Ramen was once thought of as college-student food, a cheap and filling meal that was bought in bulk—but, oh, how times have changed. These days, you can find trendy, top-notch ramen shops all over the country. No longer relegated to the world of prepackaged Styrofoam cups, this Japanese comfort food has become a full-blown craze, with illustrious chefs trying their hand at crafting the perfect noodle to pair with a silky, flavorful broth. From Honolulu to Miami, here are ten of our favorite spots to get a steaming bowl of ramen.
By Abbey Chase
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
An off-shoot of one of Tokyo’s best ramen shops, Tsujita stands out from the crowd with its attention to authenticity. Tsujita is known for its special broth, a chicken, fish, and pork-based tonkotsu simmered for 60 hours to complement its delicate noodles. Tsujita’s menu is perfect for picky eaters, who can order their noodles hard, medium, or soft, and customize their dish with a number of add-ons. The tsukemen ramen serves up even more decadent flavor, with a broth reduction served on the side for dipping.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Los Angeles Travel Guide
WHERE: Oakland, California
Helmed by three chefs from Berkeley’s illustrious Chez Panisse, Ramen Shop brings a touch of the fine dining world to the otherwise low-key menu, constantly altering their broth using local ingredients for a unique flavor. The meyer lemon-based veggie broth packs a punch alongside the green garlic shoyu and spicy black sesame tantanmen, all showcasing the springy, deliciously textured house-made noodles. Diners with a sweet tooth should be sure to order the black sesame ice cream sandwich to cap off their meal.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Oakland Travel Guide
WHERE: Austin, Texas
Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Austin’s first brick-and-mortar ramen shop, eschews tradition for a funky, vibrant venue that combines traditional Japanese flavors with a Texas twist. The fun atmosphere is complemented by a serious approach to ramen; guests are required to use chopsticks and hot sauce is subbed out in favor of spice paste “bombs.” Chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto honed their skills at L.A.’s Urasawa and don’t shy away from experimentation, offering gluten-free (only during dinner hours) and veggie ramen (only available during dinner hours on Sundays), and add-ons like garlic cloves and fried Brussels sprouts.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Austin Travel Guide
WHERE: Miami, Florida
For no-nonsense ramen at (nearly) any hour of the day, head to Miami’s Momi Ramen, open until 5 a.m. Noodles are handmade several times a day by chef Jeffrey Chen, who keeps things simple with a focus on his mouthwatering pork belly tonkatsu (there is a vegetarian option as well). Bowls don’t come cheap at Momi Ramen, ranging from $16 to $22, but Chen’s mastery of the classic Japanese dish makes it worth the price. Chen also recently opened Momi Gyoza Bar a few blocks away and a wine bar is in the works for this spring.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Miami Travel Guide
WHERE: New York City, New York
Few American chefs know ramen like Ivan Orkin, a Long Island native who moved to Japan after college and went on to open one of Tokyo’s most popular ramen shops, Ivan Ramen, in 2007. Orkin returned to New York in 2012 and has since opened two outposts, one in Hell’s Kitchen and the other on the Lower East Side. Orkin’s Clinton Street restaurant serves a full menu, while diners simply looking to enjoy the chef’s signature rye noodles and Tokyo-inspired bowls can head to the Slurp Shop in Gotham West Market.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Guide
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
A silly name yields serious results at the Windy City’s best ramen shop, headed up by Michelin-starred chef Takashi Yagihashi. Noodles are made in-house by a special machine imported from Japan for a perfectly fresh taste, but the menu’s other offerings are worth noting, too (the duck fat fried chicken is impossibly tender and buttery). Five different ramen dishes, featuring everything from traditional pork to shrimp and scallops, mean there’s something for everyone, in addition to two rice-based entrees. A creative cocktail menu and enticing dessert options will give you a reason to linger at Yagihashi’s minimalist-chic space in Chicago’s trendy River North neighborhood.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Travel Guide
WHERE: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Like all good ramen restaurants, West Philly’s cavernous Ramen Bar is known for its silky broth, but vegetarians can also find something to tuck into with the veggie ramen offerings featuring a vegan broth base, a rare find among the usual pork-based options. Chef Dean Leevongcharoen draws inspiration from a southern Japanese style of soup, but ramen enthusiasts will find all the usual toppings and offerings with tonkotsu and shoyu ramen.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Philadelphia Travel Guide
WHERE: Honolulu, Hawaii
This Chinatown favorite delivers everything you look for in a bowl of ramen: flavorful broth, perfectly cooked noodles, a soft steamed egg, crisp bean sprouts, tangy green onion, and fall-off-the-bone tender meat. The Belly Bowl adds bacon and sausage to the traditional pork belly bowl, and an appetizer menu stocked with favorites like pork belly bao, crab cakes, and beef tartare makes for the perfect prelude. Don’t miss the impressive cocktail menu, with an emphasis on sake and whisky.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Honolulu Travel Guide
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
The minimalist, wood-paneled interior at this ramen shop in the trendy Highlands neighborhood heavily draws on the styling at New York’s famous Momofuku Noodle Bar, but chef and owner Tommy Lee has crafted a menu all his own. Lee’s menu is a truly global experience, featuring Pan-Asian and hyper-local flavors. Look for steamed buns (including one with falafel), bibimbap, Colorado lamb tataki, sashimi, and, of course, ramen. Try Lee’s kimchi-topped, chili broth ramen or dig into the spicy chicken option.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Denver Travel Guide
WHERE: Minneapolis, Minnesota
For a new take on the traditional bowl of ramen, head to moto-i for the signature brothless ramen. The Abura Ramen comes with all the usual toppings, with a dash of chili oil and egg yoke serving as the stand-in for the broth. Purists will find traditional ramen dishes, as well a tempting line-up of small plates and two kinds of fried rice. Chef Omar Gillego, expertly handles the menu, while owner Blake Richardson heads up the on-site sake brewery, crafting the perfect accompaniment to your meal.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Minneapolis Travel Guide