When I graduated college, I moved abroad to teach English in Japan. Back then, when I thought of ramen, it was those dry blocks of noodles topped with a packet of MSG-loaded spice—the foundation of a college student’s diet—that immediately came to mind.
Once in Japan, it didn’t take long for that to change as I was introduced to the rich, flavorful bowls of noodles and broth that constitute the norm in that country.
I’m back in the States now, and it would be fair to call me a ramen snob. Those 99 cent packages definitely don’t do it for me anymore. Even with the ramen boom that Chicago has seen, I have hesitated to declare a champion among them.
Furious Spoon, owned by Chicago veteran chef Shin Thompson, opened in February in the trendy Wicker Park neighborhood. While many of the city’s ramen shops are shy about incorporating the bare utility of Japan’s ramen culture—it is a fast food of sorts, a quick meal you grab exiting the train station or after a long night of drinking, a sit-eat-go situation—Furious Spoon embraces it. You order from the counter, then edge down the narrow dining room to grab a seat at one of their tall wooden tables. The décor is built for speed, not comfort. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to that real “ramen-ya” atmosphere, and it was a big plus for this latecomer to the Chicago noodle scene.
Hopefully you aren’t full yet, because the sides at Furious Spoon are worth a bite. The beef brisket rice bowl is a particular recommendation – the meat is meltingly tender, and the traditional white rice is a perfect foundation for it. However, if you really want to round out your experience, go for the takoyaki. These fried balls stuffed with octopus are the consummate Japanese street food.
I’m pretty pleased to finally have a ramen shop I can put my stamp of approval on. Hit it up during a night out or between errands for a slice of that real ramen culture. Nostalgia aside, Furious Spoon delivers an experience and flavor unlike anywhere in Chicago.