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Best Ramen in Denver and Boulder for 2020

In the spirit of the new year and new decade, here’s a fresh list of the best ramen in Denver and Boulder for your 2020 (and beyond) noodle fix.

Ah, ramen. The comfort food of all comfort foods. Delicately textured noodles, warm broth, and a kaleidoscope of exceptional flavors to constantly rock your world. It’s no surprise the traditional Japanese dish has taken the nation by storm. And the greater Denver area is lucky enough to be peppered with ramen shops from central Boulder to the southern streets of DU. In the spirit of a new year, new decade, and frankly these chilly winter months, DiningOut sampled some of the Front Range’s best and brightest ramen shops, which we share with you here. Read up on where to get your next fix this winter (and spring, and summer, and fall, too).

Photo Courtesy of Gaku Ramen

Osaka Ramen

{2611 Walnut Street, Denver; 303.955.7938}

Star Feature: Most Original Flavor (Tied)

Highlights: Most Creative Dish // Best Dessert Menu Item

A Denver food scene veteran, Culinary Director and Chef Jeff Osaka knows what he’s doing when it comes to food—especially ramen. The acclaimed restaurateur proudly owns and operates the fast-paced, underground ramen shop in the hustle and bustle of the RiNo neighborhood, and business is booming. After a quick seating and a friendly greeting from the chef himself, the table was suddenly filled with delectable bites and flavor-packed ramen. Up first is the menu staple of Chicken Kara Age: light and crispy morsels containing tender, citrus-shoyu-marinated fried chicken, seasoned with ginger, garlic, and scallion, and served with spicy mayo for dipping; a perfect starter for any meal. But the real star of the show is the seasonal menu favorite, the Hatch Green Chile Ramen. Made with tasty chorizo and hatch green chiles, and topped with cabbage, negi, soft egg, cilantro, cotija cheese, and lime, this perfectly savory bowl of ramen is an expert combination of flavor and heat, and it only gets better with each bite—seriously. If you need a winter warm-up, this one’s for you. And don’t forget to top off your meal with Osaka’s signature dessert, playfully named My Wife’s Donuts, which we’ve declared as “each bite a little slice of warm dessert heaven”—light-and-sweet, deep-fried mochi rolled in kinako sugar, and served with salted butter. Warm-fuzzies-certified.

Ototo

{1501 South Pearl Street, Denver; 303.733.2503}

Miso Ramen from Ototo

Star Feature: Best Atmosphere/Space (Tied)

Highlights: Delicious Appetizers // Great Cocktails

The Den Corner classic Ototo is the perfect stop for a warm bite to eat and refreshing cocktail before galavanting off into the festivities of Pearl Street, or for lounging in the warm, inviting atmosphere of the Japanese pub for a leisurely meal. If you haven’t yet tried Ototo’s smooth and silky Miso Ramen, the time is certainly now. With perfectly cooked, tender pork belly and soft ramen noodles in a 48-hour steeped miso pork broth, it’s as comfort food as it gets. Topped with sweet grilled corn, bok choy, bean sprouts, and a soft-boiled egg, the Miso has all your typical ramen favorites, but the thought that clearly goes into creating such a slurpable broth is what Ototo is all about—quality. If you’re looking to add a little extra to your experience, we highly recommend the housemade Agedashi Tofu for a starter, and to wash down your meal try any one of Ototo’s signature whiskey cocktails (though the Aka Ume and Den Car make for a particularly lovely start!).

Kyu Ramen

{600 East Colfax Avenue, Denver; 303.353.8497}

Chashu Ramen from Kyu Ramen

Star Feature: Best Service

Build-Your-Own-Bowl // Upstairs Bar/Best Place for a Night on the Town

Whether you’re a Colfax cuisine expert or new to the strip, there is one place you mustn’t miss: Kyu Ramen. But we must warn you: If you make the visit for lunch or dinner, be prepared to feel like royalty with the amazing service and to have your tastebuds indulged with the incredible eats. The first-place award from 2019’s Ramen-O-Rama event is humbly placed near all the fresh ingredients the team at Kyu uses to craft mouthwatering poke bowls, spicy garlic edamame, and, of course, delicious ramen. Guests have the freedom to choose from menu specials or design their own bowls, deciding everything down to the broth, protein, and toppings, including vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options like vegetable-based broth, gluten-free or veggie noodles, and more. And while the ramen itself is certainly incredible—try the classic Chashu ramen with braised pork belly over the creamy, “Kyu Special” broth—it was the service that really stood out. Each plate was delivered with a smile and a story, and it’s clear the Kyu team—from the chef to the servers—has every intention of making each customer feel special. And that Kyu Special broth? The shop is only one of two in Colorado that has the certification to import the highly-coveted broth straight from Japan. So, yes—it’s pretty legit.

