The first real blast of winter chill and dampness has us all thinking about warming up with soup. For many of us, that means Ramen, the traditional Japanese staple with many variations and many NYC outposts for a cheap meal.
Here are the ten of the best in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, including mini-chains. We promise that none of them serve anything remotely resembling 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, and be forewarned that several are cash only.
Best Ramem shops in Manhattan
This poplar imported Japanese chain has two NYC locations, one in the East Village and one in Midtown. Both are in nice, modern spaces bustling with those waiting for a seat, 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 embraces its Japanese roots and, at the same time, it offers a unique Western interpretation. The two shops have the same menu, including the signature Hakata Tonkotsu pork soup, and the same adherence to only fresh ingredients.
- East Village: 65 Fourth Avenue, between 9th and 10th Streets
- Midtown: 321 West 51st Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
A Japanese noodle shop in the heart of Chinatown proves how international the dish has become. The signature dish is a green curry ramen. Another popular dish is a Tondaku ramen with pork, mushroom, fried ginger, scallion, topped with thin slices of lemon. The dish includes thin, straight noodles made by the highly-respected Sun Noodle Company. Other ramen dishes feature truffle oil, shrimp, okra, red pepper and Berkshire pork tonkotsu, as ingredients or as separate toppings. 76 Mott Street, Chinatown, between Canal and Bayard Streets
Chef David Chang just may be the man who started the ramen craze in NYC, and 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—floor to ceiling windows and light-wood paneling—has a modern, Scandinavian-like vibe. Chang loves pork, and you can tell. It’s the base for his pork noodle broths and his sauces, and everything on the menu – with the exception of 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 mixed with hoisin sauce, scallions and pickle slices. 171 1st Avenue, between 10th and 11th Streets
Two locations one block apart in the West Village both serve authentic, high-quality ramen with the freshest ingredients. Signature dishes are a pork-based ramen with mushrooms and a soft-boiled egg and a chicken paitan with bamboo shoots and wavy egg noodles. Most everything, from stocks to sauces, are made in-house. Sapporo is on draft and seven sakes are available.
- 181 West 4th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
- 133 West 3rd Street, between Sixth Avenue and MacDougal Street
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 New York to do the same. Ivan Ramen is his signature restaurant, a sixty-seat room with a decidedly 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, and Orkin is said to be opening a pizza joint there soon, too. 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. 536 E 5th St, near Avenue A
Three locations in Manhattan, all serving 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
Chuko Ramen is Prospect Heights’ most famous gem. The food is simple and delicious, with a few snacks alongside four different kinds of ramen. You can add ground pork, silken chicken breasts, or pork belly to your bowl. There’s also a vegetarian bowl with kale, sweet potatoes, and other veggies, and those who like meat can add one of the meat options as well as a soft or hardboiled egg. What it comes down to is extreme pork or vegetarian “slurpers” that merge a tasteful broth with supple noodles. This hip, cash-only spot also serves Asian appetizers, beer, and sake. Its minimalistic decor consists of exposed brick, a few wooden tables and a bar with seating. 552 Vanderbilt Avenue., near Dean Street.
Yuki dishes out a pricey all-ramen Omakase tasting menu—nine courses of noodle at $100—on weekend nights. On regular evenings, there are delicacies like bacon and egg mazenmen—ramen without broth and made instead with a thick, intensely-flavored sauce. 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. The menu for the latter is 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 in house 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 adapted from one published in UpOut