DC has a notably vibrant ramen scene, anchored by a few key establishments that opened for business over a decade ago. These days, diners have their choice of ramen bars all over town, with menu offerings that range from the not-cheap “wagyula” (with wagyu striploin) to super-traditional bowls created by a Tokyo-trained expert. Below, seven ramen spots around DC that are well worth your time.
Open now for a decade, Daikaya remains one of the best ramen bars in the city. The stalwart shop offers six different takes on noodles, including the aromatic shio, the traditional Sapporo ramen, vegan-friendly options and more. The warm, bright and inviting interior reads a bit like a ramen-centric twist on Waffle House — it feels like home as soon as you enter the door.
Chaplin’s offerings draw inspiration from the dishes chef/partner Myo Htun cooked under a master ramen chef in Tokyo, including mazemen (mixed noodles) and traditional ramen. Our recommendation is the Stamina Spicy Ramen, which absolutely lives up to its name with a wonderful blend of spice, sliced pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, poached egg and miso. Not many ramen restaurants take design inspo from a Prohibition speakeasy, but Chaplin’s makes it work.
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Toki Underground, H Street
You can’t talk about ramen in DC without giving Toki Underground its flowers, as the H Street eatery that shares a door with The Pug is the spot that kicked off DC’s ramen explosion all the way back in 2011. Founded by chef Erik Bruner-Yang, Toki’s take on noods includes a host of Asian influences: The broths are decidedly Japanese, but other components feature notes from China, Taiwan and Korea. This spot is also well worth visiting for its drink menu alone, which includes a Build-a-Highball (eat your heart out, Build-A-Bear).
Bantam King, Chinatown
Nestled inside what was once a Burger King, “bantam” borrows its name from a subspecies of bird. Accordingly, Bantam King focuses on chicken stock-based ramen dishes instead of pork, featuring fried chicken to match. The interior certainly evokes the feeling of a vintage Burger King, down the tiled floor and bright lights. Fun, straightforward and deeply accessible, Bantam King provides a wonderfully relaxed experience: A bowl of ramen here is like an elevated version of chicken noodle soup. You’ll walk out feeling full and cozy.
Kaiju Ramen, Eastern Market
If you’ve watched a Godzilla movie, you know what a kaiju is, even if you’re unfamiliar with the word. Referencing the popular Japanese genre featuring giant creatures (like the aforementioned King of the Monsters), Eastern Market’s Kaiju Ramen has dishes with plenty of big, bold tastes — including a wide assortment of chicken, pork and vegetable options. Looking to go as big as a titular kaiju? Splurge on the wagyula ramen ($66!), anchored by a wagyu striploin with delicious noodles, beef, pork and chicken for those with a monstrous appetite.
Haikan would be worth visiting for its proximity to the 9:30 Club alone — but it’s helpful that their ramen is tasty, too. With noodles crafted in Japan, the Chintan in-house stock makes for robust and flavorful bowls of shio, shoyu, miso or even spicy shoyu ramen. Plus, there’s a bevy of add-ons to include in your soup, ranging from raw seaweed to wood ear mushrooms. A slightly industrial feel inside mimics the surrounding Atlantic Plumbing area, with plenty of room to indulge in delicious noodles before or after the latest hit band takes the stage.
Sure, Jinya might be a chain, but franchises can still produce quality ramen — and that’s certainly the case here. Jinya’s locations throughout the DMV (although we’ll give a proper shoutout to the Chinatown location for being so central) make tasty noodle bowls. Options include a tofu-forward veggie bowl, a spicy cream vegan bowl, a few different chicken options and a handful of plays on pork bowls.
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