Chicago

The Absolute Best Bowls of Ramen in Chicago

The ultimate cold-weather dinner.

Courtesy of Wasabi Chicago
Courtesy of Wasabi Chicago
Courtesy of Wasabi Chicago

Ramen is a perfect food. In its least refined form, the block of instant ramen offers a 2 am respite, and a canvas for home cooks to add soft boiled eggs, green onions, rotisserie chicken, and whatever else their munching heart desires. At its best, though, ramen is a feast for each and every one of the senses: Bright colors swirl in the bowl; broth flavor-bombs the tongue with umami, salt, and spice; and there’s that signature soft, pleasantly chewy texture of a perfectly cooked noodle. The only drawback might be all those loud slurping sounds. Experience all of that and more at these-the best ramen shops in Chicago, each available for pick-up and delivery during these trying times.

Courtesy of Furious Spoon
Courtesy of Furious Spoon
Courtesy of Furious Spoon

Furious Spoon

Logan Square, Lakeview
Furious Spoon has been taking over Chicago at lightning speed. The chain is hard to miss, with its graffitied aesthetic and hip-hop bursting out the door of every location, the staff inside hard at work whipping up winter lockdown comforts. The ramen snobs of Chicago will insist this isn’t where you can get the best bowl, but the broth is rich and hearty, the options are endless, and the fun vibe comes through hard. To boot, they’ve recently added a boatload of booze for delivery and pick-up, including stellar sake bombs. Take that, pandemic.
How to order: Call 773-770-3559 for Logan Square and 773-697-9085 for Lakeview or order online via Caviar (Logan Square, Lakeview), GrubHub (Logan Square, Lakeview), Uber Eats (Logan Square, Lakeview), PostMates (Logan Square), and DoorDash (Wicker Park)

Kameya Ramen

Lakeview
You have got to try the pork belly ramen here. It’s thick and tender and served in massive portions. The vegetable ramen is also some of the best in the city, and if you’re looking to branch out to other dishes, this place has some great donburi (rice bowl dishes), too. It’s a small, casual spot with fast and friendly service, perfect for a quick take-out lunch or lazy night in.
How to order: Call 773-857-0117 or order online via ChowNow, Uber Eats, GrubHub, and Postmates

 

Courtesy of Kizuki Ramen
Courtesy of Kizuki Ramen
Courtesy of Kizuki Ramen

Kizuki

Wicker Park, New City
If you’re thinking Kizuki, the Shoyu Ramen (pork broth flavored with slightly sweet soy sauce from Japan’s Yamaguchi prefecture) is a fantastic place to start. The bones are roasted before they’re boiled into stock, resulting in an almost creamy, intensely flavorful base. Both locations boast speedy and efficient delivery, making them an excellent choice for warming your belly without battling that biting winter wind.
How to order: Call 773-270-4150 for Wicker Park and 312-285-2775 for New City or order online via Caviar (Wicker Park, New City), GrubHub (Wicker Park, New City), Uber Eats (Wicker Park, New City), PostMates (Wicker Park, New City), and DoorDash (Wicker Park, Lakeview)

 

Courtesy of Oiistar
Courtesy of Oiistar
Courtesy of Oiistar

Oiistar

Wicker Park
This sleek, modern outpost puts a lovely twist on traditional ramen noodles by weaving in French and Italian influences, taking the comfort food theme to an entirely new level. In addition to eight delectable ramen variations, they also stock a bounty of small plates from pillowy buns stuffed with tender duck breast and daikon sprouts to pan-seared portobello mushrooms. And don’t sleep on the creme brulee with espresso caviar for dessert-sweet dreams are honestly made of these.
How to order: Call 773-360-8791 or order via Oiistar’s online portal for pick-up

 

Ramen House Shinchan 

Palatine
The northwest suburbs have long been rife with world-class Japanese joints, but this humble strip mall storefront might just be the area’s most beloved ramen supplier. The cheery noodle shack peddles a particularly delicious pork tonkotsu teeming with succulent braised pork in complex, slow-simmered broth. An enticing Taiwanese take, kicked up with spicy ground pork and laden with soft, toothy egg noodles, is another sure bet.
How to order: Call 847-496-4189 or order online via GrubHub and Postmates

