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Ninja Ramen

Image: Andrea Weir

Aka Sushi House

Its fresh sushi and tasty cocktails equally popular, this Upper Kirby hot spot features a single style of ramen at both lunch and dinner: the traditional tonkotsu, available in regular or spicy, and skillfully crafted with pork bone broth, roasted pork belly, fish cake, spinach, sesame, seaweed and egg. Hit the famous happy hour (weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close, and all day long on weekends) and pair your ramen with a sushi roll or lychee martini for a discounted price. 

Fat Bao

While its quirky name is a nod to the wide variety of steamed buns (bao) available on the menu, this casual cafe offers one of the best selections of ramen in the city. Options range from the ramen-for-beginners tonkotsu to a spicy green curry broth for more experienced eaters. Courageous ramen aficionados may wish to participate in the restaurant’s ramen challenge, which awards a cash prize to anyone finishing a huge bowl of the stuff. (Enter if you dare; the fee is $45.) Fat Bao's second location in Upper Kirby serves ramen as well, but only on Monday and Tuesday evenings, so we suggest sticking with the Sugar Land spot.

Gyu-Kaku

Though best known for its grill-it-yourself Japanese barbecue, this Midtown joint features a shio goma ramen made with a light oxtail broth, roasted pork belly, green onion and egg. Priced at only $8 at both lunch and dinner, Gyu-Kaku’s ramen is a favorite of deal-seekers (and those who don’t mind a wait, as the lines can be lengthy at night).

Jinya Ramen Bar

Since opening its first location in Webster last year, this California-based chain has proven that great things do in fact come in small packages. And Jinya’s new Midtown location more than makes up for its cozy size in comfort and style, boasting a trendy dining room and full bar. Known for tonkotsu made with a full-flavored pork broth, Jinya also offers several non-pork-based options, including spicy chicken with thin noodles and even a vegetarian version with vegetable-based broth.

Kata Robata

This sophisticated Upper Kirby sushi bar may be best known for chef Manabu Horiuchi’s dynamic Japanese dishes and omakase meals, but the ramen is every bit as good as the fish. The duck dumpling shoyu ramen and spicy soy ramen are served only at lunch (until the kitchen runs out), but in portions big enough for two (thereby leaving room for a few bites of sashimi).

Ninja Ramen

Like its namesake, this ramen joint somehow manages to be both covert and unassuming despite its prominent Washington Avenue location. The dimly lit restaurant, open Tuesdays through Sundays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., keeps things simple, offering nothing but ramen on its menu (although there is a full bar). The lighter tonkotsu broth (made here with a blend of seaweed, fish and pork stock) comes in four varieties—regular, spicy, miso and spicy miso—all served at 155 degrees. Customers are encouraged to eat up as soon as they are served. And according to a not-so-official looking sign taped up on the wall, "slurping loudly" is allowed.

Samurai Noodle

For the no-frills ramen eater who just wants a solid bowl of soup, this Heights-area shop, part of a Seattle-based chain, is just the thing. The spartan dining room features a massive mural on one wall and glass on another, the better to see into the kitchen, where three varieties of noodles are made fresh daily. In addition to a wide selection of tonkotsu and shoyu ramens, there are also vegan versions and even a choice of tsukemen that comes in two separate bowls—one with broth, one with noodles—so you can dip your noodles as you go. 

Soma Sushi 

When in Texas, you eat Texas ramen, of course. Here, chef Gabe Medina stretches the boundaries of traditional recipes at both lunch and dinner with unique and flavorful creations like his Texas ramen with barbecue pork belly, shiitake, corn, spinach, egg, green onion and cilantro. Other options include black bean ramen, garden ramen (a fantastic vegetarian choice) and the more traditional spicy miso.

Teppay Japanese Restaurant

At the busy corner of Westheimer and Voss lies this tiny hidden gem, an authentic Japanese eatery complete with sushi bar and full-on-shoes-off private dining for groups. The menu places a heavy emphasis on sushi but does offer a classic tonkotsu ramen and a more unusual wanfu variety, as well as a traditional shoyu noodle soup made with a thin, soy-based broth. All three are served with a hearty portion of pork, though the wanfu is the lighter (and less expensive) dish of the group.

Tiger Den

Considered ramen royalty in Houston, this Chinatown favorite from the owners of Aka Sushi House has raised the bar with fresh noodles (a rarity in Houston) and oh-so-savory broths. Whether you order the traditional tonkotsu or the garlic black bean ramen, you’ll find layer upon layer of perfectly seasoned ingredients, so slurp and savor each bite. The place is tiny, though, and always packed to the brim with ramen lovers from all over the city. Come early or be prepared to wait.

Whole Foods Market—Voss

This upscale grocery store chain has always been popular for its fresh sandwich, salad and sushi stations, allowing customers to grab a bite before or after they shop. At its newest location on Voss, however, Whole Foods is trying something a little different: a custom ramen bar that allows diners to build their own bowl from the broth up. Choose from over 15 vegetables and plenty of proteins, including bold Texas flavors like chopped brisket and pulled pork. You may never have the same bowl twice.

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