” made with roasted pork from Heritage Farms Cheshire pork, noodles from the Sun Noodle factory, a poached egg and an “overnight broth” that is spiced up with kimchi and poached garlic. Other craveable dishes include pork and shrimp wontons, steamed buns filled with pork belly or Korean fried chicken, and Korean fusion tacos.
Photo courtesy of Tuan Huynh
More About: Taiyo
While Uncle in Denver may be serious about the provenance of their ingredients, such as heirloom breeds of pork, Maple Leaf Farms duck and free-range eggs, their ramen is out-of-the-box creative. A favorite is the rich sausage ramen with double pork broth, cabbage, scallions and Parmesan. A purveyor makes the sausage to their specifications, seasoning it with salt, sugar, onion powder, Japanese chili powder and rice wine vinegar.
More About: Uncle
Phoenix: Culinary Dropout
At this hip gastropub in Arizona there’s all kinds of comfort food, from fried chicken to meatloaf. The Asian version of comfort food is there too. Shrimp and pork belly ramen features fresh beech mushrooms, crunchy bean sprouts, zucchini, cilantro and a gooey poached egg. It’s hearty, and the freshness of the vegetables make you feel less guilty about wolfing down the luscious pork belly.
More About: Culinary Dropout
New Orleans: Kin
New Orleans may not be known for ramen, but some of its most-famous ingredients factor in nicely to a hearty bowl of noodles. At his Gert Town noodle shop, Hieu Than offers five different types of ramen: traditional tonkotsu, shio styles, oxtail, tom yum and corn miso. The most alluring may be the pan-Asian versions that feature crawfish, for a hearty adaptation of bisque, or beef debris.
More About: Kin
Emeryville, Calif.: Shiba Ramen
Shiba is a 400-square-foot shop in the Emeryville Market run by two chemists with doctorates from Harvard, husband and wife Jake Freed and Hiroko Nakamura. Nakamura not only grew up in Japan, but she also studied at the Tokyo Ramen Academy. Modeled on ramen shops in Japan, Shiba serves bowls that are inexpensive, quick and delicious. There are three or four different kinds of ramen each day, including ramen with no soup — in the form of cold ramen salad or hot dry ramen. Dry ramen is served with bean sprouts, soft-boiled egg, pork or chicken chashu, bamboo shoots, green onions and nori paper.
More About: Shiba Ramen
San Francisco: Namu Gaji
Namu brings the local, organic, sustainable mantra to its eclectic and Asian-inflected cuisine. There’s just one ramen, but it’s available on both the brunch and dinner menu. The chicken ramen is made with Tokyo-style noodles, sous-vide chicken breast, bean sprouts, an onsen egg, sesame and nori in a mild paitan-inspired broth. After serving ramen and even Korean ramyun, the Lee family is planning to open a noodle-centric spot.
More About: Namu Gaji
Kansas City: Columbus Park Ramen Shop
Josh Eans and his wife like to think of themselves as running a Midwestern ramen shop, not a place that is trying to emulate ramen from New York City or Japan. Their ramen is "chef-driven," which means creative and seasonally inspired, and they pride themselves on supporting local farmers and growers. Kimchi ramen comes with a soft-boiled egg, housemade kimchi, Chinese-style pork sausage, scallions and "Missouri Kake," which is a play on the Japanese seasoning furikake.
Photo courtesy of Bonjwing Lee
More About: Columbus Park Ramen Shop
Los Angeles: Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
Tsujita is known for two types of ramen noodles. Tsukemen is when the soup is served on the side, so the noodles can be dipped, rather than sitting in broth becoming soggy; the other style is Hakata Nagahama-style ramen, where the noodles are served in tonkotsu pork broth and customers can choose to have their noodles cooked to their preference of soft, medium or hard texture. Both types are served with the broth that is slowly simmered for 60 hours with seafood added for sweetness and richness.
Photo courtesy of Ocean Photo Studio and Tsujita
More About: Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
St. Louis: Pastaria
You might be surprised to find ramen on the menu at an Italian restaurant, but chef Gerard Craft melds the flavors of Italy and Asia into Italian ramen at this casual spot. Instead of ramen noodles, housemade spaghettini bathes in an umami-rich broth with chicken, a hard-poached egg, basil and a dusting of Grana Padano. Don’t knock it till you try it; cheese in ramen is all the rage in Japan.
More About: Pastaria
Portland, Ore.: Marukin
Direct from Japan, Marukin makes its own noodles and operates under the direction of a ramen specialist, a Tokyo native and a ramen veteran. The restaurant has two locations, each serving a different soup each day, such as tonkotsu, miso or paitan, and a vegan option, such as shoyu or red ramen. Add fire by ordering a red broth — vegan red, tonkotsu red or paitan red — for soup thickly coated in spicy chile flakes and oil, sure to warm you to the bone.
Photo courtesy of Jannie Huang
More About: Marukin
Oakland, Calif.: Itani Ramen
In summer nothing could be cooler than a noodle salad version of ramen. Japanese-American Chef Kyle Itani’s ramen was inspired by Chinese chicken salad and hiyashi chuka somen, a popular summer dish of thin wheat noodles. The overall flavor of the dish is light and refreshing; Itani explains that the ingredients have complementary contrasting textures of chewy ramen noodles against sweet raw corn, crunchy sliced snap peas and gushingly ripe cherry tomatoes, with a dashi soy dressing, all combining for a harmonious bowl of noodles.
More About: Itani Ramen
Detroit: Johnny Noodle King
At Johnny Noodle King there are all kinds of “Japanese-inspired” noodle bowls, from pho to red curry and even a Southwest fusion version with pork shoulder, tripe, pickled tomatillos, corn, cilantro and chile. The traditional ramen on the menu is shoyu, which is layered with flavor and features pork belly, nori, egg, bamboo, scallions, kamaboko fish cake and bonito flakes. But customizing is encouraged, and you can add on pickled daikon, wakame, butter, sprouts or even MSG!
