The Best Ramen In Chicago guide image

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The Best Ramen In Chicago

The best places to get ramen in Chicago.

Conversations about ramen can quickly turn from a casual “Where should we eat for dinner?” to an intense argument about the best bowls in the city. The next time you find yourself deadlocked in a debate about bone broth and noodle texture, use this guide. From impossible-to-get-into basement shops to relaxed places where you can slurp a midnight bowl while sitting on the floor, this is our guide to the best ramen spots in Chicago.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

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3435 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago
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Monster Monster Ramen is making some of the best bowls of ramen in the city—and they’re also some of the most unique. This sleek Logan Square spot specializes in gyukotsu, an uncommon broth made from beef bones. It has a delicious richness without feeling too heavy, and pairs perfectly with their thin, springy housemade noodles. Our go-to order is “The Monster”, which gets added depth and creaminess from some garlic miso tare. Like a Met Gala outfit, it’s all about maximalism—loaded with sweet and savory beef jam, slices of wagyu, mushrooms, seasoned egg, and seaweed. It’s a robust, umami-packed bowl, but it’s all balanced perfectly with freshness from some corn and raw red onion.


It takes Logan Square’s Ramen Wasabi 45 hours to make their tonkotsu broth, a feat that seems particularly impressive considering we can’t even make it through a one-minute-long Instagram reel. But their velvety bowl of tonkotsu ramen is one of the city’s best, especially when accompanied by thick noodles, fatty pork belly, and an oozing soft-boiled egg. Paired with the softly lit, packed dining room, finishing a bowl here gives the same feeling as letting the couch swallow you on a lazy Sunday afternoon. They also have a mushroom-based vegan option, so everyone is free to slurp some noodles to a playlist full of Thundercat and Tom Misch.


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Ramen Takeya is Wasabi’s sister restaurant in Fulton Market, and is decorated with Japanese restaurant and bar signs that look like they belong in a Tokyo alleyway. This place is devoted to delicious bowls of chicken paitan ramen, a chicken bone-based broth that has a pleasant level of salty creaminess despite being lighter than a pork-based soup. Takeya’s signature bowl comes with thin, firm noodles, black mushrooms, sweet char siu pork belly, ajitama egg, and raw onions that add a welcome pop of freshness. They also have a well-stocked bar, so you can order a Suntory Toki highball as a palate cleanser in between spoonfuls of broth.


Rounding up the Ramen Wasabi family tree is Menya Goku, a North Center spot where the main draw is tantanmen. Their take on this ramen (whose origins are rooted in the Sichuan province of China) is a nutty and savory pork broth spiced with tingly peppercorns. It’s also loaded with thin noodles, bok choy, tender menma, and nikumiso ground pork that's full of umami. Their brightly lit dining room is small and narrow, with mainly counter seats and small booths. It’s ideal for a solo meal on an April evening—because Chicago "spring" is basically just an extension of winter.


Like a speakeasy, this tiny and dark West Loop shop is hidden in the basement of Green Street Smoked Meats. But instead of 1920’s jazz and bootleg gin, you’ll find a relentless hip-hop soundtrack and one of the city’s most unique (and spicy) bowls of ramen. Their signature High Five Ramen is packed with thick noodles, a juicy soft-boiled egg, buttery chashu pork, and an incredibly spicy tonkotsu broth. Start with the already fiery half-spice level, then gradually work your way up. Not only will this set your mouth on fire, but it’ll also give your tongue a euphoria-inducing tingling like you just licked a 9-volt battery. High Five’s extreme popularity might mean that you’ll have to endure a two-hour wait to get in. But it’s absolutely worth it, and you can just head back upstairs and grab a drink at Green Street’s bar while you patiently hang out in waitlist purgatory.


With its long drink list and “Now That’s What I Call Hip-Hop” playlist, River North’s Ramen San feels less like a ramen shop and more like an energetic bar where you don’t have to ask yourself "Why is the floor sticky?” And unlike High Five, where you might feel pressured to finish your bowl quickly to release those suffering in waitlist purgatory, Ramen San has lots of seating, making it a fun place to hang. Their ramen menu is short, but bowls like the kimchi and fried chicken, or the sumo with tonkotsu, dumplings, chashu, spicy crushed egg, and buttered corn, are worth checking out. They also have a great lunch special where $16 magically transforms into a bowl of ramen, a small rice plate, and a side salad.


