Baby, it’s cold outside. Winter chill and snow always makes us think about warming up with soup.
For many of us, that means Ramen, the traditional Japanese staple with many variations and many outposts for a cheap meal.
Here are ten of the best ramen shops in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, including mini-chains. all of which serve tasty, filling made-to-order bowls of what is often described as Japanese soul food.
Nothing on this list remotely resembles that freeze dried or microwaveable stuff with a souped-up sodium content that will send your blood pressure into overdrive.
Hours and prices vary by location, most Ramen shops are small with limited seating – which is not currently permitted indoors under NYC Covid-19 regulations. Also be forewarned that several are cash only.
Best Ramem shops in Manhattan
This popular imported Japanese chain has two NYC locations, in the East Village and one in Midtown, and it’s a good sign that many regulars are Asian. Ippudo makes its own noodles, and you can watch the process at the East Village location. The ramen here both follows its Japanese roots while also offering a unique Western interpretation.
There are two locations. Both have the same menu, including the signature Hakata Tonkotsu pork soup, and the same rule of using only fresh ingredients.
- East Village: 65 Fourth Avenue, between 9th and 10th Streets
- Midtown: 321 West 51st Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
Chef David Chang is sometimes credited as the man who started the ramen craze in NYC. His East Village shop is always crowded, including for its late night menu. Each bowl mixes staples like delicious pork belly, pork shoulder, poached eggs and springy noodles in a flavorful chicken and pork broth.
The decor has a modern vibe, with floor to ceiling windows and light-wood paneling, that combine traditional Japanese with Scandinavian. Chang loves pork, and you can tell. It’s the base for his pork noodle broths and his sauces, and everything on the menu except ice cream and other desserts contains some variation of pork.
Besides his award-winning Ramen choices, there’s a critically-acclaimed pork bun, with pork belly, hoisin sauce, scallions and pickle slices.
- 171 1st Avenue, between 10th and 11th Streets
Long Island native Ivan Orkin went to Tokyo to open up a ramen style restaurant in a city teeming with ramen shops. It worked, and after making a name for himself there, he returned to NYC to do the same. His signature Ivan Ramen restaurant, a sixty-seat room with a diner-like decor that includes a chrome-edged counter and vinyl stools. There’s also a 25-seat backyard for warm weather.
The Slurp Shop stand in the Gotham West Market has a more limited menu. He is known for his rye-flour noodles in both shio and shoyu varieties, as well as his tonkotsu broth, with chilled whole wheat noodles, egg, fried pork belly, and chili oil.
- East Village: Ivan Ramen: 25 Clinton Street, between Avenue B and Houston Street
- Hell’s Kitchen: Gotham West Market, 600 11th Avenue, between 44th and 45th Streets
This small Japanese ramen shop in the East Village was one of the first in NYC, opening in 2004, and still serving up made-to-order ramen. Customers first choose from five types of broth, then select the fresh, springy noodles: thick, thin, or wavy. Ingredients include seaweed, dried bonito, and dried shiitake mushrooms, and toppings include black mushrooms, tamago, and a hard-boiled egg.
The long wooden bar facing the kitchen is the best place to sit because you can watch the chef work, just like at a sushi bar.
- 536 E 5th St, near Avenue A
Three locations in Manhattan, all serve authentic and inexpensive flavorful choices loaded with house-made noodles and chunks of chicken or pork. The menu is slim, with really just three noodle soup choices – regular paitan, spicy paitan and miso paitan – but you can customize with a long list of toppings, including fried garlic, and there’s a vegetarian option, too.
All three locations offer sit-down service, and all three can be pretty crowded, especially before or after Broadway and Off-Broadway shows for the two locations near the Theater District.
- Midtown West: 366 W. 52nd Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
- Hell’s Kitchen, 464 West 51st Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues
- Midtown East: 248 East 52nd Street, First Floor, between Second and Third Avenues
Best Ramen shops in Brooklyn
Yuji dishes out a pricey all-ramen Omakase tasting menu—nine courses of noodle at $100—on weekend nights. It’s not nearly as pricey on regular evenings, with are delicacies like bacon and egg mazenmen, a ramen made instead with a thick, intensely-flavored sauce instead of broth. Chef Yuji Haraguchi opened up his restaurant after closing up his pop-up shops in Whole Foods.
Yuji is tiny, with only 13 seats, but it’s also cozy. The restaurant serves both breakfast and dinner. Yuji Ramen is for dinner and Okonomi is for breakfast, with a smaller-scale menu of Yuji Ramen. As for those nine courses, you’d think people would be taken aback by it and its price, but apparently throngs of crowds reveal that it still remains popular. As for breakfast, Okonomi plays it close to the bone, with a traditional and fantastic Japanese meal called “Ichiju Sansai,” which consists of a rice bowl, a miso soup, a piece of cooked fish, and three small sides.
- 150 Ainslie Street, Williamsburg, between Lorimer and Leonard Streets.
Best Ramen shops in Queens
This stylish shop in Long Island City was opened by Per Se alum Joshua Smookler and his wife, Heidy He. The best seats are the barstools overlooking the open kitchen. Try the house ramen, with a flavorful broth made of oxtail and bone marrow and loaded with skinny straight noodles and melting pieces of brisket.
There’s also non-ramen menu items, including fried chicken, and appetizers like the popular warm rice with uni, spicy maguro, Ikura, and sesame-roasted nori.
- 12-09 Jackson Avenue, Hunters Point, Long Island City
This list was published originally in December 2016 and updated for re-publication in January 2021. All restaurants on this list are open and serving, including take-out.
Evelyn Kanter also is the author of several NYC and Hudson Valley guidebooks, including my latest, 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.