Ramen is great any time of the year, but almost irreplaceable on those cold days when you wished laying in bed under four layers of blankets would count as work. Boston is seemingly apt in producing far too many of those days, but thankfully it’s also home to many great ramen spots. Here are the best places to slurp some noodles.
Tsurumen in Davis Square will, supposedly, only be open for 1,000 days. It’s unclear whether that timeline is a marketing ploy or the restaurant equivalent to a motivational poster that says, “Every day is a gift!” But either way, Tsurumen makes the best ramen in Boston. While the exact ramen may change (Tsurumen consistently serves different recipes, or “formulas,” as they call them), the amazingly well-balanced broths and the perfectly cooked noodles with tender slices of meat do not. You should visit as soon as possible, and as you’re consuming a warm bowl of excellence, you might find yourself believing in that poster.
This much-beloved ramen spot used to be in Allston’s Super 88 complex, but now it’s located on a corner in Medford right by the Mystic River. It’s a setting that almost feels like the set of The Great British Baking Show - albeit with fewer sheep and teal kitchen appliances - and one that left us pretty unprepared for the fiery ramen at Pikaichi. There’s some seriously enjoyable heat to both the spicy miso and jigoku bowls, but amazingly the spice doesn’t overwhelm the other great flavors, something we can’t say about other chili-laden ramen. For a warm endorphin rush that doesn’t involve winning a cake stand, head to Pikaichi.
At first, we were a little unsure about vegan ramen. We even had vegan friends who were unsure about vegan ramen, but that skepticism was cured with just one visit to Red White (unfortunately there were no solutions to pessimism here). This place has six different options, but each bowl comes with a broth that’s as rich as some Back Bay residents. The variety of vegetable toppings also provides a nice textural contrast to the noodles, and if miso avocado is an available option on the day you visit, it’s a great addition to your bowl.
At Ruckus, the “noodle house” that’s a sister spot to Shojo, the ramen bowls are reimagined riffs on classics, kind of like more delicious song covers. The Tokyo-style ramen, for instance, comes with fried pork belly instead of sliced pork, and the miso ramen has ground pork and grilled corn. Overall, they’re subtle touches, but ones that make the ramen interesting in a respectful way - which sadly can’t be said of Taylor Swift’s rendition of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire. One important note: Ruckus is currently closed, though we’re hoping to see them back soon.
The sheer number of ramen options at Amateras can be overwhelming, at least until you realize that some items are just spicier versions of each other. The extreme miso ramen lives up to its billing as a pandemic sauna-substitute, but we usually go with the regular miso instead. It’s not quite as heavy as bowls from other spots, but it’s equally as flavorful - a seemingly impossible truism. We do wish the portions of meat here were larger, but since that inherently leaves room for a side of chashu don, we’ll concede.
Ganko Ittetsu claims that their broth tastes better because they take time to caramelize their vegetables before letting them simmer. We’d be lying if we said we could taste the essence of charred carrots in every spoonful, but nevertheless, there’s no denying that the ramen here is really good. The noodles have a nice bite, the broth is flavorful, and we’ve never been disappointed with anything we’ve ordered (there are six ramen styles available). Additionally, the restaurant is housed in the Coolidge Corner Arcade, an old-school mall that’s almost a destination all on its own. Between the great ramen and the unique location, we’re not sure we needed to hear about those sugary veggies in the first place.
The ramen at Oisa, a tiny spot right next to Tiki Rock, has a lighter broth compared to other places on this guide, which makes sense since most are made with a vegetable-based stock. Interestingly, that lightness extends even to the tonkotsu. But it’s actually a feature we enjoy since it allows us to fully appreciate the other ingredients, like the soy egg and smoky garlic oil. There are also some stellar noodles here, something that should not be overlooked. And should you choose to do so, you can even eat your ramen at Tiki Rock and enjoy some cocktails at the same time - it’s hard to argue against that. Sadly, Oisa is scheduled to close by the end of 2020.
The noodles at Yume Wo Katare are very good - arguably some of the best in Boston. But otherwise the ramen here is a consistent onslaught of garlicky pork flavor. We don’t necessarily mind that, but halfway through a bowl we do start to grow a little weary. Yet Yume still makes the list primarily because prior to the pandemic, it was one of the most unique dining experiences around. Strangers would gather in a tiny room, slurp absurdly rich broth, then share their dreams. Jose wanted to be a poet. Amy longed to start a New England llama farm. Cam believed recycling wine would save the world. It was a little corny, far more earnest than any political debate, but perhaps representative of an idealism we all need in life right now.