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Ramen-san
Photograph: Courtesy Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

The 10 best ramen shops in Chicago

Forget about the microwavable mush and slurp savory tonkotsu broth at these top ramen restaurants

By Morgan Olsen
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It's easy to peg the best ramen in Chicago as a winter delicacy, but we prefer to think of it as a year-round staple. The traditional Japanese soup comes loaded with long, toothsome noodles that practically beg to be slurped with a pair of chopsticks. Some of the best restaurants in Chicago have put their own spin on the dish, adding craggly fried chicken, spicy chili peppers and molten eggs to the mix. There are quick, soul-soothing bowls that classify as some of the finest cheap eats Chicago has to offer as well as upscale Japanese masterpieces that are crafted by decorated chefs. No matter the forecast, the best ramen in Chicago is one of the most satisfying dishes to consume. Grab a spoon and some chopsticks and prepare to slurp your way through these top spots.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best Japanese restaurants in Chicago

Best of the city under one roof

Urbanbelly, ramen, time out market, tomc
Photograph: Courtesy Urbanbelly

Bill Kim - Time Out Market Chicago

Restaurants West Loop

Behold: a ramen bowl so loaded that it deserves the moniker "Phat." Bill Kim's expert version of the soup is packed with pillowy pork dumplings, tender shrimp, addictive chicken ssam, a gaggle of noodles and just enough fire hot sauce. Find it at Urbanbelly in Wicker Park as well as Bill Kim's kitchen inside Time Out Market in the West Loop.

Best ramen in Chicago

Tonkotsu ramen at Wasabi
Photograph: Martha Williams

1. Ramen Wasabi

Restaurants Japanese Logan Square

Even the most brutal Chicago weather can't keep us from venturing outdoors for a bowl of piping-hot ramen from this Japanese spot in Logan Square. Once inside, you’re greeted by a huge pot behind the bar, enthusiastically bubbling with an intensely flavored tonkotsu broth. The ramen here is simple and unembellished, free of the trends and cutesy interpretations finding their way into many of the city’s noodle bowls. The subtly spiced broth is rich and cloudy with pork fat rendered from Berkshire pork bones, made in a time-consuming process that takes over 45 hours. You can't go wrong with the fan-favorite Original, which includes tender pork belly, a soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoots, 'shrooms and garlic oil.

Oiistar serves a bao doughnut.
Photograph: Martha Williams

2. Oiistar

Restaurants Japanese Wicker Park

This hip Wicker Park ramen shop puts its 18-hour pork stock and chewy, house-made noodles to good use in imaginative creations like the Pozolmen with pork loin, jalapeños, red onion and tomato. Get funkier still with the Tikkamen, which is dripping in masala and sesame flavors and filled with tender bits of chicken and bean sprouts. No order is complete without a few buns to share, and with options like tempura cod and duck breast, there's something for everyone in your crew.

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Ramen-san
Photograph: Courtesy Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

3. Ramen-San

Restaurants Japanese River North

If you like your ramen with a side of hip-hop music, belly up at one of Ramen-San's three locations for a bowl and a beer. You'll be bopping your head to Notorious B.I.G. while slurping noodles in no time. The Tokyo-style wavy noodles meet their match in unconventional ingredients like fried chicken and buttered corn. Vegetarians dig the Imperial Shio Ramen with a veg-based broth, molten egg, tofu chunks and nori confetti.

High Five Ramen
Photograph: Kari Skaflen

4. High Five Ramen

Restaurants Japanese West Loop

This teeny-tiny hidden oasis under Green Street Smoked Meats in the West Loop is usually impossible to get into. But for the time being, High Five is sticking to takeout and delivery service, which means that it's easier than ever to get your hands on a bowl of its tonkotsu or maitake ramen. Diners can adjust the heat level on both options, opting for full, half or quarter spice—all of which flaunt a satisfyingly painful burn. Cleanse your palate with a can of Sapporo, Asahi or sake.

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Photograph: Michelle Villareal

5. Furious Spoon

Restaurants Japanese Wicker Park

With locations in Logan Square and Lakeview, this laidback ramen emporium wins when it comes to customization. Simply choose a chef-crafted ramen bowl, add toppings, and slurp quickly—that's the key to ramen consumption, according to chef Shin Thompson. First timers will love the shoyu bowl with tonkotsu broth, soy, pork belly, bean sprouts, nori and bonito flakes. If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, go with the namesake Furious bowl, a miso-based broth with lip-numbing heat that burns without being overwhelming.

6. Shinya Ramen House

Restaurants Japanese Bridgeport

Nicknamed the "Midnight Diner," this Bridgeport restaurant stays open until 1:30am most nights of the week, serving affordable eats and an impressive lineup of ramen. The yuzu-chicken variety boasts a citrus-laced broth, grilled chicken and wood ear mushrooms, while the tomato-vegetable ramen spotlights matcha noodles and stir-fried produce. There's mochi on the dessert menu, but we prefer to treat ourselves to the taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake with red bean filling.

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Ramen Takeya
Photograph: Courtesy Ramen Takeya

7. Ramen Takeya

Restaurants Japanese West Loop

This Fulton Market spot dishes out paitan and shoyu ramen in big bowls filled with umami broth. Takeya’s chewy egg noodles complement hunks of tender pork belly, making the Tokyo Classic shoyu an easy favorite. There’s even a vegan option on the menu, with seitan ragu in a mushroom-seaweed broth. Wash it all down with smooth Japanese whiskey over ice or a classic, crisp Sapporo.

Strings Ramen
Photograph Martha Williams

8. Strings Ramen

Restaurants Japanese Lake View

Whether you're dining at Strings in Chinatown, Lakeview or Hyde Park, there's a section on the menu that will undoubtedly catch your eye: Hell Ramen. With five spice levels to choose from, the aptly-named dish is crafted with shoyu broth that's infused with hot peppers and chili sauces (level 5 incorporates ghost and scorpion peppers). For everyone else, there are plenty of tamer options, including the seafood miso ramen. Running low on noodles? Ask your server for kae dama (trust us on this one).

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Kizuki Ramen
Photograph: Vanessa Vu Designs

9. Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya

Restaurants Japanese Wicker Park

With outposts in New City and Wicker Park, this global ramen chain aims to bring the traditional Japanese experience to Chicago through its robust menu of flavor-packed ramen creations. Keep it simple with the garlic tonkotsu with pork broth or go all in with the tsukemen, which is presented with a separate bowl of broth for dipping—each bowl is customizable, allowing you to add toppings or opt for a low-sodium broth. Izakaya treats like gyoza and onigiri round out the menu.

10. Musashiya Ramen

Restaurants Japanese Lake View

A minimal but handsome dining room and friendly staff await at this Lakeview restaurant. The welcoming committee also includes two types of ramen: the extra thick tonkotsu and the rich, porky miso. Both are loaded up with pork chashu, spinach, corn, a soft-boiled egg and seaweed, but diners can boost any ingredient for an additional fee. Before you start slurping, pad your belly with an order of geso karaage, tender squid tentacles rendered golden-brown and delightfully crispy with help from the kitchen's deep fryer.

Find the best ramen in America

Totally Chicken ramen at Mu Ramen
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

The 15 best ramen restaurants in America

Restaurants Japanese

In recent years, Japanese food has emerged as one of the most sought-after cuisines in America, and Americans are becoming discerning—no longer are we satisfied by half-priced sushi rolls or sickly-sweet chicken teriyaki.

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