It’s quite easy to find a good bowl of ramen in Portland. And no, we’re not talking about the sad pack of instant noodles you slurped while hunched over in your college dorm room. We’re talking about the refined Japanese delicacy made with a thick, creamy broth, soft noodles and all sorts of fresh and flavorful toppings, like sliced pork, scallions and soft-boiled eggs.
In fact, ramen is so popular in this city for a few reasons. First, our tap water is second to none, which is vital in creating the perfect ramen (who knew that was so important?). Secondly, the Asian population in Oregon is our fastest-growing demographic — and we welcome many Japanese tourists in Portland year after year. And thirdly, let’s face it: Portland just does all types of food extremely well.
Because there are so many excellent ramen eateries in the Portland area, we did some research to uncover the best of the best. The next time a craving for ramen strikes, you know where to go!
COVID NOTE: Most of these ramen restaurants are open for in-person dining but all have protocols in place that must be followed. All offer online ordering, available via pickup or delivery. Check their website or social media pages for the latest information related to COVID-19.
Photo Courtesy of Marukin Ramen
Marukin is about authentic as you can get, unless you go straight to Japan in your pursuit of ramen. That’s because it is actually based in Japan, with several locations in the country dating back to 1994, and one right here in Portland — well, two to be exact! Chef Mayumi Hijikata is a classically trained Japanese chef who spent her career perfecting her skills in Japan, producing ramen bowls uniquely developed by her, from the traditional tonkatsu made with rich pork bone broth, chashu pork, seasonal vegetables, and a soft-boiled egg, to a few vegan options, like the Vegan Tonyu. No matter what you order, you’ll soon find out why Marukin Ramen was consecutively voted “best ramen” in Willamette Week‘s Best of Portland poll.
The meaning of Mirakutei perfectly describes the inviting environment at this long-standing ramen destination: “a place to eat and enjoy.” The story of Mirakutei began with sushi chef Hiro Ikegaya, who opened the restaurant in 2011 as a Japanase tapas, ramen and sushi bar. His legacy lives on with chef/owner Job Martinez and a team of talented cooks and sushi chefs. For the best of both the sushi and ramen worlds, look no further than Mirakutei. The specialty is their paitan-style ramen, which is a milky white soup stock made with pork and chicken bones, dried kelp seaweed, anchovies, yellow onions, scallions, carrots, and ginger roots. But the Genki Ramen — made with a miso-base, scrambled eggs, shredded roasted pork in garlic butter, Thai chiles, radish sprouts and beansprouts — is a favorite.
Photo Courtesy of Afuri Izakaya
Afuri is another Tokyo-based ramen shop that made Portland its very first U.S. location. Why us? They say it’s because of our pure tap water, perfect for ramen making! Plus, we have a plentiful bounty of local farms and producers, allowing them to source the best ingredients for their ramen. That intense attention to detail tells you everything you need to know about Afuri: they are dedicated to making the best of the best. Their specialty is Yuzu (citrus)-style ramen, which balances the richness and flavors of the soup and lifts, lightens and brightens for the perfect ramen. But don’t sleep on the spicy Tonkotsu Tantanmen, made with a sesame miso broth, shitake mushrooms, garlic oil seared bok choy, leeks, sesame chili oil, and spicy pork crumbles. Pick up a bowl from either of their two locations in the area, including one in Old Town Beaverton.
We all know the best dishes sometimes come from strip mall joints in the suburbs — and that is certainly the case for Yuzu, a family-owned izakaya in Beaverton. Alongside an incredible sake list, sushi and shareable Japanese small plates, you’ll find an exceptional selection of ramen — including their most popular, the kakuni ramen, made with a creamy tonkotsu broth and straight noodles.
Kayo’s Ramen Bar is a modern, airy ramen bar tucked away in Portland’s Boise–Eliot district specializing in Assari-style ramen with clear and refined broths made in-house. You can customize your ramen at Kayo’s, including the type of broth and noodles; you can opt for the no-carb or low-carb noodles, or make your bowl completely vegan. In addition to seasonal specials, Kayo’s makes traditional ramen like Shoyu, Shio, Miso and TanTan (the most popular), along with uniquely spectacular and inspired signature ramen, such as Curry, MaLa, Pineapple Ginger and Wasabi Smoked Salmon. Don’t stop there! They also serve hand-made pork and kale pot stickers, fried rice, donburi bowls and fresh salads, along with a wonderful line-up of creative cocktails, premium craft beers, wine and sake.
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya is dedicated to tradition. They still prepare their ramen the same way as it is prepared in Japan, utilizing a unique method that involves roasting bones before boiling. They were the first in the ramen industry to employ this method, and they have made a name for themselves as a result. In fact, they’ve been so successful that they’ve grown to include more than 10 locations throughout Washington and Oregon (and a couple elsewhere!), including one in Beaverton. Here, you can choose from 12 traditional bowls, including a Garlic Tonkotsu, Spicy Miso, Chicken Shoyu and more. You may also include some add-ins for some extra flavor — or extra noodles for some extra carbs!
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Mugen Noodle Bar is a Pan-Asian noodle bar in Tigard influenced by the diverse cultures in Oregon. This relatively new ramen spot specializes in Tori Paitan broth, the chicken-based cousin of the rich and creamy tonkotsu broth made from pork. Some of the more popular items on Mugen’s menu are the curry ramen and the spicy shrimp ramen. Whatever you order, don’t forget to pair it with some egg rolls or edamame to share — and a sake or two!
Hapa isn’t just a popular ramen destination (although it is certainly that!); it’s also known for its Hawaiian food and killer selection of Japanese whiskey. Appetizers like salmon poke, wakame and pork belly pair quite nicely with their short-but-oh-so-sweet ramen menu. A standout is their G-Special Ramen, made with a rich pork belly broth, topped with belly nuggets, shiitake, spicy sprouts, spinach and marinated egg. But they also have a Shoyu Ramen, Tonkotsu Ramen, Veggie Miso Ramen and Vegan Ramen, providing options for nearly every dietary restriction.
Can we all give a collective sigh of relief that Boxer Ramen is back? This small “chain” of ramen restaurants in Portland closed temporarily in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and has since reopened — well, one of their locations at least (the others have been converted into other concepts!). At Boxer Ramen, order from a short, curated menu of four distinct ramen dishes, including the shiitake-shoyu, veggie curry, spicy red miso and tonkotsu-shio, plus some snacks, sake and beer. Another pivot after the pandemic: they also opened Boxer Bento, a hip, cash-only spot downtown serving a simple menu of bento boxes and sides.
Once again, Ninja Ramen is proof that strip mall joints in the suburbs sometimes serve the best food around. This is the first dedicated ramen spot in Hillsboro — and judging by the rave reviews, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Owner Hitsumoto Taka even graduated from ramen school in Tokyo, which means you are in very good hands here. They carry a range of ramen broths cooked for more than 14 hours, but the most popular is the tamago garlic ramen. You’ll also find a wide variety of authentic Japanese dishes, plus ice milk tea, beer and sake. But there is one thing you won’t find at Ninja Ramen: MSG.
Who serves your favorite ramen in Portland? Tell us all about them in the comments below!