Photo courtesy of Michael Dubicki
More About: Johnny Noodle King
Nashville: Two Ten Jack
Two Ten Jack is a Japanese card game, but it's also the name of an izakaya with locations in Nashville and Chattanooga, featuring kodawari ramen — ramen showcasing well-sourced ingredients — and Japanese pub food. They are known for their tori paitan ramen — "tori" meaning chicken, and "paitan" meaning cloudy soup — made from boiling chicken bones and feet for about 12 hours. The restaurant gets chicken bones from Joyce Family Farms in North Carolina and Springer Mountain Farms in Georgia. The complete bowl consists of tsukune chicken meatballs, shimeji mushrooms, local collard greens, rayu spicy chile oil and ajitama (soft-boiled egg).
Photo courtesy of Andrea Behrends
More About: Two Ten Jack
New Orleans: Noodle & Pie
Some combinations are classics: peanut butter and jelly, burger and fries ... but noodle and pie? In New Orleans you’ll find traditional Japanese ramen and Southern pies under the same roof. In the summer there’s ramen with fresh corn, and in the winter it’s topped with enoki mushrooms and crisp napa cabbage. The house bowl comes in regular or large and features a shoyu chicken broth, slow-cooked pork shoulder, soft egg, fresh greens, mushrooms and shredded nori.
Photo courtesy of Waites Laseter
More About: Noodle & Pie
Oakland: Ramen Shop
Opened by Chez Panisse alumni, Ramen Shop has a California sensibility with a version of miso ramen that changes all the time. According to Chef-Partner Jerry Jaksich, the ramen soup base stays constant with a blend of tonkotsu and dashi broth that’s made in-house. The kitchen also uses ground pork belly, cabbage and yellow onions all cooked to order in the wok before the miso tare and soup is added. The miso tare is very special and very secretive and has more than 30 ingredients, but it includes organic white and red miso from California. They source all their ingredients from local farms, so toppings feature the best of the season such as corn, eggplant or peppers.
More About: Ramen Shop
Philadelphia: Kung Fu Hoagies
A vegetarian and vegan food cart specializing in sandwiches may not seem like the most-obvious place for ramen, but this cart ladles a great bowl of noodles. Owner and partner Paul Davis admits he always loved springy noodles and sharp, oily pickles. His version features vegetarian chicken, spicy bean paste and broth found in many Southeast Asian, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines, with a few fresh cucumbers, cilantro, lime and fried shallots on top.
More About: Kung Fu Hoagies
San Francisco: Mensho
Direct from Tokyo, Mensho opened in early 2016, expanding the chainlet of six shops throughout Japan. The chef imports ingredients from Japan, mixing them with produce from the local farmers market. While the paitan and shoyu ramens are good, the vegan tantanmen ramen might be the richest and most luxurious of all. The vegetable-based soup is made with konbu and mushrooms, Japanese soy cream and seven types of nuts for texture, then topped with sesame, cilantro, chile oil, green onion, menma — a kind of fermented bamboo shoots — and kale sprouts.
More About: Mensho
Otaku offers a number of chef-inspired takes on ramen, including smoky corn mazeman and Tennessee tonkatsu. Chef-Owner Sarah Gavigan roasts a chicken with lemon about once a week. That dish is the inspiration behind her lemon paitan ramen, which she describes as an amped-up grandma's chicken soup. The lemon paitan ramen comes with a creamy chicken broth, roasted chicken, charred lemon, seasonal greens, sesame, scallions and egg. “Putting the two together for an all-chicken ramen felt good,” she explains.
More About: Otaku
Time in Japan inspired Gabe Rosen and Kina Voelz to open an izakaya and this ramen shop, whose name is Japanese for "stray cat." The duo’s shoyu ramen comes with pork shoulder chashu and egg. Committed to sustainability and wellness — with offerings like veggie burgers and fresh fruit and vegetable juices squeezed to order — the shop beneath the Hawthorne Bridge is also fun. It offers cocktails and stays open until 2 a.m. every day, and there are DJs on the weekend.
Photo courtesy of Heather Hawksford
More About: Noraneko
San Francisco: Waraku
Should you eat the noodles first, or the broth? If you eat the noodles first, the broth may grow cold, and if you eat the broth first, the noodles may get soggy. San Francisco’s Waraku solves this problem. Order the tsukemen ramen and the warm, peppery, saucelike broth and cool, chewy noodles are served separately, so you can dip the strands as you go. The tsukemen ramen comes with slices of chashu pork, green onions, bamboo shoots, kikurage mushrooms, bean sprouts and an oozy smoked egg.
More About: Waraku
Southampton, N.Y.: Café Klyde
A classic in the Hamptons, Southampton Inn has revamped Café Klyde, bringing in chef Scott Andriani to freshen things up a bit. In addition to standards like Caesar salad and eggs Benedict, you’ll also find Long Island duck ramen. Vegetables, fresh scallions and an egg augment thin ramen noodles in a rich and flavorful clear broth.
More About: Café Klyde
New York: Ippudo
For many, Ippudo is the platonic ideal of ramen. Soul food, cosmos in a bowl, Ippudo claims to have transformed ramen into art, and ... well, it’s true. An outpost from the restaurant’s founder, Shigemi Kawahara, the “Ramen King of Japan,” Ippudo prides itself on consistency, and the pure tonkotsu broth, a rich and creamy pork bone broth, is proof of that. It takes two days to prepare. For heat seekers, bakudan, a spicy chile paste, is a must-have addition.
More About: Ippudo