Why hello, brutal New England winter, so nice to see you again. While you’re busy pounding us with snow, we’ll be thawing out at one of these heart- and feet-warming ramen spots. If that doesn’t cut it, we’ll just make our way through this list of creative ways to beat the cold or hunker down in a nearby bar.
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Best ramen in Boston
The subterranean sashimi bar earned its underground ramen cred thanks to a cardboard menu that pops up at 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights. The menu highlight is actually the umami ramen and its singular veggie broth, made rich and meaty thanks to white miso, parmesan rinds and ten different kinds of mushrooms—or so it’s rumored. The free-flowing Sapporo seals the deal.
Obsessive chowhounds agree: Start to finish, this 18-seat gem gives you the authentic ramen experience. The staff shouts “Irashaimase!” upon entry, then invites you to choose between two no-frills options: a bowl of pork ramen ($12) or a bowl of pork ramen with extra thick-sliced pork ($14). If you successfully finish your entire (enormous) bowl, you’ll receive a call out: “We have a perfect!” Most guests manage a “s/he did a good job!” meaning they made it through the noodles but not the broth. Yes, you might wait outside to get a seat, and yes, it’s still worth it—the restaurant’s name, after all, translates to “talk about your dreams.”
If you grew up in the Boston suburbs, chances are good you had at least one memorable meal courtesy of the late Sally Ling’s, the upscale Chinese spot that convinced your parents Friday night takeout was a worthy idea. Ling’s daughter will help you make new memories with her outpost in Weston Center; among the choice offerings are three different ramens, including an intense, three-day pork broth packed with pork belly, soft egg, bamboo, red pickled ginger, kombu seaweed and scallions. (Tip: You should still save room for her mom’s famous spring rolls.)
And now for something a little different. At lunchtime, your favorite go-to for dumplings and tea-smoked ribs also serves a unique ramen with chicken broth that draws its kick from fermented tofu and equal dashes of fish sauce, lime juice and Chinkiang black vinegar. The fresh shrimp and nori bring it home as the perfect midday warm-up.
Competing for Porter Square loyalty is this “Little Japan” institution that has fed Cantabridgians and Lesley students for years. No tables, just bar seats and benches, and no extensive menu, just a choice of soy sauce, miso or clear broth combined with either ground and sliced pork or Chinese veggies. It’s cash only, but that’s of little concern given that no bowl tops out at $10 (unless you go nuts with the extra pork).
Blame Mark O’Leary for lengthening the city’s ramen lines. The co-founder of Guchi Midnight Ramen worked the city into a late-night noodle-and-broth frenzy with his revered pop-ups. Now the former O Ya and JM Curley chef has landed at Shojo and introduced two ramens to his new lunchtime menu: the “basic,” with char siu barbecued pork; and mazeman, a dry style of ramen topped with bacon, crispy leeks and a poached egg. Beat the lines now.
This one’s confusing: a former sushi place that went ramen-centric but never bothered to update its website (go to the Facebook page instead). No matter: The considerable menu offers seven different versions, from tsukemen (the “dipping ramen”) and pomodoro (tomato ramen) to two different vegetarian options, including the spicy veggie miso. The extensive list of add-ons includes Berkshire pork belly, marinated shiitake and fried garlic oil.
So, yeah, turns out one of the city’s best barbecue spots also offers some of the city’s best ramen. On Monday nights from 9–10pm, Tiffani Faison—who cut her teeth at O Ya—breaks away from the smoker and dishes out a single ramen offering ($15) that rotates every couple of weeks. She might offer a traditional tonkotsu one week and a highly coveted fried chicken ramen the next; for $25 she’ll throw in some fried shishito peppers, Japanese pickles and a light or dark beer.
There can never be too many pop-ups. The newest bowl on the block comes from husband-and-wife team Moe Kuroki and Mike Betts, the latter an alumnus of Clio. Kuroki spent years perfecting her tonkotsu, which draws inspiration from her childhood in Fukuoka and includes her own hand-pulled noodles and a labor-intensive pork bone broth (she also offers a vegan version). The $25 price tag earns you a salad, edamame, gyoza and dessert in addition to your oversized prize.
Not every ramen meal has to be an event. This workhouse noodle bar, located inside a Super 88, entices with six different under-$10 bowls (soy sauce, miso, yuzu) that include sliced pork, scallions, corn and a very generous six ounces of custom noodles. Bonus: If you can’t finish it all, the staff will pack it up to go, a true rarity in these parts.