All three Chicago locations of Strings Ramen (Chinatown, Lakeview, and Hyde Park) make their own straight, square-cut noodles. They’re a little on the thicker side, and have a very strong, firm bite. But, aside from their noodles, what sets Strings apart from the other places on this list is a large ramen selection. They have tonkotsu, chicken and turkey based miso, seaweed based shoyu, as well as some vegetarian and vegan options. And if you’re a thrill-seeking spice lover, then you can try their Hell Ramen: a fiery bowl packed with numbing spice, scorpion pepper, and ghost pepper that requires a signed waiver before consumption. If you finish the entire bowl in 20 minutes, you’ll get a $50 gift card and a free t-shirt that doubles as a rag for your sweaty face.


Though Oiistar in Wicker Park has a very delicious standard tonkotsu bowl, some of the best ramen variations at this busy spot are the ones that defenestrate (thanks SAT prep) tradition. Oiistar successfully cross-pollinates ramen with other cuisines—from the Tikkamen which is flavored with masala, to the Pozolemen which is packed with chipotle chiles. When combined with the pleasant chew of their thin, housemade noodles, it’s worth rushing to grab a bar seat after work before this place fills up for dinner.


Like street parking downtown, gyukotsu is elusive. But should the West Loop parking gods ever be in your favor, you can check out Gyuro Ramen—the first place in the city to focus on this beef-based ramen. Compared to Monster Ramen’s, their broth is a bit richer due to the addition of bison bones, and it gets extra saltiness from some soy sauce. Our favorite bowl here is The Gyukotsu Prime, which comes with thin noodles, sweet soft-boiled egg, menma, and medium-rare filet mignon. Gyuro is particularly great in the winter when its combination of hot soup, club music, and light projections of busy Japanese streets helps you forget that you’ll have to dig out your parking spot once you get home.


Kizuki Ramen, which has locations in Wicker and Lincoln Park, is part of a Japanese chain that gained popularity in America after setting up shop in the Pacific Northwest. Their specialty is a tonkotsu broth that's different from other places on this list. They roast the pork bones before boiling them, giving the soup an extra layer of depth and smokiness. Their menu also includes yuzu shio ramen with a pork and chicken broth mix, and tsukemen—where noodles are served separately from the soup and are dunked before each bite. The broth is so satisfying that you'll consider dipping yourself into the bowl.


Most ramen places in Chicago usually only have one vegetarian ramen on the menu. And while it does make ordering easier for vegetarians, if there’s one thing we learned from The Bachelor, it’s that it's nice to have options. Every single bowl at Rakkan Ramen in Uptown has a vegetable-based broth, and toppings like eggs and pork belly can be substituted with tofu and mushrooms. Their broth is light yet savory, and goes perfectly with their thin, chewy noodles. There’s plenty of group seating in the softly lit, narrow dining space, so it’s a good spot to catch up with friends—just make sure to also split some crispy gyoza as an appetizer.


This narrow, BYOB Lakeview restaurant is like Build-A-Bear Workshop, but instead of inserting a poorly recorded voice message into a teddy bear's heart, you customize a bowl of ramen. You can choose between tonkotsu or miso broth, the type of protein, noodle texture, and spice. Our favorite order here is tonkotsu, medium saltiness, with pork, garlic, green onion, spicy sauce, and noodles that have a medium chew. Though this might be the lightest tonkotsu broth we’ve tried, it’s still delicious, and the sweet handmade noodles are the perfect vehicle for the flavorful soup.


The tonkotsu from E Ramen in Bridgeport might be the creamiest we’ve had in Chicago—it’s thick and opaque, and has the silkiness of luxurious hand cream. And like that lotion, a bowl at this small ramen spot is equally soothing. We recommend getting the spicy version which balances the intense creaminess with a combination of heat, sweetness from chashu and menma, along with thick chewy noodles. If rich broth is not your style, they also have great chicken ramen. This is a much lighter soup with thin noodles, green onions, and bok choy for some added crispness.


Just a short drive from E Ramen is Shinya Ramen House, which is the only shop in the city that's open until 1:30am. This cozy place in Bridgeport is full of people grabbing food after hitting the bar, and IIT students who came here instead of making a journey to the microwave to heat up some cup noodles. Their standard bowls are good, but Shinya also has specialty options worth trying, like vegan tomato, curry, and—though purists might write a 20-page-long manifesto explaining why this is sacrilegious—miso ramen with udon noodles. Aside from table seating, they have a small area where you can eat on floor cushions. Just be careful, the later it gets the more likely you’ll find yourself taking a post-ramen snooze.

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