It’s hard to imagine a dish that has defied sweeping generalizations more than ramen. The image of the humble 25 cent packet of instant noodles you keep in your pantry for those months in which starvation is a legitimate existential threat may have been a pertinent one, but somehow ramen has been able to transform itself from a question of sheer economic necessity to a question of… where? Admit it. Prior to 2004, you would have laughed too.

That’s the year David Chang opened up the first location of Momofuku in the East Village, bringing the versatility of a once reviled dish to greater public attention in the U.S. Chang may not have been single-handedly responsible for the elevation of ramen in the American psyche, but he was certainly one of its most visible proponents. And it didn’t take long for a host of imitators to seize on the idea of steering ramen away from its former cachet as a sodium-laden regret, with results being as noteworthy as they were downright embarrassing. With that in mind, the ramen restaurants that follow stand out as some of the best Boston has to offer!

Ganko Ittesu
#1 of 26 Best Ramen Restaurants in Boston
Open Monday - Saturday, 11:30 am - 10:00 pm, Sundays from 11:30 am - 9:00 pm
Best Ramen Restaurants in Boston: Ganko Ittesu Photo credit: Yelp/Yi-Chien C.

What makes Ganko Ittesu unique? For one, it’s one of the few places in Boston which serves Sapporo style ramen where both the sauce, vegetables, and toppings are cooked in a wok prior to adding a base broth and noodle. The result is a bowl deceptively richer than your average ramen, even with something as delicate as miso. Don’t expect an extensive variety of choices at Ganko Ittesu; simply a mastery of technique.

Top choices: Genkara miso ramen, shio ramen, tan tan ramen

Yume Wo Katare
#2 of 26 Best Ramen in Boston
Open Tuesday - Friday, 11:30 am - 10:00 pm, Saturdays from 11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Best Boston Ramen: Yume Wo Katare Photo credit: Yelp/Thanh L.

It’s hard not to see Yume Wo Katare as being anything more than gimmicky. It’s not just the communal dining only option. It’s not just the fact that it bills itself as a “dream factory.” It’s the encouragement from owner Tsuyoshi Nishioka to share your dreams, hopes and life aspirations out loud with fellow diners which can be more than a little disconcerting for those of us who were born with stiff upper lips. But his enthusiasm for both Yume Wo Katare’s philosophy is as authentic as it is beyond reproach.

The same can be said for the menu. It’s cash only. It’s limited. You have only two choices: pork and more pork. And it’s fatty pork; the sort of cha shu which would threaten the very consistency of the ramen if it wasn’t so addictive. Yes, it’s interactive. Grin and bear it. A stranger is just a stranger you hope never to meet again.

#3 of 26 Best Ramen Spots in Boston
Open Tuesday - Saturday 11:30 am - 8:45 pm, Sundays from 11:30 am - 3:00 pm. Closed on Mondays and Thursdays
Best Ramen Spots in Boston: Pikaichi Photo credit: Yelp/Alex L.

You might remember Pikaichi from its time inside the Super 88 in Allston. West Medford may not be a comeback, but it’s worth the trip. No, it’s not on the Green Line. Deal with it. Both the cha shu don and rice curry are the perfect accompaniment to any of your choices, and there’s a handful of vegetarian options for the hold outs who equate ramen with a porcine wonderland. It can be; but it doesn’t have to be.

Top choices: Jigoku ramen, pika miso ramen, yuzu shio ramen

NYC's Chef Chang has disavowed ramen for several years now, proclaiming the market to be stifled by a lack of both imagination and respect. Maybe he’s right. At its heart, ramen depends on one critical element: fluidity. Maybe you will find that at a noodle bar in downtown Salt Lake City. I don’t know. I have absolutely no reason to even want to find out, and Boston itself is no stranger to homogenous ramen. Luckily, there’s more than a few spots that continue to give what is essentially a bowl of noodles and broth the dignity and artistry it deserves.

Oisa Ramen
#4 of 26 Best Ramen Restaurants in Boston
Open daily from 11:30 am - 9:00 pm
Best Ramen Restaurants in Boston: Oisa Ramen Photo credit: Yelp/Nhung N.

You can scoff all you want at pop-ups. It’s easy to. But scoffers typically become devotees once a pop-up finds a permanent residence, and there’s a reason why people have waited longer than most humans should endure for a counter spot at Oisa. It’s tiny. It can charitably be called standing room only, and it’s buzzed-about! In fact the sort of buzz you should be wary of. Don’t be. Not only is it one of the few ramen houses that cater to vegetarians, but their smoky truffle shoyu has become the stuff of legends. And rightfully so.

Top choices: Dashi niku ramen, truffle shoyu ramen, salmon poke bowl

#5 of 26 Best Ramen in Boston
Open daily from 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Best Boston Ramen: Ruckus Photo credit: Yelp/Thanh L

You almost want to avoid Ruckus on principle alone. It’s a reinterpretation of pan Asian noodle dishes smack dab in the middle of Chinatown with a decidedly hip hop-centric focus; which would seem like an ingratiatingly forced affectation if the food wasn’t so inventive. Should you be embarrassed to order something dubbed “Lit!! Miso” unless you’re a 20-year-old Emerson student from the ill streets of North Andover armed with one sick--ass trust fund? Probably. Will you feel ashamed afterward? Absolutely not.

