America's Best Ramen Shops Gallery
April 13, 2018
A great bowl of ramen is a lot more than noodles in broth
America’s Best Ramen Shops
When you hear the word “ramen,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like most of us, it’s probably a polystyrene cup filled with the salty instant noodles that you ate way too much of back in college. But over the past decade, there’s been a revolution in America, and real ramen — big steaming bowls of impossibly rich broth, springy noodles, and countless add-ins — has finally made its way across the Pacific in a big way. And from Minneapolis to Honolulu, there are some truly mind-blowing bowls of ramen out there. These are the best ramen shops in America.
#25 Unideli, Minneapolis
Located smack-dab in the middle of a sprawling 46-year-old Asian grocery store called United Noodles, UniDeli is one of Minneapolis’ best-kept culinary secrets. Seven ramen varieties are on offer, ranging from traditional tonkotsu and miso to fiery tantanmen, black garlic-slicked dramen, and bowls enhanced by the likes of pork belly, slow-poached eggs, Szechuan peppercorns, and jackfruit.
#24 JINYA Ramen Bar, Los Angeles
There are 26 Jinya locations across the U.S. these days (including seven in both California and Texas) — a testament to its high quality and to the ample crowds that are still forced to wait for a table on weekend nights — but the original Studio City location is still the place to go. There are no gimmicks here, just big bowls of dashi-spiked ramen in varieties like black tonkotsu and spicy chicken ramen topped with pork chashu, egg, and your choice of more than 20 add-ons including chicken wontons, fried onion, butter, and chicken chashu.
#23 Momosan Ramen & Sake, New York City
O.G. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is one of America’s most renowned Japanese chefs, and he’s finally turned his attention to ramen at Momosan, which opened in 2016. Morimoto worked with renowned noodle factory Sun Noodle to design a custom noodle that holds its springy texture for longer, meaning you can really savor your bowl. We suggest you go with the tantan ramen, which has a bright orange color thanks to ground pork with red miso, and coconut curry. Peking duck ramen (made with a Peking duck-based broth) is available twice a week, and only 20 orders per day of gyukotsu ramen (made with 7-hour-braised short rib) are available, so be sure to ask your server if you can snag one (or both!) of those.
#22 Ramen Wasabi, Chicago
This super-popular ramen spot may have moved into larger digs last year, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still have to wait for a bowl of the good stuff. The flagship tonoktsu broth here is made from 100-percent Heritage-breed pork bones and is the result of a 45-hour long process from start to finish. It’s super-rich and creamy, and served along with a wide variety of regional styles, including Hakata classic and red (with a “house numbing spice blend), Tokyo shoyu, and Sapporo miso; spicy roasted garlic miso, tsukemen dipping ramen, and a vegan ramen with mushroom and seaweed broth are also available.
#21 Terakawa, Philadelphia
The Kuyshu tonkotsu ramen recipe used at Terakawa hails from Japan’s Kumamoto region, so the broth is simmered for a full 48 hours and the noodles are lighter and not as curly as other styles. If you’re a first-time visitor, this style (made with Heritage Berkshire pork bones) is a must-order, but other available varieties include shoyu, chicken and pork miso, mayu (with dark roasted leek and garlic oil), miso and chicken tan tan, “Whopper-Style,” mayu with additional toppings, and two vegetarian options. Somehow, all of them are spectacular.
#20 Noraneko, Portland, Ore.
Noraneko was opened in 2015 by the owners of beloved Portland hostpot Biwa (which in turn moved and changed concepts last year), and the ramen they’re serving here is the best in town. There are six styles on the menu (three traditional and three modern) — shio, shoyu, miso, vegetable, curry chicken, and pollo escabeche — and the broths are rich, deep, and complex, and each ramen is well-balanced and made with serious skill. The rest of the menu is a whole lot of fun, as well; don’t miss the kimchi and cheese croquettes, the pork katsu torta, or the hamachi poke.
#19 Orenchi Ramen, Santa Clara, Calif.