303 Ramen

{5725 Yukon Street, Arvada; 303.940-3866}

Star Feature: Best Date Night Spot

Outside Patio // Best Use of Spice

Nestled on a side street just a stone’s throw away from the quaint Olde Town Arvada is the little house-turned-ramen shop that is 303 Ramen. Having only established its Arvada roots just over a year ago, 303 Ramen is definitely making waves on the ramen scene, swiftly becoming one of the must-try ramen shops in the metro area. Owner Nat and the 303 team offer both dine-in and take-out options, the choice for guests to create their own ramen bowls, and a menu boasting Japanese and Thai fusion dishes that never fail to delight. The dining room, painted a pleasant canary yellow, is adorned with various decorations and color pops, making enjoying a meal as comfortable and cozy as if you were being served at home. Our recommendation for your next visit is two-fold, beginning with the insanely delectable Duck Cheese Wontons that, plainly put, will knock your socks off. Imagine hot and crispy, cheese-filled wontons served with sweet and citrusy homemade sauce. For the main event, we suggest the creamy Spicy Seafood Tom Yum Ramen, complete with ramen essentials like soft-boiled egg, bok choy, mushroom, and green onion, but also featuring seafood staples including shrimp, steak squid, scallops, New Zealand mussels, hot chiles, and bits of tomato and lemongrass. 

Sera’s Ramen Enclave

{3472 West 32nd Avenue, Denver; 303.455.2858}

Star Feature: Best Overall Experience

Fantastic Staff // Best Broth (Tied) /Most Original Flavor (Tied)

If anything can cure the winter blues, it’s ramen from Sera’s Ramen Enclave in the West Highland neighborhood. Now in its fourth year of business, the shop’s motto, “Ramen, Rice, and Everything Spiced,” continues to shine as consumers flood the doors and ramen flies out of the kitchen, and with flavors that are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, it’s pretty impossible to get something you won’t fall in love with. The shop combines aspects of traditional Japanese ramen with Vietnamese-inspired fusion dishes, like the predominantly Southeast Asian-curry ramen “with sass”—a result of owner Sera Nguyen herself being Vietnamese and growing up in her mom’s restaurant, learning the ins and outs of the industry while discovering the magic of cooking. Sera wanted to both bring her own origins into her menu as well as create offerings that customers could only find at her restaurant. Her enthusiasm for cooking is infectious, as she describes that the mantra she carries from culinary school is to always “bring a little piece of art into what you do.” Our pick of the night was the incredible Sesame Pork Belly Ramen, which was as picturesque as it was delicious. But Sera, in true form, created a miniature version of each ramen flavor, and the made-from-scratch broths, sauces, and seasonings were mind-blowing (especially the doesn’t-taste-vegan vegan ramen). And, though the ramen is to die for, there’s more to this quaint shop than just the food. It possesses an atmosphere—from the generously kind and familial staff to the intimate dining area—of pure contentment upon entering, like a brief (and tasty) escape from reality.

My Ramen & Izakaya

{3280 28th Street, #2, Boulder; 303.545.2222}

Shoyu Ramen from My Ramen & Izakaya

Star Feature: Most Wholesome/Favorite Family-Run Biz

Comfortable, Modern Space // New 2020 Menu

If being warmly welcomed into Boulder ramen spot My Ramen & Izakaya by Chef Daniel Lim himself isn’t the first indication that your lunch or dinner is about to give you all the feels, the intimate, modern atmosphere, comfortable seating, and traditional-tasting ramen will. Chef Daniel helps run the kitchen and manage the popular Boulder eatery alongside his sister, Mindy Lim, who spearheaded the operation after training with a master chef in Las Vegas in the art of sushi. The two siblings, originally from California, ran a sushi restaurant in Lafayette for about 10 years until 2015, when they decided to move to the new (and much better) Boulder location. “We support each other,” says Chef Daniel. One might describe My Ramen & Izakaya as an excellent, feel-good ramen spot, with plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options (including a special clear broth that is a healthier alternative to others), daily, scratch-made broths, and warm, perfectly balanced ramen with touches like sesame seeds and fried shallots to expertly complement broth and noodle alike. For your next visit, you can’t go wrong ordering either the Shoyu or Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen (the latter being Chef Daniel’s favorite), and will walk away feeling full and well taken-care-of.

