Sometime over the past ten years, New York became a ramen town. Would you like to eat ramen made by a famous chain from Japan? How about made by a Jewish guy from Long Island? Do you like your ramen made with incredibly rich pork broth? Or would you prefer something chicken-based? Fish broth? Would you like to eat at a busy, packed-in spot in Midtown or the East Village? Or are you more into the idea of eating in complete silence with minimal human interaction at a place in Bushwick?
If any of those sound appealing to you, they’re all options in NYC right now. And the most important thing is that they’re all excellent. So as the weather turns from mildly tolerable to feeling like you’re never going to be warm again, these are the soups you’ll want to bring into your life.
The rich, porky broth at Ippudo is, for our money, the best bowl of noodle soup one can eat in New York City. The original East Village location has absurdly long waits much of the time, so consider making it a solo pilgrimage, or just tell your boss you have to leave work at 4 for a doctor’s appointment. Their pork buns are a must-order as well.
Located in Long Island City, Mu Ramen serves excellent ramen in a fun, neighborhood-y environment. In addition to their rich (but not ridiculously rich) tonkotsu ramen, they also serve a bowl with brisket and a sour pickle. The appetizers, which include an uni and salmon roe bowl and an okonomiyaki pancake, should be part of your order as well.
Somewhere around the mid-2000s, lots of people in New York suddenly stopped seeing ramen as something you shame-make in a dorm, and started taking it very seriously. That’s definitely in large part thanks to Momofuku Noodle Bar, which opened in 2004 as the first Momofuku restaurant. Over a decade later, the noodles here are still great - get the classic Momofuku Ramen, but don’t miss the rest of the menu, which has several different buns and small plates.
Will Ivan Ramen’s Spicy Red Chili Ramen burn a hole in your esophagus? Don’t worry about that now. For the time being, just eat your way through this very hot ramen until tears drip down your face. They do have non-spicy options too, and the lively Lower East Side space is a fun place for a small group dinner.
Do you want to eat ramen in Brooklyn? You should be doing it at Chuko in Prospect Heights. The Kimchi Ramen is what you want to order, and know that they also have a vegetarian ramen if you’re dining with non-carnivores. For further proof that Chuko is doing ramen right, please refer to the recent opening of their second location in Bushwick.
At this Midtown spot, the broth is made from chicken rather than pork. The soup still comes topped with pieces of pork though, so this isn’t exactly a light meal. It is a very, very good one though, and everyone in the Midtown area knows it. Expect to wait, or come solo.
Jen-Men gets attention for one of its ramen offerings: a brothless uni and mushroom ramen that also involves truffle oil, parmesan, and pancetta. But we’d actually direct you to the more traditional Pork Bone or Kimchi Ramen here. This is definitely the best place to eat ramen in Chelsea.
Right around the corner from Ippudo, Zundo-ya will ask you whether you want your soup light, regular, rich, or super rich. There are also several different broths, a bunch of toppings, and even the choice of regular or wavy noodles. If you’re really into having things exactly how you like them, get Zundo-ya on your list.
Located in a cool, modern space on the Lower East Side, Mr. Taka has somehow flown mostly under the radar, despite making some of the best ramen in the city. The soups here are a bit less traditional - one of them is made with white soy sauce and yuzu - but very tasty. While the broths and noodles are top notch, we’ve also found the slices of pork in their soups to be some of the best.
Located in Bushwick, Ichiran is well-known in Japan for its “flavor concentration booths.” Think of it as like a study carrel in a college library, but for solo ramen eating. Ordering here is done by filling out a form and pressing a button, so human interaction is minimal. You can eat in an actual dining room (or just lower the partition between booths) if you’re afraid of loneliness. The ramen isn’t the absolute best in the city, but the experience overall makes this a place worth visiting at least once.
By day, this is a restaurant called Okonomi, which serves a traditional Japanese breakfast. On weeknights, it’s a ramen place that serves seafood-based bowls - think squid or tuna-based broth, or noodles topped with sea urchin. On weekend evenings, they serve a 9-course omakase ramen menu. Got all that? Any time you come, you’ll get to eat some great food, but walk in on a weeknight for some very unusual and delicious ramen.