This Michelin-recommended Santa Clara must-visit is best identified by the long lines, which stretch out the door on a daily basis. It’s the classic tonkotsu that the crowds are lining up for; supremely rich and porky, served with an egg, green onion, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, sesame seeds, and nori. The shoyu and shio ramens served here are also astounding. If you get there early enough (which means long before they open, as lines form well in advance of the 11:30 a.m. open time), try to snag one of the 16 servings daily of ore no tan tan men, miso and pork broth with Japanese green onion, pine nuts, baby bok choi, garlic chives, bamboo shoots, and sesame seeds.
#18 Lucky Belly, Honolulu
Hawaii’s best ramen shop is a chic and stylish hotspot located in the heart of Honolulu’s Chinatown, and it serves five types of ramen that range from the traditional to the completely outside-the-box. In the latter category, there’s the Lucky Bowl, a rich and creamy slow-simmered broth with the usual toppings. And in the latter category (occupied by the other four ramens on offer), you’ll find a vegetarian one filled with different mushrooms; another with pork belly, bacon, and sausage; another with togarashi shrimp and house-made kimchi; and the “Beast Bowl” with brisket, short ribs, and oxtail wontons. No other restaurant serves ramen quite like what’s served at Lucky Belly.
#17 Johnny Noodle King, Detroit
The team behind this Detroit gem hails from places as disparate as Vietnam and Eastern Europe, so while there’s plenty of Japanese influence in its creative and delicious bowls of ramen, it’s pretty obvious that they’re not afraid to stray from the norm; the Korean ramen contains shredded beef, kimchi, and Korean chile flakes; the Philly contains shredded beef and Poblano; and the Southwest contains shredded chicken, corn, tomato, cilantro, crema, and shredded cheese. Flavorful, well-balanced, and a whole lot of fun, Johnny Noodle King also offers several traditional ramens, as well as a “dorm room” variant of just broth and noodles. Make sure you snag one of the six counter seats for a view of the gigantic cauldrons of boiling both, which is made fresh throughout the day.
#16 Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, Los Angeles
Serving Angelinos since 2006, cash-only Santouka (which has more than a dozen locations in Japan) is best defined by its simplicity. Located inside the Mitsuwa food court, it’s about as no-frills as it gets: You get in line, place your order (all ramens are variations on tonkotsu), and wait until your number is called. What you receive, however, is spectacular. Opt for the signature shio ramen and you’ll get a bowl of rich and creamy broth with just the right amount of saltiness with thin and curly noodles, along with super-tender pork cheek, green onion, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, fish cake, sesame seeds, and a pickled plum. Get there early, because the shio sells out regularly.
#15 Ramen Yamadaya, Various California Locations
Like pork? Then Yamadaya, with its triple-strength, 20-hour tonkotsu ramen, is for you, with a giant slab of melt-in-your-mouth pork belly that takes the whole thing up to 11. With a handful of locations in Los Angeles as well as outposts in San Francisco and San Diego, Yamadaya is a ramen-lovers’ ramen shop, with tonkotsu, shoyu, shio, and vegan ramen on offer, as well as toppings including corn, chile sauce, kakuni pork belly, chashu pork, and chicken breast.
#14 Ichiran, New York City
At this Bushwick import (which recently opened a second New York outpost in Manhattan), fresh noodles are made in-house daily, and you can customize your tonkotsu broth to your preferred richness, garlic and spice level, amount of dashi, and noodle firmness. But that’s not all that sets Ichiran apart from the pack: Guests have the option to sit in their own “Flavor Concentration Booth,” a long counter with dividers between seats, where your ramen is delivered through a bamboo shade. It’ll let you enjoy your ramen in complete isolation, so you can pick up on its subtle nuances, like the fact that it’s lighter than most other tonkotsu broths yet still umami-packed, and that the spicy red no-tare paste is incredibly complex.
