D.C. has a pretty good thing going on these days when it comes to ramen. So we're going to need someone with a more nuanced understanding of supply and demand to explain to us why the lines at Toki Underground don't ever seem to get any shorter, even as more ramen places open up. You know people are picking up what you’re putting down when there’s 80-plus degree heat outside, you’re serving up steaming hot bowls of ramen, and you still have an hour wait on a weeknight.
Assuming you will have to wait, we want to make sure you're prepared, and we want to be certain you don't make some of the same mistakes we made on our initial trip here. Mistakes like:
1) Believing that the restaurant is below ground. This H Street spot is “underground” in the sense that it’s tiny like your first English basement apartment, but it’s actually up a set of stairs from a divey-looking bar called The Pug, which is where you'll wait for a table. Once upstairs, you'll find a bar covered in comics and street art all over the walls. Think of it as a 16-year-old's dream bedroom.
2) Thinking that ramen is the only thing the menu has to offer. The noodle dishes and dumplings at this H Street spot are arguably as good as their ramen, so don't write off a meal here just because you don't want a huge bowl of soup. Bring your appetite and let that guide your order.
The bottom line is: Toki serves some of the best dumplings and ramen in the city, in a fun environment. And expect to wait, even when it seems way too hot out to be eating ramen.
We recommend starting off with the fried chicken before you get into ramen. Stuff the chicken into some steamed buns and top with pickled vegetables.
Let’s be clear, all the ramen is great here and it's hard to go wrong. While some of the other ramen at Toki is a little more unusual (the Kimchi Ramen, for example), red miso ramen is a classic, and if you're looking at the menu unable to make up your mind, let us do it for you. Order the red miso.
Do not be embarrassed to order a cocktail called the Hello Kitty. It's made with Calpico (sweet milky Japanese drink) and vodka, and once you order it, you are going to be pleased with your decision to get this pink drink on your table.