Once the lowly province of hard up college students ramen in America - in fact, all over the Western world - has undergone something of a makeover over the last few years and have become a staple of the trendy foodie scene.
Chicago is no exception to all of this and the number of eateries offering 'gourmet' takes on this once humble dish seems to be increasing all the time.
But where can you find the very best ramen in Chicago? Here are our personal favourite choices:
1584 Busse Rd (at S Dempster St), Mt Prospect. A second location at 213 E Ohio St between St Clair St & Fairbanks Ct
This small eatery is a bit out of the way - you'll have to schlep to a strip mall in Mount Prospect to find it - but the effort is worth it.
As its name suggests miso based ramen is the house specialty and the miso propaganda begins as soon as you walk through the door, with its health benefits, energy giving properties etc extolled on posters everywhere) While we are not sure about some of the wilder claims (miso makes you smarter and gives you clearer skin??) what we do know is that it tastes wonderful.
Each ramen bowl has a beautifully nutty and slightly complex flavor - courtesy of the soybean paste - and if you can handle heat opt for something on the spicier side as nothing is too hot, it's just a very pleasant, warming taste experience that you won't soon forget.
2115 N Milwaukee Ave, between Francis Pl & Maplewood Ave
When the craze was simply simmering, this was the ramen hotspot in the Windy City and although it has been eclipsed a little now it is still a great spot to be assured you'll consistently be served a great ramen bowl every time.
The ramen here is simple, free of the bells and whistles that some other eateries add but the subtly spiced tonkatsu broth is anything but pedestrian. Made using the fat rendered from Berkshire pork bones each batch is simmered for a whopping 45 hours, and boy can you taste the love that goes into the process.
1829 W Chicago Ave, between Wolcott Ave & Wood St
Arami, which is best known for its fantastic sushi, can also serve fantastic ramen noodles. This West Town shop, which can be very busy at times, delivers high quality from start to finish.
Go traditional with Yakitori grills or be more "adventurous" with slow-cooked pork belly and braised beef that neatly separates in your bowl.
Japanese beer is at $5 each and Arami's house sake comes around $15 per bottle ($7 per glas).
3056 N Lincoln Ave
Even though Ani, the Japanese go to spot in Lincoln Park, is arguably more of a sushi joint it does serve great noodles. Having mainly only five variation on the menu it still counts as one of the best ramen servings in the town. Especially the Tantanmen ramen with pork meatballs, which in its own simple way, is close to flawless.
Ani might be the little sister of Arami, but could very well stand on her own feet any day.
You can also try the Italian beef rib eye and housemade giardiniera, a tribute to Chicago one might say.
819 W Fulton Market
Ramen Takeya was opened up by the owners of Wasabi Ramen (Logan square), and was meant to be a light weight version in a different location. However, Takeya quickly transformed to one of the best serving ramen spots in town and this haven't changed.
The creamy, and not too oily, chicken paitan is truly amazing and the same goes for the pork buns. That said, this is a spot where you can't go wrong, so surprise yourself.
100 E Algonquin Rd Arlington Heights, between Arlington Heights Rd & Tonne Dr.
Santouka is authentic ramen food at it's best. Being located in the bustling Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights, Santouka offer an extensive menu where you can't simple go wrong.
Its a popular spot, so you might have to wait for some time, but when you finally arrive its definitely worth it. Try the Special Toroniku Shio Ramen or the shio and miso ramen, both equally good. Don't miss the tender slices of pork, they are widely known by Santouka regulars.
Strings Ramen Soup
2141 S Archer Ave
In a city that now seems to be flooded with ramen choices Strings sets itself apart as they actually craft all of their noodles in house using an authentic Japanese machine located in the basement. The result is a firm, fresh tasting (yes, you can tell the difference) noodle that is just the right texture and size.
Once crafted these noodles are served up in a variety of delicious ramen bowls. The tonkatsu is especially good as it is unusually meaty with big, generously cut slabs of pork perfectly dressed with garlic, sesame, and scallions. Head to Strings during happy hour (3–5 pm) and you'll be given three free oden sticks, which are skewers served in broth and we suggest being a bit greedy and asking for both egg and fish ball, as both should not be missed.
High Five Ramen
112 N Green St.
So authentic is the decor at this hidden Green Street oasis that you only have to squint a little bit to imagine that you have been magically transported away to a trendy Tokyo basement. The food is authentic too, and in a very good.
As soon as you open a menu at High Five you will notice the 'disclaimer' that many of the ramen bowls are very spicy. And that is absolutely true but the great taste is worth that momentary jolt. The flecks of housemade chili in the 'Classic High Five' are tempered a little by the creamy tonkatsu broth and you can always order one of the rather luscious fruity slushie cocktails to help tame the heat.
1571 N Milwaukee Ave.
This modern, hip hop take on a ramen joint was actually funded via a Kickstarter campaign, with the big selling point being the namesake Furious Ramen bowl. It's lip-numbingly hot but so packed with meaty extras that you really do just have to suck that up and soldier on.
Infused with huge chunks of melty pork belly, beef brisket and delicate mushrooms for balance it's also topped with a perfectly cooked egg that melts perfectly into the velvety broth. True ramen addicts sometimes balk at tweaks as radical as these but how anyone with even a vague appreciation of ramen could dislike this dish we don't know.