Photo by Mike Gebert
Photo by Mike Gebert
Photo by Mike Gebert

Ramen Misoya

Mount Prospect
Misoya’s heaping bowls of wonderfully umami-forward-and markedly reasonably priced-ramen is well worth a trip out to the ‘burbs. It’s a humble spot that takes its stock seriously, guiding curious noodleheads through a handful of miso variations each with their own distinct flavors and aromas. There’s also toppings aplenty, so prepare to meet your dream bowl.
How to order: Call 847-437-4590 or order via Ramen Misoya’s online portal for pick-up

 

Courtesy of Ramen-San
Courtesy of Ramen-San
Courtesy of Ramen-San

Ramen-San

River North, Fulton Market, Streeterville
Ramen-San’s heated patio would be a great place to take a first date, but considering we should all be limiting our social circles, swinging by to slurp down a solo lunch shouldn’t be out of the question. In fact, their $16 Express Lunch is a must-try. Pick a rice plate, a ramen, and beverage, and enjoy. This is also a great spot for drinks and apps like chicken wings, dumplings, buns, and more, both in-person and from the comfort of your living room. (Also delivery and take-out orders arrive in super adorable containers made to look like old-school boomboxes.)
How to order: Make a reservation on the heated patio through Tock (River North, Fulton Market), call 312-377-9950 for River North, 773-645-0085 for Fulton Market, and 312-767-4075 for Streeterville, or order take-out and delivery online via Caviar (River North, Fulton Market, Streeterville), GrubHub (River North, Fulton Market, Streeterville), Uber Eats (River North, Fulton Market, Streeterville), PostMates (River North, Fulton Market, Streeterville), ChowNow (River North, Fulton Market), and DoorDash (River North, Fulton Market, Streeterville)

 

Courtesy of Ramen Takeya
Courtesy of Ramen Takeya
Courtesy of Ramen Takeya

Ramen Takeya

West Loop
Ramen Takeya, sister restaurant to Menya Goku in West Ravenswood and Wasabi in Logan Square (also on this list), specializes in chicken paitan ramen, featuring a lighter, more nuanced broth than you might find at other noodle joints. The restaurant is designed to look like a Tokyo alleyway and the heated patio is about as romantic as it gets-especially when you throw in a few Green Geisha cocktails.
How to order: Make a reservation on the heated patio through Tock, call 312-666-7710, or order online via Toast and Postmates
 

Shinya Ramen House

Bridgeport
South Side slurpers already know the magic that is Shinya’s ramen menu, a dense lineup of 15 (!!) different styles that run the gamut from soulful classics like Hakata tonkotsu and Sapporo miso to tomato vegetable with earthy matcha noodles and zesty yuzu chicken. The rest of the bill is equally adventurous, including a huge spread of grilled specialties and tongue-tickling starters like fried milk bread.
How to order: Call 312-877-6008 or order online via GrubHub, Caviar, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Shinya’s website

Photo by Mike Gebert
Photo by Mike Gebert
Photo by Mike Gebert

Strings Ramen

Chinatown, Lakeview, Hyde Park
Strings remains one of Chicago’s most popular ramen shops, not only because of their satisfying bowls but also for their dedication to educating folks about the dish’s fascinating background. Menus, available online as PDFs, showcase a fun map of Japan dotted with ramen-specific locations plus historical notes, terminology, and pro tips on how to optimize your slurping experience. And if you live for spice, make a beeline to their famous Hell Ramen, flavored with a fiery combination of spicy pickles, spicy ground pork and baby clams, and, according to the menu, “hot pepper and chili made from hell.”
How to order: Call 312-374-3450 for Chinatown, 773-661-6442 for Lakeview, and 773-633-2797 for Hyde Park or order online via SlickMenus (Chinatown, Lakeview, Hyde Park), Caviar (Chinatown, Lakeview), GrubHub (Chinatown, Lakeview, Hyde Park), Uber Eats (Chinatown, Lakeview, Hyde Park), PostMates (Chinatown, Lakeview), and DoorDash (Chinatown, Lakeview, Hyde Park)

 

