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Looking for ramen in Kansas City? You should eat at these restaurants

A blue patterned bowl filled with broth, slices of pork, noodle, boiled egg, vegetables, and seaweed, topped with sesame seeds.
Hari Panicker
Ramen is a popular Japanese dish found in many restaurants in Kansas City.

The Kansas City region is full of great Japanese and Asian restaurants that take their own spins on ramen. No matter if you're shouting for shoyu, mad for miso, or tantalized by tonkotsu, you'll find plenty of exciting versions of the iconic comfort food.

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For us, at least, ramen is always desirable regardless of the season. A hot bowl brings us back to life during the freezing days, but it can also kick away the mugginess (and provide some re-hydration) of hot summer months.

Fortunately, Kansas City is no short of brilliant Japanese restaurants, many of which offer ramen as one of many options.

But if you’re looking for places dedicated to the craft of ramen, here are our picks for the best restaurants in the metro.

Ramen 101: Broth, noodle, toppings

A white bowl willed with creamy broth, cubes of tofu, vegetables and sesame seeds.
Explore a variety of ramen, from broth to noodle to toppings.

Before diving into recommendations, let’s talk ramen basics first.

Even if you’re a noodle soup veteran, you may not know all the variations of this particular dish — some of which were developed more recently than you might think! Japanese restaurants treat ramen as a fine craft that requires years of training to master, and each shop offers its own interpretation.

Before you open a menu, it’s helpful to know the most common ramen broths:

  • Tonkotsu: First created in 1937, tonkotsu is the Japanese word for “pork bone (豚骨).” It is practically a pork bone stew, and many restaurants cook it overnight. Today’s tonkotsu ramen is umami-rich and often quite salty, but traditionally, it should taste mild and almost slightly sweet.
  • Miso: A mixture of white miso and chicken or vegetable broth. A richer variation would use tonkotsu as its foundation. To modify the taste, opt for other types of miso. For example, red miso will have a more identifiable pungent scent since the soybeans are fermented longer than white miso.
  • Shoyu: Substitute miso with Japanese soy sauce, and you are ready to make shoyu ramen. The flavors are overall salty, pungent, and slightly tangy. 
  • Shio: Equally salty to shoyu, shio is designed to amplify the existing flavors in the soup and toppings, instead of creating a new flavor profile. Therefore, shio works great with seafood, garlic or sesame oil, and marinated toppings.

Traditionally, each broth is matched with a certain type of noodle. Tonkotsu usually comes with traditional ramen noodles, which are straight and thin. Shio can use either the straight or springy wavy noodles, whereas shoyu ramen typically uses the wavy option.
Miso ramen uses what’s known as “chuka soba noodles,” which are chewier and more absorbent than standard ramen noodles. They’re also curly, but slightly thicker than what’s used for shoyu ramen.

Toppings are another place where restaurants differentiate themselves, although you’ll find many of the same ingredients across the board. Most places in KC tops their ramen with things like scallion, pork chashu (braised pork belly), a slice of seaweed, and a soft-boiled egg.

Classic toppings can also include shiitake mushrooms, corn, pickled bamboo shoots and fish cakes. You’ll also find seafood ramen with shrimp, squid, and imitation crab.

Aoyama Ramen

Three bowls with different broths and toppings on a stainless steel worktop, with containers of ingredients in the background.
Aoyama Ramen
Aoyama Ramen has plenty of options for first-time ramen diners, including tonkotsu ramen and garlic ramen.

Aoyama Ramen in Olathe will instantly catch your attention with its Japanese diner atmosphere, complete with long wooden benches, simple black tables, and a bustling ramen bar. Stepping through the narrow entryway, the flavorful bone broth steam is sure to wake up your appetite.

Aoyama’s tonkotsu ramen is a must-try for your first time. The restaurant’s broth is made fresh from scratch daily and boasts an appealing milky color and silky texture. The standard bowl comes with pork chashu, a jammy ramen egg, bean sprouts, green scallions, and a slice of seaweed (nori). You can also choose to make it deluxe by adding more toppings, including cauliflower, corn, mushrooms, or extra meat or broth!

