Over the last decade, the best ramen in Chicago has graduated from dorm-room microwaves to the best restaurants in Chicago. Upgrades include hand-pulled noodles, slabs of tender pork belly, molten eggs, mouth-tingling chiles and deeply savory broth. 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 season, the best ramen in Chicago is one of the most satisfying dishes to consume. Grab a spoon and chopsticks and prepare to slurp your way through the best ramen in Chicago.
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Best of the city under one roof
Born in Seoul and raised in Chicago, chef Bill Kim's earliest food memory is standing at his mother's side, grinding sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle. Back when his career first started, Kim immersed himself in French cuisine, with guidance from industry heavyweights like Jean Banchet and Charlie Trotter. These days, he's developed a signature style all his own, dispensing a hit list of border-blending, Asian-inflected treats, such as the belly-warming udon soup and pillowy dumplings, which are so addictive, you’ll wish you had ordered double—save yourself the wanting and just do it.
Best ramen in Chicago
Even the most brutal Chicago weather can't keep us from venturing outdoors for a bowl of 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.
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.
If you like your ramen with a side of hip-hop, 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 are spruced up with unconventional ingredients like fried chicken, ground pork and buttered corn. Vegetarians dig the Imperial Shio Ramen with a veg-based broth, molten egg, tofu chunks and nori.
This teeny-tiny hidden oasis under Green Street Smoked Meats in the West Loop is managed by Hogsalt—the same culinary masterminds behind Au Cheval, Bavette's and the California Clipper. Ambience doesn't fall short and neither do the flavors. The minimalist menu begins with a stern warning of how spicy the soup can be—and spicy it is, but worth the momentary pain. Balance the flecks of chili in the signature ramen with a milder bowl, like the shoyu or special ramen, which are still impressive without the seductively creamy tonkotsu broth. Arrive early and put your name on the waitlist: There are only a handful of seats in this subterranean hideout.
With seven locations (and counting), this laidback ramen emporium wins when it comes to customization. Simply choose a chef-crafted ramen bowl, add toppings, select sides 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.
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.
When a popular ramen chain from Canada set up shop in the West Loop, we raised our eyebrows in interest. But Kinton had us at first slurp. The Toronto import's menu is sorted by base, with pork, chicken, karaage (fried chicken) and vegetarian bowls. Forgo tradition and spring for the fried chicken variety, which is topped with perfectly crisp poultry and scallions and served with shoyu or spicy broth (go with the latter). Maybe Canadians know a thing or two about ramen after all.
Whether you're at Strings' Lakeview or Chinatown location, there's a section on the menu that will undoubtedly catch your eye: Hell Ramen. With five spice levels to choose from, Hell Ramen 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? Go to the counter and ask for kae dama (trust us on this one).
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 prawn cutlet round out the menu.
The bowls at Misoya come with a culinary lesson: Guests learn about the tasting notes and origins of each blend—from Hokkaido to Tokyo to tonkotsu. The miso broth is some of the best in the city, imparting every noodle with the nutty and complex flavor from the rich soybean paste. But the add-in list is where Misoya shines; toss in chunks of butter, fried tofu, ground pork and miso eggs to really gussy up your bowl.