8 Essential Bowls Of Ramen In New York City

It's safe to say that New York City is in the midst of a ramen craze, and that the craze isn't going to fade away anytime soon. It's been a couple of years since the Japanese noodle soup really started to make its mark on the city. While it might seem fitting that we're publishing this article in the midst of the worst winter in recent memory, ramen is fast turning into a year-round comfort food for the masses. And its popularity is understandable: Ramen is accessible, filling, inexpensive and, quite simply, delicious. Capitalizing on the trend, Japanese chefs have opened a number of ramen joints in the past few years, providing locals with a number of new slurping options. As for that "best of" list you've been waiting for? We've got you covered here.

1. Momofuku Noodle Bar

David Chang may preside over a rapidly growing empire that includes four Momofuku restaurants in New York, but it's this decade-old noodle bar that marked his first city success. Chang's simple East Village establishment — the interior is composed of wooden benches, tables and barstools — helped usher in the city's early ramen movement some 10 years ago. The Momofuku ramen makes use of the same tender, fatty pork belly found in the restaurant's famous buns (order them to start, as well as the perfectly crisped spicy rice cakes), and the spicy miso ramen rivals any variation in the city. 171 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003, momofuku.com

2. Totto Ramen

In keeping with Japanese tradition, Totto Ramen serves its noodles in a minimalistic setting, and the menu consists of just a few appetizer options. The specialty here is soups made with chicken broth, a rarity considering the majority of the city's establishments use pork as a base. The result is a subtler, lighter flavor, though items like the extra-spicy Totto ramen and garlic- and onion-loaded mega ramen certainly pack quite the kick. A Midtown East branch recently opened to complement Totto's existing Hell's Kitchen shop. Note that both locations are cash only. 366 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10011 and 248 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022, tottoramen.com

3. Ippudo

Since Ippudo opened its first location in New York's East Village in 2008, diners have consistently had to brave multiple-hour wait times. And for good reason. The international chain (there are now locations in a dozen countries) dishes out some of the city's finest noodles in complex tonkotsu (pork bone) broths. Traditionalists opt for the shiromaru hakata classic featuring silky soup noodles topped with char siu, kikurage mushrooms, bamboo shoots and scallions, while those looking for a more adventurous meal can go for the wasabi shoyu, a wasabi-oil-infused mix of noodles served with bean curd and tempura flakes. Pork buns and fried chicken wings glazed with black-pepper sauce lead an impressive collection of appetizers. Head to the Hell's Kitchen location for (slightly) more manageable lines. 65 4th Avenue, New York, NY 10003 and 321 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10019, ippudony.com

4. Ramen Lab

Ramen Lab was one of New York City's most anticipated restaurants this winter, finally opening its doors in Nolita in early 2015 after months of speculation. Expect lines down the block at the 10-seat (actually, 10 standing-only counter spots) restaurant helmed by Jack Nakamura, the corporate chef of artisanal ramen-noodle maker Sun Noodle, which provides Ramen Lab's noodles. You'll find just gyoza and two bowls of ramen on the menu — the current one consists of a classic take on shoyu (soy sauce) ramen and a surprisingly hearty XO miso vegetarian ramen, unconventionally topped with a dollop of butter. Our suggestion is to order the latter option and add on char siu. Best of both worlds! 70 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012, ramen-lab.com

5. Mu Ramen

It's hard to designate one place as serving the city's "best" ramen, yet that's exactly what New York Times critic Pete Wells did last year with Mu Ramen. The original pop-up — found in a bagel shop — was soon flooded with thousands of reservation requests, leading it to secure permanent digs on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City. Per Se alum Joshua Smookler and his wife Heidy are again behind the new venture, which features exposed brick and two communal tables as well as a bar. Quirky starters include okonomiyaki, a scallion pancake of sorts served with smoked trout, tobiko, shaved bonio and syrup, and foie and brioche-stuffed fried chicken wings. The inventive bowls of thick noodles — especially the namesake Mu ramen, a cloudy oxtail-and-bone-marrow broth that is filled with brisket — are as deeply satisfying as Mr. Wells recalls. Make sure to bring cash. 12-09 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101, ramennyc.wix.com/popup

6. Ivan Ramen

A Jewish kid from Long Island moves to Japan, takes up noodle making and opens up one of Tokyo's most renowned ramen restaurants. It's not quite a conventional route, but it's the path that Ivan Orkin has followed. The chef relocated to New York City a couple of years ago to unveil his first two Stateside endeavors, a stall inside Gotham West Market in Hell's Kitchen and a stand-alone noodle joint on the Lower East Side. It's at this latter, colorful establishment — be sure to grab a seat in the backyard patio over the summer — that Orkin serves an extensive menu of innovative small plates, complemented by his famous shio (salt) and shoyu bowls, and original mazeman (brothless) rye and whole-wheat noodle creations. The sinus-clearing red-chili ramen just may be our favorite bowl of noodles on this entire list. Those in the know order them all "fully loaded" with egg, char sui and roast tomato. 25 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002, ivanramen.com

7. Jin Ramen

Quality ramen in Harlem? You'd better believe it. Tucked away under the 125th Street subway station is Jin, a neighborhood (and Columbia University) favorite since opening in 2012. Start with crunchy green beans doused in a sweet sesame paste and crispy, charred pork buns before moving on to a generously portioned bowl of spicy tonkotsu ramen. Made by boiling pork bones over high heat for hours on end and mixing in roasted garlic paste and spicy soybean, the milky-colored soup achieves a creamy texture ideal for a cold winter evening. Green coconut Thai curry and kimchi variations give a nod to influences from other Asian cuisines. An Upper West Side outpost just opened, too. 3183 Broadway, New York, NY 10027 and 462 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10024, jinramen.com

8. Hide-Chan Ramen

Hide-Chan operates under the same ownership as Totto (and is found adjacent to Totto's new East Side location), but Hide-Chan showcases more starters and side dishes. The sister restaurants also have different noodle specialties. This longtime business-crowd favorite is famous for letting its customers choose the firmness and texture of their noodles and features a number of rich, dense broths. The spicy black-garlic ramen bursts with sharp flavor, and the togarashi (Japanese chili pepper) and seafood dashi-based red dragon bowl packs intense amounts of heat. 248 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

Honorable mentions: Chuko, ZuZu Ramen, Bassanova

Please note that this article only lists places that serve ramen daily. It does not include restaurants that offer a "special" ramen dish or two at certain times of the day or night each week.Check out these NYC dining guides on Food Republic:

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