Our Top-Ranked Portland Bowls of Ramen for a Rainy Day
When it comes to the number of great ramen restaurants per capita, you’d be hard-pressed to find a city that can beat Portland. Though our city is fairly small, Portland boasts a strong cultural connection to Japan—in Tokyo, there’s even a bar, PDX Taproom, boasting Portland beers. Meanwhile, we’ve got a number of Japanese businesses here, including Snow Peak—and worldwide ramen chain Afuri, which opened its first restaurant outside of Japan right here in Portland in 2016. Asked why they chose Portland, Afuri’s CEO said, “Our broth is super-sensitive chicken soup, with delicate seasonings. Portland water makes our broth the best. Afuri cannot exist without the water.”
Since then, a number of other Japanese ramen chains have entered the fray, along with independently-owned ramen restaurants. In our standout food cart scene, we’ve even got ramen food carts dishing out stellar bowls of the stuff. Read on for our favorite bowls of this must-have, comforting soup.
This Japanese chain now boasts four Portland-area locations—two focusing on ramen and dumplings, and two boasting the full izakaya experience with ramen, dumplings, sushi, and grilled skewers. You’ll likely find a long wait, particularly at the Southeast izakaya location, but it’s well worth it for staples like the yuzu shio ramen, light and citrusy with bouncy thin noodles and thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth chashu. Other winning bowls include the seasonal pork and clam ramen as well as the vegetarian spicy hazelnut miso ramen. Don’t skip the lacy-crusted gyoza, pork-filled or stuffed with cashews and veggies.
In a city filled with chain ramen restaurants—albeit very good ones—Kayo’s is an independently-owned gem. It also boasts a creative menu filled with bowls boasting housemade noodles, including its signature tan tan ramen. While the tan tan leaned a little salty on our visit, the flavors were excellent, blending subtly nutty sesame paste, chile, and hearty ground pork. Other unique bowls we’re looking forward to trying include pineapple-ginger ramen and wasabi smoked salmon ramen; meanwhile, our food critic Karen Brooks says the staple shoyu ramen “goes down like a power shot of a Jewish grandma’s chicken soup.” 3808 N Williams Ave # 124
Whether you like your ramen spicy or not, meaty or vegan, the beauty of Kinboshi is that it’s got something to offer everyone—and something truly excellent at that. We love the summer-only cold hazelnut ramen with cabbage and housemade nut milk just as much as the rich, full-bodied tonkotsu broth. Warm plant-based soups use soymilk to create creamy, comforting broths. 609 SE Ankeny St A
Downtown and Beaverton
This chain is running strong—outside of its many Seattle-area locations and one in Chicago, it also has a location in Beaverton and a newly opened spot within downtown’s Portland Food Hall. One of its signature bowls is the garlic tonkotsu, and while tonkotsu broths at other spots can lean greasy or overly porky, this one packs a punch of flavor without the corresponding gut punch. But leave bowls like the yuzu shio to the expert—Afuri Ramen—as we couldn’t detect any citrus flavor in ours. 827 SW 2nd Ave, Portland and 11830 NW Cedar Falls Dr #128, Beaverton
Rose City Park
While ramen giant Afuri has an entire noodle lab, Kumiho produces stellar ramen out of a tiny cart in the Baerlic Brewing food cart pod. The menu is short, but all the main components here are solid: the thin yet firm wheat noodles, the creamy yet not too heavy tonkotsu broth, the pork belly that’s charred to give it a delightful chewy-crisp texture. Even the garnishes are well executed, from the tender, just-right marinated soft boiled egg to the slightly sweet, super-crunchy bamboo shoots. The only part we’d skip: the gyoza that comes on top, which was a little overcooked and torn open on our visit. Try the ramen with Mom’s Korean spice—the medium is plenty to get a good burn going. 6035 NE Halsey St
The newcomer to this list, Menya Hokusei, formerly a cart in Salem, opened under the Hawthorne Bridge in August as a tiny counter-service restaurant serving an array of handmade noodles, barley-infused to Oregon whole wheat. Each bowl of ramen is carefully composed of different ingredients, from broth to noodles to garnishes, melding together Japanese and Pacific Northwest influences. We tried the Santiam Shio ramen, a comforting but light option with salt base and chicken-salmon broth and firm yet thin whole wheat noodles. While both the noodles and broth were excellent, the toppings faltered a bit—a salmon meatball that was dense and overly firm, and a marinated egg that was accidentally omitted (but very good when it arrived upon request). Other options include ribeye-truffle ramen alongside more traditional picks like spicy miso. We think this spot has a ton of potential—it’s already quite good despite imperfections—and we can’t wait to see how it grows in the next few months. 80 SE Madison St
Downtown and Beaverton
This ramen chain has two Portland metro area outposts—the first next to Uwajimaya in Beaverton, and the second year-old spot in downtown Portland. The persistent line out the door at the Beaverton location indicates that there’s some seriously good soup cooking here—but don’t worry, the wait goes by quickly, especially since you can shop at Uwajimaya in the meantime. The shio broth is a standout, flavorful but light, and the super-thick noodles provide plenty of heft and chew. Be sure to upgrade to the deluxe version, which comes with extra chashu pork and a whole marinated egg. 1037 SW Morrison St, Portland and 10500 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy, Beaverton