Ramen has become all the rage in the United States in recent years, and Portland has become a hotspot for traditional shops straight from Tokyo. It makes sense if you think about it: What’s better on a cold, rainy day than slurping a bowl of savory noodles in rich broth? And anyone who’s been to Portland knows there’s a lot of cold, rainy days here.
From tonkotsu to shoyu, meat-based to vegan, these 10 shops are putting Portland on the ramen map.
Another Tokyo transplant, Afuri, opened its doors to the hungry Portland public in 2016. If you’re wondering why so many Japanese shops are opening up in the Rose City, Afuri’s website gives a great explanation: “Portland’s ecosystem produces nearly identical beautiful water to that of our Japan locations. This water quality combined with the bounty of Pacific Northwest local farms & producers, allows us to create the highest quality ramen and Japanese cuisine available.” If that doesn’t convince you to give this place a try, maybe the tonkotsu tantanmen with spicy sesame miso tare, pork broth, garlic bok choy, leek, white soy shiitake mushroom, sesame chili oil, and garlic ginger pork crumbles will. Are you drooling yet?
Kayo’s Ramen Bar head chef, owner and Japanese native Kayoko Kaye was so devoted to seeking out the perfect noodle that she tested 46 different recipes until finding the right combination of taste and consistency. That strive for quality translates into all made-from-scratch and preservative-free dishes at her North Portland shop. She offers traditional bowls (shoyu, shio, miso) but her most popular ramen is the TanTan: “A uniquely Japanese version of Sichuan DanDan Mian (spicy) flavored with sesame paste, and topped with seasoned ground pork or tofu,” which can also be made without broth. She also creates signature flavors like pineapple ginger and wasabi smoked salmon, as well as rotating seasonal offerings, making Kayo’s a great place for traditionalists and adventurists alike.
For those who like their ramen with a side of sushi, Mirakutei is the spot. Though billed as a sushi restaurant, the east side establishment serves up some slurp-worthy soup as well. The shop offers vegetarian ramen for the herbivores and the popular genki ramen in white miso broth and tonkotsu with roasted black garlic oil for the omnivores.
It doesn’t matter what part of Portland you’re in, there’s probably a Boxer Ramen somewhere close by. With four locations throughout the city, you’re able to get ramen from the founders of Blue Star Donuts and Little Big Burger on both the East and West sides of town. Dubbed as “hipster ramen,” Boxer offers the traditional fare (tonkotsu, miso) as well as a light vegetarian (vegan also available) shiitake shoyu and vegan veggie curry soups.
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya is a franchised Japanese establishment, and its only Oregon location is housed in a fancy strip mall in Portland’s suburban outskirts. Like the name suggests, the restaurant serves Izakaya and ramen, with nearly a dozen different flavors to choose from, including vegetarian options and tsukemen—a traditional dipping noodle dish.
In 2017, Nama brought quality ramen to the Sellwood neighborhood and quickly became one of the best shops in the city. The restaurant specializes in shoyu and miso ramen varieties, and also offers a veggie bowl and gluten-free noodle options. Aside from delicious ramen, Nama boasts an impressive poke and izakaya menu.
Ramen Ryoma is another suburban shop that is worth the trip outside the city. The Beaverton restaurant is located next door to the massive Asian grocery store, Uwajimaya, and specializes in Rustic Temomi (hand-massaged) ramen noodles soaked in a variety of flavor combinations, all starting with a shio, shoyu or miso-based broth. Vegetarian and pescatarian options are available for the non-meat-eaters, and there’s a killer spicy ramen for the thrillseekers.