You’ve been training for this your entire life, and now the moment has come. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to slurp your way through DC by way of everyone’s favorite bowl of noodles, ramen.
When you were a kid, your mom probably told you to never slurp your spaghetti, but you should instead twirl it around your fork because you have “manners.” Who are we kidding? You slurped that pasta whenever your mom turned her back. Then college hit and ramen became a staple of your diet. Not only was it an affordable option, but it was a simple meal that literally anyone could make.
After years of honing your skills, the only two requirements to complete this mission are: 1) a mastery of the slurping arts and 2) a bowl of steaming hot ramen. You’re all grown up now and ready to take on the world one bowl of ramen at a time.
If you’re looking for a truly authentic ramen experience, look no further than Daikaya. You feel like you are transported to a little ramen shop in Japan. The noodles themselves here are what makes Daikaya stand out. They have a perfect al dente bite that is unmatched — probably because they import them from Sapporo for prime quality. If you get the chance, I highly recommend sitting at the bar to get the full experience watching the chefs cooking up your bowl of ramen. It’s a dinner and a show that you didn’t know you needed in your life. Be on the lookout for the restaurant’s two other projects in the works, Haikan and Bantam King, slated to open later this year.
Probably DC’s most well-known bowl of ramen, Toki Underground takes you out of your comfort zone and serves up innovative ramen with two of its most popular being their Taipei curry style and a kimchi style. Chef Erik Bruner-Yang has been busy as of late, having most recently opened up Maketto last year, and is currently working on a new eatery in the soon to be open at The Line Hotel. If you need more than just ramen during your visit, definitely order Toki Underground’s DIY steam buns. You get to assemble them yourself, and they serve as the perfect appetizer to the main event. This is place isn’t actually located underground. Look for for a door with stairs leading up.
If you’re looking for a spot that doubles as a hotspot for drinks and ramen, this is the place for you. The house namesake Chaplin ramen, the super garlicky stamina spicy ramen and the Chaplin A.S.S. spicy sour are all great. I guarantee that whatever ramen you choose, your belly will be fully satisfied. As for drinks, definitely order up one of their cocktails. Figuring out which one to order will literally be the toughest decision you’ll ever make. Da struggle.
Located in the ever-popular neighborhood of Adams Morgan, Sakuramen serves up ramen that will leave you floored. With some influence from Korean cuisine, the Chosun, which features roasted kimchi and bulgogi made from Angus ribeye, cannot be missed. Its Tonkotsu Red challenges your inner daredevil by forcing you to decide between a level-1 mild spiciness or a level-10 torturous fire in your mouth. Your fate is in your own hands, so choose wisely. Don’t let the Tokotsu Red defeat you.
David Chang has returned home. That’s right — he didn’t always live in NYC. He’s a DMV native through and through. The one dish that everyone was excited about was his iconic bowl of ramen that arguably started the whole ramen revolution. Momofuku’s also got a beef noodle soup on the menu that is just as slurpable if you’re not feeling ramen the day of. If you’re still hungry after, you should grab some dessert from Milk Bar next door — crack pie for the win!
One of the original players in the DC area’s ramen game, Ren’s Ramen serves up the classic styles including miso and shoyu (a soy-based broth). If you want to step out of your comfort zone, the Silver Spring, Maryland, restaurant has a couple of specials you won’t find anywhere else, like the seafood-based Chanpon-Men or even the Bakudan if you’re a chilihead at heart. Definitely take note that it’s a “cash only” establishment, so make sure you have some paper on you before ordering.
A collaboration between chefs Jonah Kim and Mike Isabella (of Top Chef stardom), Yona serves up small plates inspired by Korean and Japanese cuisine as well as a variety of ramen. If you want to play it safe it’s got the Miso Porky, one of the usual suspects typical of most ramen shops. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and want to splurge, you need to order up the King Crab, which happens to have uni butter in it too. Sigh…Uni. In the off chance you’re not a ramen junky, two of its most popular small plates are its spicy dry-fried wings and its uni waffle — yes, the chefs decided to up your waffle game by topping it with uni and caviar. So fancy. Definitely worth the trip to Arlington, Virginia.