My favorite type of men is Ra-men- D.C.'s best ramen shops!
Ramen in 2000 (USA)
The sad meal of poor college students across the nation. The noodles were notoriously sold in bulk, microwave friendly, precooked into a block, overly seasoned with salt, monosodium, glutamate, and other unhealthy, yet tasty ingredients.
Ramen in 2018 (USA)
One of the hottest culinary trends. This photo-worthy bowl of noodles is sweeping its way across the nation, making breakthroughs into trendy, high-end restaurants and urban specialty noodle shops. Don’t let anybody fool you, fancy ramen is not healthy, but it is delicious.
Tell me more
The heaping bowls of goodness we enjoy today has much more in common with the first ramen that was made in China and Japan in the early 1900s. In the U.S., Ramen was reborn and made popular by David Chang, chef and owner of Momofuku Noodle Bar. Chang’s fist location opened up in New York City in 2004, and has expanded to Sydney, Toronto, Las Vegas, and D.C. Since then, the ramen trend has spread like wildfire, and I couldn’t be happier for its’ dominant presence in D.C.
Side note: For you Atlanta folks, I am happy to put together my guide to the best ramen/pho in upon request. Atlanta has some authentic options in town and on Buford Highway that I highly recommend! Big shout out to Chef Guy Wong with La Fat and Ton Ton, and Q with We Suki Suki in East Atlanta Village. I thank both of you for developing my love of ramen and pho!
Let’s get down to business. Below I have created a very simple noodle analysis, breaking down each noodle shop into a bulleted overview of my personal experiences. I am far from a ramen expert, but I have dined at 8 different restaurants, and can attest that each are different. I hope my guide is useful to those looking for a hot bowl of ramen in the Washington, D.C. area.
Vibe: Clean and modern space. Best for lunch or a girls’ dinner.
My order: Spicy ginger broth with thin rice noodlesand chicken.
Notes: The inspiration for the restaurant is Thai-- not Japanese or Chinese. The menu offers a variation of broths and noodles including; rice noodles, egg noodles, and vermicelli. Overall, D.C. Noodles’ soup is lighter and the broth is less fatty than other ramen dishes I have tried. However, D.C. Noodles is not shy when it comes to portions. The massive bowls are presented beautifully, and I can’t help but snap an Instagram story every time I stop by for lunch.
Vibe: Metropolitan, high ceilings, chic. Momofuku is the type of restaurant that would impress anyone. It is great for a date, brunch with friends, or a place to dine with colleagues.
My order: Pork Ramen- Pork Shoulder, Bean Sprouts, Poached Egg
Notes: The only ramen on the menu is the Pork Ramen, which was delectable. Momofuku has decided to expand their menu and focus on new concepts. I will continue to revisit Momofuku to experience everything else the menu has to offer.
Jinya Ramen Bar
Vibe: Jinya is the perfect place to bring a ramen virgin. The interior is modern, yet warm, and offers a contemporary dining experience. I suggest Jinya for casual dates, because the menu is reasonably priced.
My order: Brussels Sprouts Tempura, Spicy Chicken Ramen, Seasoned Egg, and Bamboo Shoot.
Notes: The ramen options are endless. You can customize your ramen by loading up on veggies and other flavorful additions. Jinya has a few locations in D.C. and other cities, including Atlanta. Jinya is an upscale ramen shop that offers something on the menu for everyone.
Vibe: Sociable and energetic. The interior is decorated with dramatic and moody tones, inspired by old Hollywood. Chaplin’s is a solid date-night spot because of the dim lighting and buzzing atmosphere.
My order: I have three favorites; Stamina Spicy, Chaplin, and the Miso. The Chaplin is most commonly recommended and prepared with pork belly chashu, stamina egg, scallions, bean sprouts, black sesame paste, and tonkotsu. The broth is well balanced and savory.
Notes: Chaplin’s was the first ramen I had in D.C., thanks to my gorgeous friend, @jcarr478. This is one of my favorite places to hang out in the evening because the spacious patio, dark interior, and creative cocktails. The staff is friendly, and the bartender Jake always makes an effort to say hi. For those visiting D.C., Chaplin’s is a true neighborhood hang-out spot, where locals dine regularly.
Vibe: Colorful, eclectic, and crazy interior. This place is worth the visit just for the crazy interior design.
My order: I highly suggest the Curry Ramen. I had the chance to taste the Kimchi Ramen, but preferred my order. The kimchi flavor was a little sour, but if you love Kimchi, you may really enjoy this bowl. I prefer my ramen broths to be more complex and savory.
Notes: Do not come to Oki Bowl if you want traditional ramen. This restaurant is a Thai/ Korean - Japanese fusion? Oki Bowl makes the tastiest tempura-fried chicken. It surpasses any chicken I have had in a bowl of ramen.
Vibe: Young, cheerful, and always crowded! The restaurant is smaller than most of these ramen shops on my list and doesn’t take reservations. It’s best for a casual/friend lunch.
My order: Shoyu Ramen (dark, rich soy sauce, toasted garlic, slightly sweet) and Kikisui Sake Funaguchi Jukesei Sake- and no, I cannot pronounce the sake I ordered. I simply pointed at the menu and said, “That one!”
Notes: I recently dined at Daikaya for lunch, and loved it. It has been my favorite experience so far. Although it was crowded, I managed to snag two seats at the bar without waiting. My waiter was super helpful by walking me through the menu. The broth was rich and flavorful, and I was told the noodles were imported from Sapporo, Japan.
Toku Japenese and Asian
Vibe: Late-night Ramen fix, and keep it that way. Open until 2am.
My order: Tom Yum + grilled chicken + sweet corn + boiled egg. Voilà! You have created a drunk ramen dream. (broth: spicy lemongrass broth, bean sprouts, scallions, mushrooms, and roasted seaweed)
Notes: If you happen to be enjoying the nightlife around 14th and U, but are ready to go home and order a UberEats, I suggest swinging by Toku for a quick bowl of ramen-to-go. It only takes about 10 minutes from the time you order, and you can be on your merry way. Despite the negative reviews on Yelp, I personally think Toku makes decent ramen.
Vibe: When I am not enjoying their ramen from the comfort of my home, I do enjoy stopping by Sakuramen to grab a bowl, and cozy up with new friends at the community table.
My order: I have only gotten the DC Miso because it makes miso happy. The broth is chicken based and served with pork belly and other toppings. The best part about the DC miso is the thick, curly noodles. Nom.
Notes: Whenever I am sick, I can’t help but open up my UberEats app and order Ramen from Sakuramen. The creators of the restaurant believe that ramen is the perfect comfort food and I couldn’t agree more. The restaurant is dedicated to serving quality ramen, even to their take-out customers, to the extent that they deliver cold ramen in order to maintain the integrity of the broth with warming instructions attached.
Haven’t been yet, but I hear it’s all the rage-
Please let me know of any ramen shops that I haven’t included on my list that I should try! I am willing to travel to Arlington if it means tasting the best ramen - I’m such a hopeless ramen-tic.
Edits by: @antonyjoe_