#13 Mu Ramen, Queens, NY
The brainchild of the husband-and-wife duo of Joshua and Heidy Smookler, Mu Ramen got its start as a hugely successful pop-up, and eight months later it returned as an absolutely stunning, and unique, ramen shop. The Smooklers skim the fat off of the tonkotsu broth as it boils, meaning that the ramen is lighter but still full of concentrated porkiness. They’ve dubbed it “Tonkotsu 2.0,” and it’s topped with chashu pork jowl. Three additional ramens are also available: Mu ramen (with oxtail, bone marrow, and brisket), spicy pork-based miso, and duck-based shoyu. Don’t miss the smoked trout okonomiyaki.
#12 Hiro Ramen House, Philadelphia
Philly’s best ramen shop, Hiro claims that it’s on “an endless search for the soul of ramen.” They’re certainly getting pretty close, as the ramen here is out of this world. Chef/owner Dan Zhao’s ramen creations are unique, delicious, and a whole lot of fun: Hiro's Inch Of Heaven contains a Berkshire pork and homemade soy sauce broth, pork belly, egg, bean sprout, bamboo, scallion, and nori; Black Pig contains Berkshire pork and bonito broth, burnt garlic oil, pork belly, bean sprout, bamboo, scallion, and Naruto; and Gates Of Hell contains Berkshire and chile broth, intense chile oil, bean sprout, pork belly, bamboo, scallion, and togarashi. Zhao isn’t afraid to experiment, and the results are stunning.
#11 Ivan Ramen, New York City
Ivan Orkin is one of those rare chefs who found his calling in the cuisine of a far-off land; in this case, Japan. He took the Tokyo noodle scene by storm and then returned back to his hometown to spread the gospel, and spread it he did. At his narrow Lower East Side shop, you can get the full Tokyo ramen experience; opt for the Tokyo shio ramen with pork chashu, egg, and roast tomato if you want to go authentic, or if you’re looking for something spicier, go for the red chile ramen with dashi, chicken broth, minced pork, smashed egg, and rye noodles.
#10 Shin-Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen, Los Angeles
This mini-chain differentiates itself from the pack by allowing you to completely customize your ramen, which only comes in one variety, Hakata-style tonkotsu, with custom-made noodles that are thinner than usual. You have your choice of noodle hardness, soup thickness, amount of oil, added flavorings, and more than 25 toppings, so it may take you a few visits before you settle on the perfect bowl for you. Not that that’s a bad thing.
#9 Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York City
The ramen shop that started it all, chef David Chang’s acclaimed Noodle Bar is still going strong, and still serving one of the best bowls of ramen you’ll find anywhere. The classic Momofuku Ramen comes with pork belly, pork shoulder, and a poached egg; and his Hozon Ramen is made with scallions, chickpeas, and kale (and while not exactly ramen, the chicken soup, with water spinach, meatballs, and chile, is also a standout). Fun fact: The restaurant’s namesake, Momofuku Ando, was the inventor of instant ramen.
#8 Slurping Turtle, Chicago
Chef Takashi Yagihashi is one of the country’s leading Japanese chefs, and he’s turned his attention to Japanese comfort food at the casual and fun Slurping Turtle. There’s no Japanese dish that’s more comforting than ramen, and it certainly doesn’t get short shrift here. Seven different bowls of ramen are available, all made with homemade noodles, among them Red Miso (with roasted chicken, bok choy, scallions, and sweet corn); spicy Tan Tan Men Men (with pork meatballs, pork belly, and miso pork); and Hakata Tonkotsu (with chashu, bok choy, pickled mustard greens, braised mushrooms, and chile oil), and they all showcase Takashi’s trademark deft hand and eye for balance. Washed down with beer and sake, a meal here is about as fun as it gets.
#7 Totto Ramen, New York and Boston
There are three locations of Totto Ramen in Manhattan, two in Boston, and two in Taipei, and they still can barely keep up with demand. What began as a tiny second-floor restaurant in New York back in 2003 is now a certifiable juggernaut, largely thanks to its legendary ramen: homemade al dente noodles in a rich chicken broth simply topped with roast pork or chicken, scallion, onion, and nori. Today four ramen options are available, including spicy paitan, miso paitan, and vegetarian, and you can also customize your own with 20 toppings.
