The Portland ramen scene has exploded in recent years, spurred by the arrival of two authentic eateries straight from Tokyo. Discover your perfect bowl at these top-notch noodle spots.
After winning rave reviews in Tokyo for more than two decades, Marukin Ramen expanded to the U.S. by opening not one, but two Portland locations in 2016. (How did we get so lucky?) One is in Old Town’s Pine Street Market and another next to Nong’s Khao Man Gai in Portland’s Central Eastside. A short-but-sweet menu rotates daily to feature offerings like a spicy tonkotsu shoyu (pork bone broth) and a silken, chicken-based paitan, as well as a pair of rich, vegan-friendly bowls filled with mushrooms, vegetables and fried tofu.
Founded as a roving monthly pop-up, Boke Bowl opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Portland’s Central Eastside in late 2011, making it the grandfather of the city’s booming ramen scene. Playful creations like miso-butterscotch “Boke Twinkies” and peanut butter & jelly steam buns set the stage for the main event: steaming bowls of broth brimming with slow-smoked pulled pork, caramelized fennel or spicy housemade chicken sausage.
Another Tokyo favorite, Afuri Ramen was reportedly wooed by cities like London, New York and even Dubai, but chose to open their first foreign location here. (Why? They say it’s because we have the perfect tap water.) Visit Afuri’s expansive, elegant dining room to sample the restaurant’s signature yuzu shio broth, flavored with Japanese citrus, seaweed, mushrooms and dried seafood.
Kayo’s Ramen Bar
Named for Kayoko Kaye, the restaurant’s Osaka-born chef, Kayo’s Ramen Bar offers options to please all dietary preferences. Step inside this North Williams Avenue noodle spot and take your pick of nine sumptuous broths and four noodle options. Try the “low carb” noodles, which includes a half-serving of housemade noodles mixed with a generous helping of julienned zucchini and daikon.
Noraneko has established a reputation as one of Portland’s best spots for late-night eats with DJs to keep the party going until 2 a.m. some weekends as diners dig into bowls of handmade ramen noodles (check Noraneko’s website for their DJ schedule). Fried chicken and pork dumplings round out the menu. (Fun fact: “Noraneko” is the Japanese term for stray cats.)
Known for its eye-catching hot pink accents and whimsical artwork, this trio of ramen shacks is the brainchild of Portland restaurateur Micah Camden, founder of local favorites Little Big Burger and Blue Star Donuts. Boxer Ramen pairs high-quality ingredients (noodles flown in from L.A. and mochi sourced straight from Maui) with an irreverent aesthetic. Expect Wu Tang Clan blasting from the stereo and neo-pop-inspired murals covering the walls.
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