This winter, while other Minnesotans warmed up over hot dish and wild rice soup, Mike and I embarked on a quest for comfort food of a different kind. Our mission: to find the best ramen in the Twin Cities. What we expected was a lot of delicious bowls of noodles and broth. What we discovered was a diversity of styles and experiences beyond what we could have imagined.
On our Tour de Ramen, we slurped and sipped until we learned to discern the difference between Tonkatsu (the pork-lover’s Holy Grail), old-school Shoyu-style, the salty Miso version, the ever delicious Kimchee variety, and more. We enjoyed these bowls in a range of settings, including a nondescript Asian grocery store, a Tokyo-esque pub and a highly stylized Northeast establishment. And, we photographed bowl after beautiful bowl of carefully composed ingredients, usually including a soft boiled egg.
And now, at long last, the results are in – the low down on the best Ramen bowls in town:
It makes me happy to know that the city’s best ramen is inside an Asian grocery market – an excellent reminder that good food can come from anywhere. We went for lunch on a Tuesday. Sam happily slept while Mike and I slurped up the richest, most delicious, ginormous bowls of Kimchi Ramen and Dramen. Browsing the market and discovering my beloved Green Tea Kit Kats was a lovely bonus post-lunch activity.
Stepping into Zen Box makes you feel like you’ve stepped into Tokyo. Not only was the Tonkatsu ramen one of the best we tried, but there was a fantastic array of Japanese-style tapas. We loved the braised beef and potatoes and the Japanese fried chicken bites. We also enjoyed looking around at the collections of Japanese toys, sake bottles and lanterns.
I walked in thinking of ordering sushi, but I’m so glad I listened to my gut on a snowy night and tried the miso ramen instead. In addition to really good ramen, tasty sushi and fun gummy bear cocktails, this Northeast establishment has a fun vibe with Japanese pachinko machines and modern, poppy Japanese art. It was the perfect pre-Newsies date night spot.
It’s ironic that the place that provided the inspiration for our ramen journey came in fourth. Don’t get me wrong; we still enjoyed our meal of old school Shoyu ramen and spicy “Magma” Karamiso. It just didn’t taste quite as special as the others above. My experience may or may not have been diminished by the fact that Sam spilled an entire glass of water in my lap. Be sure to get there early – this teeny place often has a line out the door.
Fun fact: Moto-I brews their own sake. Another fun fact: they have some legit ramen. We went there this fall when Sam was portable – he slept in his car seat as we ate some great little bao buns and a bowl of ramen. Again, not bad, it’s just that there are so many spectacular bowls of ramen in this world that this doesn’t rise to the top of the list.
Did we miss anything? What’s the best bowl of ramen you’ve ever had?
Until We Eat Again,
Two Happy Cooks