Other superstars on the menu are the shio and the rich garlic ramen. The former really brings out the fresh, original texture and flavor of the toppings: chashu, egg, bean sprouts, green scallion, and nori. We recommend adding fish cake and corn to this bowl for some bonus texture.

As for the garlic ramen, it has the same toppings but comes with a creamy garlic tonkotsu broth, which is perfect for someone who prefers bolder, stronger flavors.

For an extra kick to any ramen, you can also ask for a side of their house chili paste.

Sama Zama

White bowl with broth, meat, seaweed, and spoon.
Sama Zama
There's a "little bit of everything," including ramen, at Sama Zama.

Sama Zama is one of the only Japanese izakayas in Kansas City. The name, “sama zama (様々)” means “a little bit of everything” in Japanese, and the restaurant’s menu is developed with that philosophy.

While the spot is most famous for the wide variety of Japanese bar bites on the menu, it’s also a convenient ramen getaway in Westport if you don’t want to drive out into the ‘burbs.

Their spicy chicken ramen comes with two large fried chicken strips. The broth is rich and creamy and does wonders for those who felt slightly under the weather.

Although it’s not strictly ramen, another great choice is the Nabeyaki udon: thick noodles served in a lightly sauteed soup in a clay pot, topped with shrimp, imitation crab, chicken, seaweed, green onion, and an egg.

Bōru Asian Eatery

Three hands holding small glasses filled with clear liquid reach across a table filled with food.
Bōru Asian Eatery
Bōru Asian Eatery has a different take on classic ramen.

Bōru in Waldo leveraged its temporary closure during the pandemic as an opportunity to reimagine itself and reopened in 2020 with a revamped menu.

Unlike traditional shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and miso ramen recipes, Bōru’s rendition uses bone broth, making each creamier than the classic.

The Spicy Miso Bowl comes with ground pork, bean curd, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, and a perfect six-minute egg in miso bone broth.

The Bōru Bowl highlights a salty shoyu bone broth and comes with pork belly, soy-pickled shiitake mushrooms, garlic greens, pickled takana (mustard leaf), a six-minute egg, and scallion.

Mama Ramen

A black bowl on a black surface. In the bowl is noodle, three shrimp, bok choy, and boiled egg.
Mama Ramen
At Mama Ramen, you can customize your bowl of ramen.

Mama Ramen is all about returning to the familiar simplicity of home cooking. This Crossroads shop is the only place in Kansas City where you can fully customize your bowl.

Start by choosing your broth base. The chicken shio and classic tonkotsu are our top choices. The standard build comes with one protein and up to three toppings, but you can always add extra at a slight upcharge.

You can also choose from five spice levels, but don’t underestimate the “very hot” level – we’ve warned you. Splitting your meal with someone? Order some extra noodles or a different soup base on the side.

Bonus: Mama Ramen recently began offering boba tea and slushies. Try their signature milk tea if you need something to cool the heat.

KC Craft Ramen

A variety of dishes in black bowls.
KC Craft Ramen
Try signature flavors at KC Craft ramen.

With lines out of the doors, KC Craft Ramen in Overland Park quickly earned itself an undefeatable reputation among Kansas City’s ramen lovers. They have a great deal to offer, including a large selection of Japanese beverages and snacks, and an entire anime retail wall along the entryway.

They’re also the only ramen residency program in the metro area, inviting Japanese chefs to Kansas City to serve their iconic dishes.

KC Craft Ramen has a few signature flavors. If you don’t mind garlic, give their KC Black a chance, with a combination of black garlic oil and slow-cooked pork bone broth. The noodles are topped with two pork chashu pieces, bean sprouts, black mushrooms, ajitsuki tamago (marinated soft-boiled egg), corn, and seasoned bamboo shoots.

Meanwhile, those with faith in their heat tolerance can challenge the KC Red. However, you can also just ask for a side of their red chili oil and control how spicy you want the food to be.