Top choices: Kake udon noodles, lamb stir fry noodles, lit miso ramen

Snappy Kitchen
#6 of 26 Best Ramen Spots in Boston
Open daily from 12:00 pm - 10:00 pm. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Best Ramen Spots in Boston: Snappy Kitchen Photo credit: Yelp/Joshua L.

Sure, you can slurp ramen loudly with impunity until your server bows their head in shame and informs you your business is no longer welcome and you’ve essentially turned the entire restaurant into a blistering pit of utter shame and iniquity. We all have at one point in our lives. But ramen is as much the star of its own show as the spectacle you’re making. You’re neglecting appetizers.

At Snappy Kitchen, you have one choice: gyoza. Either vegetarian or wagyu beef, and both could deflect you from the ramen itself. Don’t make that mistake. Black garlic oil is your friend. Unlike the other diners, it will never mock you. It won’t judge, and it will welcome you with open arms, regardless of your sheer lack of coordination or grace.

Top choices: Wagyu beef gyoza, negi ramen, chicken tan tan ramen

#7 of 26 Best Ramen Restaurants in Boston
Open Sunday - Wednesday 11:30 am - 10:00 pm, Thursday - Saturday, 11:30 am - 11:30 pm
Best Ramen Restaurants in Boston: Pagu Photo credit: Yelp/William K.

There’s a breed of ramen purists who feel that its virtue is in impermeability. They are as staunchly devoted to tradition as they are hostile to adaptation. The sort of people to whom the very introduction of salmon to tare is a crime punishable by public condemnation. They’re also idiots. By its very nature, Asian cuisine is highly adaptable to fusion; ramen is no different. And while the Cuban-Chinese restaurants I remember as a kid are all but virtually extinct, I take solace knowing that there are restaurants still around like Pagu to fuse pan-Asian and Iberian cuisine into one beautifully complementary hybrid. It may not work 100 percent of the time. But when it does, the result is as eye-opening, complex and a definitively playful poke in the eyeballs of orthodoxy.

Top choices: Squid ink oyster bao, curry crab croquetas, Guchi’s Midnight ramen, uni ikura mazeman

#8 of 26 Best Ramen in Boston
Open Sunday - Wednesday 5:00 pm - 1:00 am, Friday - Saturday 5:00 pm - 1:00 am
Best Boston Ramen: Hojoko Photo credit: Yelp/Boston Best Eats X.

If you’re looking for a vibrant and trendy ramen spot to ease you into a night out, look no further than Hojoko. Hojoko is an Asian-fusion location with a twist. While the restaurant only has a couple of ramen dishes on its menu (Funky Chicken Ramen, and Spicy Miso), it’s a great opportunity to pair your noodle bowl with one of their renowned sushi plates and appetizers.

Top choices: Funky chicken ramen, hamachi kama

#9 of 26 Best Ramen Spots in Boston
Open daily 12:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Best Ramen Spots in Boston: Sapporo Photo credit: Yelp/Eric D.

Looking to venture to Porter Square? Sapporo Ramen offers an unassuming atmosphere that may just be enough to convince you that you have discovered a hidden gem. Their broth is renowned and often alone has the power to draw customers back for more. As one Yelp review said, “I’m a vegetarian but hey, I’ll make an exception for their beef broth.”

Top choices: Kimchi ramen, yasai ramen, hot and sour ramen

#10 of 26 Best Ramen Restaurants in Boston
Open Monday - Wednesday 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm, Thursday 11:00 am - 11:00 pm, Friday - Saturday 11:00 am - 1:00 am
Best Ramen Restaurants in Boston: Shojo Photo credit: Yelp/Becky T.

Chinatown has no shortage of fantastic Chinese and Japanese restaurants. The options can be paralyzing, but if you seek ramen in style, Shojo is your place. Stop in and have some of their famous barbecue ribs and prawns here with a nice warm cup of oolong or Thai tea.

Top Choices: Tori Iso ramen, Hokkaido sea scallop kinilaw

#11 of 26 Best Ramen in Boston
Open Monday - Thursday, 11:00 am - 9:30 pm, Friday - Saturday 11:00 am - 9:00 pm, Sundays 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Best Boston Ramen: Santouka Photo credit: Yelp/Kevin Y.

Located in the heart of Boston’s historic South End neighborhood, Santouka is a mecca for ramen enthusiasts. While the line to get in his rarely short, anyone will tell you the wait is well worth it. Their signature Shio Ramen bowl is the main attraction with a warm and inviting broth scattered with radish, pork, scallions, and pickled plum.

Like spice? Check out Up To Boston's list of the Best Indian Restaurants in Boston