20 essential ramen restaurants in the Boston area

Tuck into oodles of noodles in every corner of the city.

Hojoko’s Funky Chicken Ramen is served with a soy egg and chicken cooked on a special Japanese grill.
Hojoko’s Funky Chicken Ramen is served with a soy egg and chicken cooked on a special Japanese grill. –Hojoko

You can find this dish at one of Boston’s chicest hotel restaurants or stand and slurp it at a counter-only shop, but whatever you do, don’t call ramen a simple soup. Deep and rich yet also light and fresh, ramen is the culinary equivalent of the finest Tchaikovsky pas de deux — and the complexity of the fine broth is just about as hard to pull off. Here’s where to go for places that do just that.

1. Banyan Bar + Refuge
Perfect date-night fare for those craving something soulful and sexy, minus the slurp, Banyan’s mushroom bolognese sauce noodles put a fun spin on a soupy favorite. And for those who paused on “bolognese,” Chef Scott Jensen’s delight can be made vegan-friendly. Both the ramen and the cocktail list will have you planning a return visit. (553 Tremont St., Boston)

Miso ramen at Ganko Ittetsu Ramen
Miso ramen at Ganko Ittetsu Ramen in Brookline. —Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe
Advertisement

2. Ganko Ittetsu Ramen
The city of Sapporo is known for its street food as much as its beer. Ganko’s noodles are imported from Japan’s fifth-largest city, and the soy sauce and miso come from an old Japanese microbrewery, adding depth to the flavors. While typical ramen is made by mixing tare (sauce) with the base broth and adding noodles, Ganko caramelizes its tare with vegetables, and then the base broth is added to bowls like gankara spicy miso, shio sea salt miso, and gantetsu with crunchy garlic. (318 Harvard St., Brookline)

3. Ginger Exchange
This restaurant’s menu overflows with sushi, sashimi, noodle, and rice dishes, so it would be easy to pass by the ramen. That would be a mistake, as it offers (as their menu calls it) a “heaping bowl of pure goodness” with savory chicken, vegetarian, or spicy coconut curry broths, and, for protein, chicken, shrimp, or pork belly options. Its bustling location near Symphony Hall and Northeastern and its jovial atmosphere make Ginger Exchange a wallet-friendly prelude to a night out on the town. Cantabrigians can get their fix right in Inman Square. (250 Huntington Ave., Boston; 1287 Cambridge St., Cambridge)

4. Hakata Ramen
Chinese, American, and Middle Eastern dining options are all nestled into this easy-to-access spot near the Red Line at Wollaston. Ramen aficionados swear by the spicy options at Hakata (especially the gekikara pork bone), but those with larger appetites may gravitate toward the ramen-and-sushi combo with signature soup for that real warm-and-full-belly experience. (The daily special rolls vary Monday through Friday.) (673 Hancock St., Quincy)

Chicken ramen at Hojoko
Chicken ramen at Hojoko in Boston. —Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Advertisement

5. Hojoko
It takes two days to tango here if you’re making Funky Chicken Ramen. The 48 hours required to make the chicken broth is well worth the wait. The noodles here are served with a soy egg, menma, and robata-grilled chicken. And since you’re in a rock-and-roll-themed izakaya, why not kick up the spice a notch with a side of fermented chili relish? (1271 Boylston St., Boston)

6. Itadaki Izakaya
It may offer a tony Newbury Street view, but Itadaki also gives diners a price range and taste that are street food-friendly. When the patio’s closed, thick noodles like the Itadaki tori paitan ramen provide a way to escape Back Bay’s winter bluster. Optional spice comes on the side in the form of a house-made miso paste, so the flavor is customizable. (269 Newbury St., Boston)

spicy miso ramen at Little Big Diner
The spicy miso ramen at Little Big Diner in Newton. —The Boston Globe

7. Little Big Diner
Bye-bye, burgers — this diner brings the Far East to MetroWest with rice bowls and ramen. The latter occupies half of the menu, with plenty of tongue-twisting mushrooms that evoke a scene from “Alice in Wonderland”: maitake, shiitake, wood ear, enoki. You’ll be glad you fell down the rabbit hole with thick, cloudy paitan broth combined with chicken ramen, miso ramen, or the chef’s ultra ramen, which comes swimming with chashu pork, chicken thigh, and chili ground pork with sprouts and scallions. (1247 Centre St., Newton)

8. Little Donkey
You don’t need a passport to dine like a globetrotter at Little Donkey. Its shareable international plates and mix of seating options, including communal benches, provide a special kind of food community, where matzo ball ramen fuses a Japanese specialty with a Jewish one. Intense chicken broth has burnt onion, schmaltz tare, and corn, and is the base for matzo balls and mouthwatering spicy chicken. Get your slurp on with a friend by ordering the full-sized portion. (505 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

Truffle Sho Yu at Oisa Ramen
Truffle shoyu at Oisa Ramen in Boston. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Advertisement

9. Oisa Ramen Slurp & Go
Make sure you plan enough time to eat at this tiny 12-seat shop, as you can’t carry out the ramen. But it will be a lunchtime well spent at owner Moe Kuroki’s first brick and mortar after scoring rave reviews over three years of pop-ups. Check out her traditional tonkotsu (pork bone) soup or the vegan-friendly shoyu base with a variety of vegetables Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (2 Broad St., Boston)

