Ramen has taken off in Chicago and the happy slurping can be heard 'round the city. These dishes are far different from the microwaved bowl of mush you ate in college. Everyone from big name restaurant groups to Japanese chains have opened up ramen shops in Chicago. There are a ton of different types to dive into, but these 11 bowls of savory, spicy goodness are at the top of our list. Discover which Japanese restaurants (and sushi restaurants) have the best ramen.
Best ramen in Chicago
Strings sets itself apart from the recent influx of ramen slingers by making its own noodles in the basement on a Japanese machine. They’re firm, with a nice bite. Get them in a variety of ramen bowls, like the tonkotsu, which has a deep, meaty broth filled with garlic, sesame, scallions and thick slabs of pork. Add an egg and it’ll come with a perfectly cooked yolk that spills into the broth.
No longer do you have to make the trek to a strip mall in Mount Prospect for Ramen Misoya—this Japanese chain has opened a location in Streeterville. Known for its miso ramen, the shop is adorably littered with miso propaganda, highlighting the fermented soybean paste’s supposed health benefits (it’ll make you smarter, more alert, skinnier, clear up your skin and cure most illnesses). The miso broth is some of the best in the city, imparting each noodle-packed bowl with a nutty and complex flavor from the rich soybean paste. If you can handle the heat, be sure to add more spice, which has a pleasant and warming heat.
Ramen addicts are a particular bunch, and a bowl that strays too far from the conventional has to be executed perfectly. Matthias Merges’s two Yusho locations (in Chicago) serve up bowls of inventive and satisfying soups that are always on point. The standout here is the Logan "Hakata" Pork Ramen, with a mustard-soy egg, yuzu cabbage, spicy cucumber, pickles and nori garlic oil. On Sundays, a bowl of ramen of your choice, soft serve and a cocktail will only put you out $25—it’s still one of the best (and least crowded) brunch deals in the city.
Bucktown’s Takashi has closed its doors, but you can still grab a steaming bowl of chef Takashi Yagihashi’s famous ramen at his second location in River North. The menu features different kinds of ramen, one crafted with pork miso and another gluten free option with mushrooms, but it’s the house tonkotsu ramen that has a legion of devoted fans. The creamily opaque tonkotsu broth fills each bowl, hiding treasures like soft cooked eggs (make sure to add an egg), sumptuous slow-cooked pork and tangled ribbons of housemade noodles, topped with a confetti of green onion.
This Fulton Market ramen spot dishes out paitan and shoyu ramen in big bowls filled with umami broth. With wavy egg noodles that have a nice and chewy mouthfeel and tender pork belly, the Tokyo classic shoyu is an easy favorite for us. Sit at the bar and grab a cocktail with Calpis in it while you’re there, you won’t regret it.
Best known for its exceptional sushi, this busy West Town storefront dabbles in everything from traditional yakitori grill favorites to comforting bowls of noodles and rice. Here the house ramen is made with a clear and flavorful beef broth and served with both slow-cooked pork belly and braised beef that falls apart in your bowl. The springy ramen noodles are topped with pickled vegetables, slices of fishcake, strands of delicate enoki mushrooms, and a gently poached egg that breaks sunnily into the broth.
The Kickstarter-funded ramen spot from chef Shin Thompson has locations in Wicker Park and Logan Square. The storefronts are lined with wooden counters and stools, and speakers blare hip-hop. Five different versions of ramen anchor the menu, but it’s the restaurant’s namesake dish, Furious Ramen, that really makes a statement. The miso-based broth has a lip-numbing heat that burns without being overwhelming, and is accompanied by an impeccable cooked egg that splits open with the consistency of velvet custard. Snappy fresh noodles are a treat, made daily in the large machine behind the counter. The soup is packed with meaty toppings—a melty pork belly and beef brisket—but it’s the surprisingly tender and bright marinated mushrooms that shine.
When the temperatures drop, it’s hard to not want to escape to somewhere remote and exotic. After one (or four) slushies in this hidden oasis under Green Street Meats in the West Loop, you can almost pretend you’ve been transported to a gritty basement ramen shop in Tokyo. Reminiscent of the cautioning one might find from a wing–centric sports bar, the 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 classic High Five ramen with one of the milder bowls like the shoyu or special ramen, which are still impressive without the seductively creamy tonkotsu broth. The bracingly chilly bite of the fruity slushie cocktails will help tame the heat, too.
Tucked into the sprawling suburban Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights, Santouka is the Chicago branch of a popular ramen chain that was first opened on the island of Hokkaido in Japan. Before stocking up on rice noodles and jars of chili oil from the market shelves, make your way to the sparse central food court and order a bowl of ramen. The soups here are straightforward and unfussy, but the grid-like menu is extensive and can be overwhelming, offering miso, shoyu and shio broths. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices, but we’re partial to the spicy miso ramen, with an intensely silky broth. Regardless of your broth choice, make sure to order your soup char-siu style, which comes topped with the tender slices of barbecued pork for which the restaurant is known.
Even the brutal Chicago winter cold can’t stop a crowd from forming outside this Japanese spot located on a sparse stretch of Milwaukee 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. Make sure you add the spicy miso ball to your bowl, which transforms the broth via a warm and peppery heat.
The modern wooden tables, flatscreen TVs and golden beckoning cats give this ramen joint a modern, sports bar feel. Ramen-San and Paris Club share a kitchen, which gives the daily specials at Ramen-San a little twist. For instance, they might swap out chashu pork with roasted duck. The kimchi and fried chicken ramen topped with fried garlic and buttered corn packs a wave of heat. All ramen is served with Tokyo wavy noodles from an artisan ramen noodle maker with facilities in Honolulu, Los Angeles and NYC. On the list of toppings, make sure you add the creamy molten egg to whatever you order.