Photo by Mike Gebert
Photo by Mike Gebert
Photo by Mike Gebert

Urbanbelly

Wicker Park
This upbeat Wicker Park dumpling specialist from Charlie Trotter alum chef Bill Kim is a wise choice for ramen newcomers as there’s only two bowls on the streamlined menu. Of course, they’re both delicious-especially the “Phat” option that incorporates plump housemade pork dumplings-and if you decide you’d like to follow it up with some curry pho, Thai fried chicken, or togarashi fries, you’re more than covered.
How to order: Call 773-904-8606 or order online via Caviar, DoorDash, Ritual, and Postmates

 

Courtesy of Wasabi Chicago
Courtesy of Wasabi Chicago
Courtesy of Wasabi Chicago

Ramen Wasabi

Logan Square
Wasabi is a Japanese-owned restaurant that offers both traditional and contemporary Izakaya-style dishes. They prepare the broth by boiling pork bones for days (yes, days!), and the effort totally pays off the second you dip your chopsticks into the velvety layers. Snag a spot on this Logan Square hipster haven’s heated patio or trade the skinny jeans for PJ pants and take yours to-go-either way, be sure to try the pork belly and kimchi spring rolls while you’re at it.
How to order: Make a reservation on the heated patio through Tock, call 773-227-8180 or order online via Toast

 

Photo by KARI SKAFLEN
Photo by KARI SKAFLEN
Photo by KARI SKAFLEN

High Five Ramen 

Fulton Market
In the Before Times, ramen fiends used to line up around the block to score a table at this subterranean Fulton Market noodle den. And while the pandemic put the kibosh on that particular evidence of High Five’s eminence, their revved up delivery and pick-up service certainly gets the job done (plus, no more standing outside in the cold). Your choices might be limited to just two, here, but the customizable heat level, which ranges form no spice to the face-melting kanabo, keeps you on your toes.
How to order: Order pick-up through Toast and delivery via Caviar, DoorDash, and Uber Eats

Menya Goku

West Ravenswood
The newest of Satoko Takeyama and Jee H. Kim’s growing Wasabi empire, this contemporary noodle shop centers around updated, globally influenced recipes prepared with premium farm-to-table ingredients. Case and point, their signature tantanmen ramen, a riff on Sichuan dan dan noodles that weaves together Berkshire pork bone broth, braised ground pork spiked with miso, and mouth-numbing peppercorns, or the Modern Shoyu, a picture of culinary refinement with its free range chicken and dashi broth, sous vide pork and chicken, and luscious ajitama egg.
How to order: Call 773-942-6701 or order online via Toast and PostmatesSign up here for our daily Chicago email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Sam Greszes is a contributor for Thrillist. 

Meredith Heil is a contributor for Thrillist.

Jessica Cabe is a contributor to Thrillist. 

Chicago

A Food Expert's Guide to Chicago's Chinatown

Just in time for Lunar New Year.

Courtesy of Ninja Bar Chicago Instagram
Courtesy of Ninja Bar Chicago Instagram
Courtesy of Ninja Bar Chicago Instagram

Chicago’s Chinatown, a triangular slice of the Near South Side loosely bordered by Cermak Road, Wentworth Avenue, and a northbound-snaking branch of the Chicago river, has been fueling Grace Wong’s culinary cravings long before she cut her teeth dishing on the city’s vibrant restaurant scene for the Chicago Tribune

“Both my parents are from Shanghai and they immigrated to Naperville, which is about 40 minutes outside of the city,” says the esteemed former dining reporter, recalling her suburban upbringing. “When I was growing up, we’d make this semi-monthly pilgrimage into Chicago, especially Chinatown and the Argyle area, to get supplies because there was no real Asian population where we lived. There were maybe two small Asian grocery stores at the time; when we got an H Mart, it was literally the biggest news of my life. My mom was so hype about it.”

“It was always just a huge deal, piling into the van,” she continues. “We would go for dim sum in the morning and then the entire afternoon we’d be following my mom around to all these different specialty grocery stores so she could get the ingredients she needed to make dishes from her homeland. I remember being a kid and carrying giant plastic buckets around because we would pick up live crabs and live fish, stuff like that.”

Wong now lives on the North Side and although both the pandemic and her recent departure from the Tribune and their centrally located office has made travelling down to Chinatown a bit less convenient, she still manages to pay her favorite establishments a visit every now and then.