10. Pagu
It’s no surprise that, with a resume including time at acclaimed Boston sushi favorite O Ya, Chef Tracy Chang has an affinity for ramen. At Pagu, expect something similar to what was on the menu when she co-founded the pop-up Guchi’s Midnight Ramen. There’s house-made alkaline noodles, three broth styles, pork belly, umami oil, and a six-minute egg, all as appealing as Pagu’s sleek environs in Central Square. (310 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

Ruckus Black Garlic Mazeman
Ruckus’s black garlic mazeman features homemade noodles from the owners of Shojo and Best Little Restaurant. —Ruckus

11. Ruckus
This Chinatown hot spot brings a new-school approach to an old-school dish, with hip-hop decor and homemade noodles with funky “swag” add-ons like chashu pork neck, chicken chicharrón, and an umami “bomb” (a seasoned blend of whipped pork fat). Cool options like the tsukemen dip help test your chopstick-and-spoon skills — these buckwheat noodles dipped in a separate bowl of broth also include Japanese squash curry, charred radicchio, crispy sprouts, myoga, and hazelnut oil. (5 Tyler St., Boston)

12. Santouka
It’s fitting that one of Santouka’s two area locations is right in Harvard Square, as Japanese founder Hitoshi Hatanaka’s original goal was to educate high school- and college-aged foodies about the rare toroniku char siu ramen. Made with the “rarest of the rare” pork cheek meat, this ramen — and the huge portions of it — are a hit here. To make the signature tonkotsu broth, pork bones are simmered for 20 hours. The soy-based vegan option is a winner, too. (66 Hereford St., Boston; 1 Bow St., Cambridge)

Shabu & Mein.
The miso ramen at Shabu & Mein in Cambridge. —Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

13. Shabu & Mein
Jimmy Liang and Peter Tse built an Asian food empire in Quincy with hits like Shabu and Fuji. Their ninth restaurant, Shabu & Mein in Cambridge, offers a bit of a twist. Friends can gather in the main dining room to cook their own meat at their table, or those with a bit less time (and company) can belly up to the bar to slurp ramen options that include a spicy mushroom variation, a vegetarian one, and even one with gluten-free noodles. (148 1st St., Cambridge)

14. Shojo
The midday-only ramen at Shojo is worth planning a work lunch around. Only available Thursday through Saturday, the ramen’s thick broth is loaded with chewy noodles, barbecued pork, and a six-minute soft-cooked egg. Order “kae-dama” to get extra noodles for $3. (9A Tyler St., Boston)

15. Snappy Kitchen and Snappy Sushi
Snappy’s Newbury Street location may have Japan’s most ubiquitous food import in the title, but the ramen dishes here — and at Somerville’s Snappy Kitchen — are standouts as well. Rich and creamy tonkotsu pork bone broth takes center stage, although vegans have a hearty yam noodle-based option, too, with tomato broth. (108 Newbury St., Boston; 234 Elm St., Somerville)

Totto Ramen
The mega ramen at Totto Ramen in Allston. —Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

16. Totto Ramen
Those who live on the Orange Line had a reason to celebrate in late 2016 when Somerville got an outpost of this Allston Green Line favorite. At Totto Ramen, house-made noodles round out a New York-style broth that has a chicken base (as opposed to pork), and there’s a vegetarian option with a seaweed and shiitake base, too. Diners with larger appetites can opt for the mega ramen, an oversized bowl with garlic and several variations of pork. (169 Brighton Ave. Boston; 463 Artisan Way, Somerville)

17. Uni
The ramen on Uni’s late-night menu — courtesy of James Beard Award-winning Chefs Tony Messina and Ken Oringer — is proof that good things come to those who wait. The pork and miso-soy broth is as quintessential as this dish gets, and for those light on cash, the cult foodie favorite is a nice way to get a taste of what other Asian fare can be ordered from the regular menu. (370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston)

18. Wagamama
Tuck into the spicy, light, or rich broth offerings with a fun wooden spoon (OK, you could call it a mini shovel) and enjoy the people-watching through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows at any of three area locations. The signature ramen is probably best for those who have trouble choosing, as it’s a smorgasbord of roast beasts: sliced grilled chicken, barbecue pork, chikuwa Japanese fish cake, prawns, and mussels. (1 South Market St., Boston; 800 Boylston St., Boston; 100 Northern Ave., Boston)

19. Ward 8
Nestled in a quiet corner near North Station with a chic, rustic space and large marble bar that makes it an outlier among sports pubs, Ward 8 provides respite that’s as comforting as, well, a bowl of soup. New Chef Tyler Potter puts a twist on ramen here with a heartier, well-seasoned shoyu broth (which mixes soy beans and wheat), along with colorful bok choy, scallions, pork belly, and a soft egg. (90 North Washington St., Boston)

The pork ramen at Yume Wo Katare in Cambridge. —Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

20. Yume Wo Katare
Ever wondered why there’s a random string of people lined up in Porter Square at all hours of the day, rain or shine? They might be waiting for Yume Wo Katare. Ramen is the only thing on the menu here, and while the space is small — just a snug counter and some long benches — the flavors are big. Jiro-style ramen has a long chew with thick noodles and chunks of pork fat in a thin, rich pork gravy broth. This spot is cash only, so don’t forget to hit the ATM first. (1923 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

Close

Get the latest sports alerts sent directly to your phone. Download our free app.