Back in 2011, I heavily researched Japanese tourism to prepare for a seventeen day backpacking spree. That’s when I found GoRamen.com and learned about the exhaustive qualities, variations, and techniques that go into a bowl of ramen. The author, Keizo, visited Chicago in 2012 and 2013 right before ramen caught fire here. He didn’t have many good things to say then and the stuff he did like was extremely impractical. I wonder if his opinion might change with another visit given how much has transformed.
So instead of waiting on Keizo, I’m reviewing Chicago’s ramen shops myself. Note that I’m not a food critic, I’m not a supertaster (though cilantro is kind of the worst), and I’m not a picky eater when it comes to standard fare. I have been following the scene for five years and have eaten plenty of ramen in Chicago, California, New York, and Japan to distinguish between hype and quality.
I’ll refrain from a best-of list since ramen is an entirely subjective experience and new shops pop up every other week. Instead, I’ll cover the overall quality and taste of one bowl from varying restaurants, and then rate the establishment in one of three categories:
- Nope: Really not worth your time.
- Solid Fare: Drop by if you’re nearby and curious.
- Top Pick: Make a trip as soon as you can.
Nothing lifts my spirit quite like an honest, balanced bowl of ramen. Even on the worst gloomy day, I walk into a noodle shop and walk out with a smile. I hope the Ramen Review will help you find your top picks on your journey through Chicago’s ramen scene.