#6 Asa Ramen, Los Angeles
Open since 2007, this little ramen shop in a Gardena strip mall is still going strong thanks to the high quality of its ingredients as well as its thick and unctuous kotteri shoyu ramen, which is as good as anything you’ll find in Japan. Noodles come from an artisanal Bay Area purveyor, and their shoyu ramen, made with chicken, fish, and pork, is a study in balance. Thankfully, it keeps such a low profile (it doesn’t even have a website!) that it’s rarely full.
#5 Ramen Shop, Oakland, Calif.
Looking for a good reason to wait nearly two hours for a table at a restaurant in Oakland? Look no further than the Ramen Shop, where your patience will be amply rewarded with three varieties of ramen from a team that includes Japanese transplants as well as vets from Chez Panisse. The green garlic beef shoyu ramen, with pork chashu, braised short rib, soy-marinated egg, roasted cauliflower, and Asian greens, is a masterpiece.
#4 Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Austin
A thing of cultish devotion, Tatsu-Ya is a jewel in Austin’s ramen crown. One of Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants of 2012, Tatsu-Ya also happened to be the first brick-and-mortar ramen shop to open in the city. The brainchild of two former DJs, the 38-seat restaurant is fun, energetic, and soulful, serving bowls of ramen that people line up out the door for. The original tonkotsu is the best way to first experience the restaurant, with chashu, egg, mushrooms, and scallions, but shoyu, spicy, and veggie varieties are also available, along with tsukemen, or dipping ramen. There’s plenty of room to get a little crazy, though: toppings include self-pressed garlic, grated Parmesan, and fried Brussels sprouts.
#3 Ippudo, New York City
When Ippudo founder Shigemi Kawahara opened the restaurant’s first location in Fukuoka City, Japan, in 1985, most ramen shops were not much more than glorified food stalls, dingy holes-in-the-wall geared toward late-night revelers. But his plan was simple and revolutionary: to open a restaurant that guests wouldn’t mind bringing a date to, one that also happened to serve a stellar bowl of ramen. The concept took Japan by storm, and today there are locations across Asia; in London, Paris, and Sydney; and three in New York. When Ippudo opened its first New York location in 2008 it was just as revolutionary, and played a huge part in changing New Yorkers’ (and Americans’) perception of what ramen is and could be. Their authentic Hakata tonkotsu ramen takes two days to make, noodles are made fresh daily, and bowls are kept in simmering water so the ramen stays hot. Five ramen varieties in total are available, and they’re all about as authentic and chef-driven as it gets. The Akamaru Modern ramen is topped with miso paste and garlic oil, the spicy Karaka Men is topped with hot spices and minced pork, the tori ramen is made with clear chicken and pork broth and topped with minced shiso onion and arako chile pepper, and the soy sauce and vegetable-based shoyu ramen is topped with bean curd, wasabi, tempura flakes, and wasabi-infused oil.
#2 Tsujita, Los Angeles
The best ramen shop west of the Mississippi, Tsujita is a Japanese import that brought every ounce of its magic across the Pacific with it. Small, modern, and stylish, their chicken, fish, and kurobuta pork-based tonkotsu is simmered for 60 hours and noodles can be ordered hard, medium, or soft. Topped with sliced char siu and all the traditional add-ons, it’s unctuous, creamy, complex, comforting ramen perfection. And if you’re looking for even more concentrated flavors, go for the tsukemen, plain noodles served with reduced broth for dipping, the restaurant’s specialty.
#1 Daikokuya, Los Angeles
This Little Tokyo landmark introduced many Angelinos to the glories of ramen, and even though there are a few additional locations, the original Little Tokyo location is a master class in ramen perfection, the best place in the country for a big bowl of porky goodness. Appealingly grungy and with lines as long as ever, when you find yourself finally perched on a stool or nestled into a booth you’ll never want to leave. Their daikoku ramen, creamy, infused with soy sauce, and topped with kurobuta pork belly chashu, marinated egg, bamboo, bean sprouts, green onions, and sesame seeds, is essentially flawless. Want it to be richer? Ask for kotteri, which has some soup extracted from pure back fat added. Now that’s luxury at a fair price.