Where to get the best ramen in NYC

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By Dan Sears

Temperatures are dropping, which means many New Yorkers are looking for the best wintry meal to warm themselves up.

For that, I look to ramen – the Japanese noodle dish with a hearty broth and a mix of seasonal toppings. And here in New York, we’re blessed with so many slurp shops.

But no single establishment is the same: each specializes in their own style of ramen, with a particular broth style, noodle textures and toppings.

To help you find the perfect soup to satisfy your cravings, here’s an overview of the best slurp shops in the city.

The signature ramen from Menkoi Sato

Photo by Aki Camargo for Gothamist

For classic soy sauce ramen: Menkoi Sato NYC (Greenwich Village)

Shoyu, or soy sauce ramen, is considered one of the dish’s mainstay styles and is a must for any ramen fan. And Menkoi Sato excels at making this classic.

The Signature Shoyu Ramen ($18) is delectable. Its viscous chicken-based stock is neither too watery nor too heavy. The texture of the egg noodles was bouncy enough to allow me to savor each bite, but also not so chewy that it felt like work. The bowl is topped with menma (bamboo shoots), a generous helping of chashu pork, and sliced cabbage – all of which soak up the umami-filled broth. Wash the ramen down with a classic draft beer. Menkoi Sato’s simple bar seating is also a great fit for solo eaters.

The entrance to Susuru Ramen in Queens.

Aki Camargo for Gothamist

For veggie ramen: Susuru Ramen (Astoria)

“Susuru,” which means to sip or slurp in Japanese, is the best way to enjoy this Astoria shop’s veggie miso ramen ($17). Its earthy, brown soup is made from shiitake mushrooms and kombu (dried kelp) which mimics the fish-based broths that are also common in ramen.

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While some other shops overload the ramen with veggies with six or seven toppings, Susuru’s veggie bowl sticks to the classics: bamboo shoots, onions, corn and fresh cabbage. Their surprising addition of kimchi also imparted the broth with a pleasant acidic note.

With its simple plywood walls and nostalgic 90’s J-pop background music, Susuru resembles an authentic ramen shop you’d find in a Tokyo backstreet and is great for a casual, quick weeknight dinner.

For tsukemen: TabeTomo (East Village)

Tsukemen, or “dipping” ramen, is a culinary masterpiece of ramen ingredients. The chewy al dente noodles must stand on their own, even before they’re dipped into the thick broth.

TabeTomo in the East Village wins this one (we evenraved about it back in 2018). It’s the one of the few slurp shops in New York that specializes in the dipping style.

Other ramen shops have tried incorporating tsukemen in their menus, but few can beat TabeTomo’s signature Tonkotsu Chashu Jiro Tsukemen ($19). Once you dip the ramen into the dense tonkotsu pork broth, the thick soup clings to the chewy egg noodles. Add an ajitama (soy-marinated soft boiled egg) to really treat yourself.

Bring your empty stomach and a crew of equally willing participants. You may also want to pack some mints: The garlic-forward broth will linger in your mouth.

For gluten-free ramen: Ivan Ramen (East Village)

It’s hard to avoid starch and gluten in the ramen world. Ramen noodles’ chewy texture derives from flour made from wheat or its more finely ground cousin, rye. But that doesn’t mean your gluten-free friends can’t join the fun, and Ivan Ramen’s slurp shop is the perfect spot.

Some places try buckwheat, or even mung bean, but none compare to Ivan’s tofu variation, which most closely resembles traditional wheat ramen noodles.

Their gluten-free shio (salt) ramen ($19) noodles are made from tofu. But don’t be thrown off by the noodles’ pale, translucent color – they still have a chewy texture.

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The bowl comes with two generous slices of chashu pork, roasted tomatoes, and a generous helping of naganegi (long sliced green onions).

The broth is on the lighter side, so I recommend asking for a few drops of their free homemade chili oil to add a boost of umami. For toppings and added texture, the server also recommended their minced garlic chicken (for an additional $4) and beech mushrooms ($3).

It’s perfect for a night out with friends. Their extensive list of tsukemen, ramen and mazemen (ramen without broth) doesn’t disappoint either, so your gluten-loving friends won’t feel left out.

Note that gluten-free noodles can only be paired with their shio ramen, as other broths are made with soy sauce, which contains gluten.

Inside Tamashii restaurant in Astoria, Queens.

Aki Camargo for Gothamist

For beef broth lovers: Za-Ya ramen (Carroll Gardens)

Gyukotsu, or beef bone marrow ramen, is a bit of a rarity, even in Japan. So, when Mongolian chef Iveelt Bayart opened up Za-Ya ramen, it became a dark horse in the Brooklyn ramen scene.

The signature gyukotsu ramen’s ($18) broth isn’t as thick as that of the pork-based tonkotsu ramen typically found in most ramen shops. Yet the silky, white soup packs a similar flavorful, umami-filled kick, without the post-meal heaviness you might feel after finishing a full bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Pair the meal with their famous side dishes: mushrooms ($9) or unagi eel pie ($12).

Za-Ya’s sake collection is fantastic, and its dim, quiet atmosphere is great for a date night.

A bowl of classic shiio ramen at Tamashii in Queens.

Aki Camargo for Gothamist

For budget ramen: Tamashii Ramen (Astoria)

Many Japanese people would be shocked to hear that most ramen in America is considered a pricier meal, with dishes costing more than $15.

In Japan, ramen is typically considered a hearty budget meal, and Tamashii Ramen in Astoria understands that.

Its classic Tamashii Shio Ramen is around $13, and I was surprised at how delectable the broth was. Salt-based (or shio) broth can often be too light, but this one has a depth of flavor that doesn’t lean into saltiness.

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Another bonus? The dish comes with a soy soft boiled egg (ajitama), free of charge. And there’s an 8% discount if you pay in cash. If that wasn’t enough, all ramen dishes have a $1 discount during lunch hours: noon to 4 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.

It’s perfect for a hangover-curing Saturday brunch with friends. Its fast service is also prime if you have a spare hour during the work week. Tamashii’s nice furnishings, traditional noren curtains and wooden panels makes the whole restaurant more homey and less gimmicky.

Dumplings

Photo by Naoki Fukuda / Courtesy of Karazihi Botan

For a unique overall culinary experience: Karazishi Botan (Cobble Hill)

From cocktails to appetizers to main dishes to dessert, Head Chef Fumihiro Kanegae’s slurp shop, Karazishi Botan, has the most well-rounded dining experience.

It’s hard to choose from Karazishi’s extensive appetizer menu (which are printed in the shape of a vinyl record sleeve). But the selection of boiled dumplings ($9) was delicious. The black dumplings are coated with nori paste, which adds a unique depth of flavor. If you’re still ready for more, try the chicken karaage ($12.95) for a perfectly crispy appetizer.

And the main attraction — the Iron Men III ($22) specialty bowl, doesn’t disappoint. It’s made from a “trinity” of pork, oxtail and chicken broths that makes it hearty but not overpowering.

If you want to stay simple, the Point Blank ramen ($19) is a solid alternative. Its horseradish paste and soy sauce broth elevate the traditional ramen style.

The Point Blank comes with a vial of fresh yuzu juice on the side. Once you’re half-way done with the ramen, pour the citrus in the broth, which transforms the soy into a zesty delight.

And don’t forget to end the night with the matcha tiramisu ($8).

It’s perfect for a date night or a group dinner, tapas style. Share it all, except the main dish. Karazishi’s back gazebo area is heated and can seat bigger parties.

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