“I haven’t gone much since the virus hit but I have made the trip a few times, mostly when I’m just like, ‘I need my Boba fix!'” she says with a laugh. “And then once I get down there I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I need barbecue pork from BBQ King House. And I need my roast duck. And I might as well go to Park To Shop because I’m out of like, I don’t know, oyster sauce or whatever.’ It always ends up being an extended time.”

Courtesy of Grace Wong Instagram
Courtesy of Grace Wong Instagram
Courtesy of Grace Wong Instagram

Getting the lay of the land

It might look like one cohesive cityscape at first glance, but according to Wong, Chicago’s Chinatown is actually composed of two distinct, nuanced districts.

“So, there’s new Chinatown and there’s old Chinatown,” Wong explains. “The big plaza with all the Zodiac animals next to it-that’s considered, at least to my parents, new Chinatown. And then old Chinatown is down Wentworth Avenue, south of Cermak. If you look at a map, there’s a little triangle where Archer, Clark, and Cermak meet. Everything south of Archer is more old Chinatown and everything north of Archer is more new Chinatown.”

“Growing up, we spent a lot of time at old Chinatown, mostly because there are a bunch of bakeries there and we would bring home pastries to eat for weeks and weeks,” she says. “As I got older, we started going to new Chinatown more. You’ll see a younger demographic in new Chinatown, trendy places like Bonchon and Mango Mango-that’s more of the vibe. And it’s more touristy in the sense that the people who go into new Chinatown to walk around and spend their day there, they might not necessarily live there. Whereas with old Chinatown, you’re bumping past the old ladies that have lived in that neighborhood forever.”

What makes the neighborhood stand out?

After high school, Wong moved to California to pursue a degree in journalism at USC. And while she enjoyed the years she spent on the (much, much) sunnier West Coast, her experience in Los Angeles only further cemented her devotion to Chicago’s Chinatown.

“I think a lot of Chinatown’s across the country are kind of going away,” she says. I was in LA for like six and a half, seven years, and the actual designated “Chinatown” there is maybe one city block. Here, you can bump into people who straight up just arrived from China or Taiwan one minute then turn around and talk to someone who has lived in the area for generations the next, that’s all they know. I think that’s really cool.”

“Another important thing to note is that Chinatown is not only for the people who live there but also for all the Asian-Americans who in the surrounding suburbs, of which there are so many,” Wong adds. “To be able to go to a place where my parents can just chit chat with whoever without any worries about language, or where I can tell someone my very specific boba order and they’ll get it exactly right without asking me all these questions-I don’t know, it’s just a really special place for everybody.”
 

Grace’s list of can’t-miss Chinatown spots:

Courtesy of Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings
Courtesy of Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings
Courtesy of Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings

Qing Xiang Yuan

“One of my favorite places to get dumplings is Qing Xiang Yuan. They also have a location in the Loop. They do a lot of different styles, all handmade, which is really awesome. They’re really playful with the fillings and you can customize if you want them boiled or fried. And they have these really amazing takeout boxes that they designed for themselves-yes, I’m here for that packaging. They’re also pretty new and modern. I don’t know if my parents would love it, per se, because they’d be like, ‘This is a fancy restaurant.’ But it’s just dumplings! Go there and you’ll have a really great time.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Elitea

“Just south of QXY is the entrance to the Richland Center, which is basically a glorified food court. It’s one of the few places where you can get really regional cuisine and it’s also home to Elitea, one my favorite places to get boba. They have this fire brown sugar boba that is just, I mean, incredible.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

 

Hing Kee

“For soup dumplings, I like to go to Hing Kee. Back in the day there were always, like, aunties making dumplings in the window-I loved that. Every now and then I’d go for some other kind of snack, but their soup dumplings are the best.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Courtesy of Hello Jasmine
Courtesy of Hello Jasmine
Courtesy of Hello Jasmine

Hello Jasmine 

“Hello Jasmine on Clark Street is really good for Taiwanese snacks and boba. I usually get their roasted oolong, popcorn chicken, and maybe some sausage skewers. They also have this fried chicken sandwich that’s unreal. It was definitely a spur of the moment decision to get it, but it was so good I posted about it on Instagram.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

 

Laojiumen

“For hotpot, there’s this new place called Laojiumen. They basically do ‘fancy hotpot’ and I honestly can’t wait to go there when I feel like it’s safe to do so.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Bingo Tea

