New York is graced with excellent Japanese food, from the city’s best sushi counters to Japense comfort-food dishes, omakase fine dining restaurants to noodle houses serving the best ramen NYC has to offer. Whether you’re looking for fatty pork soups that taste authentically Japanese, or fusion ramen dishes doled out from a Jewish Long Islander, here are the restaurants offering the best ramen in NYC.
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Best ramen in NYC
The best seats in the house are at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, where husband-and-wife team Joshua and Heidy Smookler operate with sushi-bar intimacy, cracking jokes while shaking pots of just-boiled noodles as easily as tumbler-happy bartenders. Those strands are delicate, but with an al-dente spring and a different variety showcased in each bowl. Most notable is the flagship bowl ($18). Built on a broth of oxtail and bone marrow, the house ramen gets some extra-meaty oomph from melting cubes of brisket, which, paired with shredded cabbage and half-sour pickles, toes Jewish deli-novelty without succumbing to kitsch.
Shigetoshi “Naka” Nakamura, one of Japan’s most widely-recognized ramen toques, dazzled New York audiences in 2015 with his steamy, skillfully balanced XO miso ramen at Sun Noodle’s Ramen Lab. After a stint as the noodle company’s corporate chef, Nakamura heads down the street to go solo with his debut ramen-ya, an 18-seat outfit set where he peddles that miso bowl along with a curry-spiced ramen and his signature shoyu variety. The latter employs the chef’s famed stock—chicken bones simmered with ginger and a proprietary soy-sauce blend—and comes topped with spinach, chashu (pork belly) and scallion oil, with a noodle choice of house-made strands or the Sun Noodle standard.
Ivan Orkin has never been one to play by the rulebook—the brash, Yiddish-tongued Long Islander first built his food-world fame not in his native New York, but 6,000 miles away in Tokyo, where he stirred up Japan’s devout ramen congregation with his light, silky slurp bowls in 2007. At his flagship Lower East Side restaurant, Orkin more than earns his keep in the ramen circle with seminal noodle-bar standards like his exquisitely delicate double-soup shio ($13), silky dashi-chicken stock swimming with thin rye-flour noodles and tender pork belly.
Every night, Okonomi's breakfast-and-lunch ichi ju san sai operation gives way to this 380-square-foot ramen-ya from noodle whiz Yuji Haraguchi, a sit-down offshoot of the chef’s Kinfolk Studios and Whole Foods counters. Bowls include his calling-card bacon-and-egg mazemen or a daily-changing shoyu, or post up to the four-stool counter overlooking the open kitchen for a reservations-only ramen tasting menu.
Calling all solo diners: Ramen chain Ichiran, which combats the social stigma of eating alone with individual “flavor concentration booths” at its 60 locations in Asia, brings its introvert-friendly service system stateside with a Bushwick outpost. The dining process consists of filling out an order form—the kitchen concentrates on pork-bone tonkotsu ramen, but you can specify preferences like “flavor strength,” “noodle tenderness” and “fat content”—and pushing a call button in the partitioned solo booth. A server lifts the bamboo shade in front of you and delivers your ramen with nary an attempt at small talk before leaving as quietly and quickly as they arrived. Extroverted eaters wanting some human interaction can sit in an adjacent dining room for more traditional table service.
The superior strands at this 10-seat educational slurp shop from the Sun Noodle team have been a secret weapon in noodle houses on both East and West Coasts—including NYC’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, Totto Ramen and Hide-Chan, among countless others—for three decades. Ramen chefs from the U.S. and Japan take over the kitchen for three-week residencies, with toques like Tampa's Noel Cruz doling out bowls of spicy abura soba and vegetable ramen.
David Chang has gone from East Village rebel to awards-circuit veteran, piling up accolades from Bon Appétit, GQ, the James Beard Society, Food & Wine and just about anyone who has ever eaten a pork bun. And years later, his Noodle Bar is still original, fun and, at times, outstanding. Noodle Bar made its bones taking the economic savior of college students everywhere—ramen noodles—and making them hot, duding up most of the bowls with sexy yet earthy ingredients like poached eggs and pickled pear, the latter turning the pork broth of the beef brisket nguyen into a spicy fruit tea.
This sleek outpost of a Japanese ramen chain is packed mostly with Nippon natives who queue up for a taste of “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara’s tonkotsu—a pork-based broth. The house special, Akamaru Modern, is a smooth, buttery soup topped with scallions, cabbage, a slice of roasted pork and pleasantly elastic noodles. Avoid nonsoup dishes like the oily fried-chicken nuggets coated in a sweet batter. Long live the Ramen King—just don’t ask him to move beyond his specialty.
Japanese cuisine expert Harris Salat (author of Takashi's Noodles and Japanese Hot Pots) and chef Rio Irie (Matsuri) join forces to open the latest contender in a wave of modern ramen-yas, like Chuko, Dassara and Yuji. Their Downtown Brooklyn joint serves classic soy and miso broths, alongside comfort-food spins, like crispy-pork-and-garlic gyoza pot stickers and pork loin buns. Grab a seat at the L-shaped bar that wraps around the glass-enclosed kitchen, or at one of the wooden booths made of raw cedar.
Like a traditional Japanese ramen-ya, this narrow, below-street-level noodle joint is designed for quick meals. Most seats are along a counter, behind which the chefs crisp pork slices with a propane torch and tend to bubbling stockpots. The specialty here is paitan ramen, a creamy soup that’s a chicken-based variation on Hakata, Japan’s famous tonkotsu (pork) broth. The most basic version, the Totto chicken, is a flavorful, opaque soup bobbing with thin, straight noodles and slow-cooked pork ridged with satiny fat. The real winner, however, is the miso ramen, enriched with a scoop of nutty fermented soybean paste and wavy egg noodles.
Find the best ramen in America
The Taco Shop
At this West Village taqueria, the menu is split into two distinct parts: tacos and “not tacos.” Mix and match the nine varieties of tacos—baja fish, chicken tinga, cochinita pibil, spicy chorizo and more—for just $3.50 apiece. You can supplement your feast with ceviche ($5.50), pork tamales ($5), quesadillas ($3.50) and, of course, guacamole ($4.50 for a small, $9.50 for a large). Then there are sides, like sweet fried plantains, pickled carrots and jalapenos and grilled corn on the cob with cojita cheese ($3 each or three for $7.50). Wash down your taco-centric meal with a bottle of sweet, neon-hued Jarritos soda ($3) in lime, tamarind, pineapple or orange. The happy hour deal might tempt Mexican food lovers even more: for just $12, you’ll get three tacos and a beer or margarita.
Venue says: “Make sure to check out our Happy Hour, 3 Tacos and a Margarita or Beer for $12. Monday-Fridays 4-7pm”