Kokoro Maki House

Ramen in a white bowl.
Kokoro Maki House
Kokoro Maki House, in Waldo, includes ramen in its lunch special.

Craving some ramen in the middle of the day? Kokoro Maki House in Waldo offers a ramen and sushi lunch combo. For $15.95, you can get any ramen plus an eight-piece California Roll with a fountain drink.

Make your pick between miso, shoyu, or tonkotsu – all three come with egg, pork chashu, beansprouts, red onions, and scallions.

The standard menu also has a Vegetable Udon Soup with the option to add beef, chicken, or pork for a slight upcharge. This is the restaurant’s only udon soup option, and features a light, hearty flavor. Kokoro also has a highly rated yakiudon (udon stir fry) dish with mixed vegetables and chicken, bathed in its signature sauce. Again, you can add pork, beef, or extra chicken for $3.

To wrap up your meal, try the fried cheesecake or fried tempura banana ice cream. Kokoro Maki House also offers mochi ice cream flavors at $3 each, and a delicious green tea ice cream at $6.50.

Other great ramen spots

Broth, pork slices, boiled egg, and vegetables in a red bowl with Japanese lettering on the side in black.
Find ramen options in locations around the metro.

If none of the above locations satisfies your ramen craving, here are even more options! Some are a drive into the suburbs, but we'd say it's well worth it.

JINYA Ramen in Overland Park — a local location of a North American chain — specializes in ramens with strong flavor. It’s most suitable for those looking for that powerful umami taste, like their spicy tonkotsu or their seaweed-heavy and garlicky black tonkotsu. They have several vegan options, including the Fire Red Opal that features a yuzu-flavored hot and sour soup base.

Another Overland Park spot is Jumbo Noodles Bar (previously featured in our list of hot pot restaurants). Their ramen and soup options include some seafood-heavy options with shrimp, fish cake, mussels, squid, fish ball and imitation crab, and their spicy miso tonkotsu ramen is topped with ground pork, soft-boiled egg, bean sprouts and scallions.

Off 84th and Ward Parkway, you’ll find OMO, with both sushi and ramen options. OMO has a spicy tonkotsu made with house spicy paste and topped with pork belly, bean sprouts, seasoned egg, scallion, and corn. Their menu also includes a miso and a shoyu ramen as well.

QZ Poke and Ramen has three locations in Lee’s Summit, Zona Rosa, and the Legends in Kansas City, Kansas. Their create-your-own ramen menu allows you to pick a type of noodle (wavy or rice), broth (miso, shio, tonkotsu or shoyu), and seven different proteins, including fried tofu, beef and onion, pork belly, and chicken. Their topping options include jalapeno, bamboo shoot, and fish cake.

If you're around Lawrence, Kansas, you'll want to head to the longtime local favorite Ramen Bowls. After opening in 2013, the restaurant recently left its Mass Ave. location and moved to a bigger space at 900 New Hampshire Street. Their menu includes some unique ramen options you won't find anywhere else: A spicy beef curry ramen with flat iron steak, corn and napa cabbage; a garlic shrimp ramen served in a shoyu broth, and a vegetarian goddess ramen with fried tofu, avocado, and spinach in a miso broth.

Although they may not specialize in ramen, other Kansas City-area Asian restaurants offer their own takes on the dish. That includes Chewology in Westport, one of our favorite dim-sum spots in town, which boasts a delicious and vegan Three-Cup Mushroom Ramen.

Originally from China, Xiao daCunha covers arts and culture happenings in the Midwest, specifically focusing on the Kansas City metro and Chicagoland. She has written for KCUR, The Pitch, Sixty Inches from Center, and BRIDGE Chicago, and spent three years as Managing Editor at a Chicago digital publication, UrbanMatter. A practicing visual artist herself, Xiao combines her artistic talent with her writing to contribute to public art education and explores topics relevant to BIPOC artists, gender identity, and diasporic identity. You can reach her on Instagram and Twitter.
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