“Bingo Tea has the best cheese tea. They were one of the first and the biggest to do it. You know how cheesecake is cheese but not really? Like how it’s sweet but has a touch of like salt to it? Imagine that but whipped. There’s a fruit or loose-leaf tea on the bottom and on top there’s this foam-like latte foam but thicker. The name might be a little bit of a marketing issue, but don’t knock it until you try it!”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Lao Sze Chuan

“Lao Sze Chuan is a classic for Sichuan food across the board. It might be an unpopular opinion, but I love their dry chili chicken. People say it’s for tourists, but it’s actually so good!”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Courtesy of Minghin Cuisine
Courtesy of Minghin Cuisine
Courtesy of Minghin Cuisine

MingHin

“Right next to Lao Sze Chuan is MingHin. I’m telling you, no dim sum trip is complete without a stop there.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Courtesy of Slurp Slurp Noodles
Courtesy of Slurp Slurp Noodles
Courtesy of Slurp Slurp Noodles

Slurp Slurp Noodles

“Slurp Slurp Noodles is in the old Chinatown area and their hand-shaved noodles are some of my all-time favorites. They’re super bouncy and springy and served in this delicious sauce. And they’re not soupy noodles-more like the dry, tossed-in-a-wok kind. They also make their own mustard greens, which are fire. It’s a solid spot.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

BBQ King

“BBQ King is the absolute go-to for all your barbecue needs. And they’re for sure doing takeout right now, I know that from experience.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

MCCB

“MCCB, they do ridiculous, mouth-numbingly spicy food and it’s fantastic. Their grilled whole fish, it’s just swimming in chilies, and you’re like, ‘I’m going to die and I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.’ I love it there.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Courtesy of Chef Xiong
Courtesy of Chef Xiong
Courtesy of Chef Xiong

Chef Xiong

“Another good place for spicy Sichuan-style food is Chef Xiong. They have a really cute logo with a Panda on it. I don’t know if I have a favorite dish, but I would say just go, sit down, and whatever they tell you to eat, do that. You won’t regret it.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Dolo Restaurant and Bar

“If you want to feel like you’re at a club but also eating Chinese food, Dolo is the spot for you. They also do cocktails and their food is definitely good, but it’s just like, ‘I’m here with my parents in this dark room with this loud music… I don’t know what to say.'” 
How to order: Click here to order online.

Feida Bakery

“Barbecue pork buns? Obviously great. Ham and egg buns? Obviously great. Cream horns? Obviously great. Am I missing anything?”
How to order: Call 312-808-1113 to order.

Park To Shop

“You have to check out a grocery store because grocery stores are the best. We love going to Park To Shop-there are two big locations in Chinatown. One is on Archer and one is farther south but both are great.” 
How to order: Click here to order online.

Xi’an Cuisine

“Xi’an Cuisine, they do what people call Chinese hamburgers. I kind of hate that name because it’s a bun that’s been pan fried and stuffed with cumin-spiced meats-to me, that’s not really a hamburger, but I understand the desire to assign it a name you’re familiar with. Either way, they taste great.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Aji Ichiban

“Up near the Richmond Center there’s this little candy specialty store called Aji Ichiban. I love going in there for sweets-they have Japanese candies, Korean candies, Chinese candies, all the candies.”
How to order: Click here to order online. 

Nine Bar

“More recently, there have been a few pop-ups coming from second generation Chinatown kids like this one out of Moon Palace. Pop-ups are such a big COVID thing. I would be remiss not to mention them.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Courtesy of Meet Fresh Chicago
Courtesy of Meet Fresh Chicago
Courtesy of Meet Fresh Chicago

Meet Fresh

“Another place for dessert is Meet Fresh-it’s so good. And you will definitely be shell-shocked by a tiny, 90-pound Asian girl eating an entire mountain of ice cream on her own because, yeah, that’s a normal occurrence there. It’s happened to me twice now and I’m shocked every time. I’m talking a mountain of shaved ice and pudding and taro balls-delicious, but you’d need at least four people to eat it. It’s amazing.”
How to order: Click here to order online.

Meredith Heil is originally from St. Louis, now lives in Chicago, and in between has been to all 50 states (that’s feet on the ground, none of that airport BS). She enjoys reading about, thinking about, talking about, writing about, putting on events about and drinking about craft beer.

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