Uncle Ramen

{Multiple Locations; 303.433.3263}

Spicy Chicken Ramen from Uncle

Star Feature: Best Texture

Runner-Up: Best Service // Most Accommodating for Allergies/Dietary Restrictions

Obviously, this list wouldn’t be complete without Denver staple Uncle Ramen. Whether you’re here for the tasty small plates or, as we imagine, the famed ramen, nothing that crosses your palate will fail to impress. From the Pork Belly Buns (has anything ever been so tender and perfectly flavored? We think not; see: dictionary definition of “melt-in-your-mouth”) to the spicy, earthy, tangy, salty, and light-but-full-flavored Edamame, to the ~perfect~ noodles, a satisfied appetite is inevitable. Worth the wait in line? Absolutely, as Uncle provides everything you want in a ramen bowl: Quick delivery (noodles are cooked for exactly two minutes, which you can watch over the kitchen-side bar), piping hot broth, and flavor for days.  The Spicy Chicken ramen packed a particularly powerful punch, with the most tender and juicy confit chicken thigh, heavenly noodles that are custom-made just for Uncle, a pork and chicken sesame broth that simply delivers, and an added touch of a Bonito Bomb (garlic, sesame, and fish powder blend), adding an umami kick that will have your tastebuds heading into overdrive. The fast-casual shop has a laid-back vibe complete with community-style seating and a stellar staff to match, which has us thinking: Maybe the key to the unwavering success lies in only hiring the best of the best? It does for Uncle—the waitstaff are among the most attentive and informative, and the kitchen’s communication is certainly on point, too. The employees at Uncle know their food inside and out, and they sure do know what good customer service entails, making the shop a Denver favorite for obvious reasons.

Menya Noodle Bar

{Multiple Locations}

Menya Appetizers, Including Poke Wrap, Bulgogi Bun, and Bulgogi Wrap


Star Feature:
Best Appetizers

Most Tender Chashu // Runner-Up: Most Original Flavor

If any one ramen shop is taking the city by storm, it’s Menya Noodle Bar. Having just opened its fifth location, it seems Denver foodies can’t get enough of the shop’s smooth and savory ramen and finger-licking appetizers. Like Kyu, Menya also has special licensing to import broth directly from Japan, which sets it apart from other shops in both flavor and quality (and is partially why it gets the Runner-Up title for Most Original Flavor). We particularly enjoyed the kitchen’s use of garlic, adding a unique (and tasty) flavor element to the sampled dish: the Menya Special. Complete with what we’re declaring is the most tender chashu of all shops, this bowl of light and creamy pork broth and tender noodles was a treat to remember. And if you’re looking for a little more to add to your ramen experience, any one of Menya’s featured appetizers will do the trick—specifically, the Poke or Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps, Chicken Karaage, Shumai, or Ebi Katsu—all delicately prepared and full of flavor.

Gaku Ramen

{1119 13th Street, Boulder; 303.736.2879}

Star Feature: Most Traditional

Best Broth (Tied) // Best Atmosphere/Space (Tied)

This multilevel ramen shop in Boulder claimed a choice spot in the college town where education comes first. Since the word gaku translates roughly into “learning” or “education,” it makes the perfect addition to the booming CU eatery scene, whether you’re a ramen expert or (especially) if you’re a ramen beginner. “The genesis of the restaurant was our vision to bring delicious, real ramen to college students and college towns,” reads the Gaku menu. “[We are] committed to offering authentic, Japanese ramen.” The spacious spot is coming up on its one-year anniversary in Boulder, though its sister location in Burlington, Vermont, will turn four later this year—and there’s certainly a lot to celebrate. For one thing, every customer is greeted with an “Irrasshaimase!” from the staff, welcoming ramen lovers in, old or new. For another, the Karaage here is unique in that it is marinated in a soy, garlic, and ginger marinade before frying, resulting in a tasty starter that can only be found at Gaku. And, of course, the main feature is something truly special. Gaku’s ramen is our favorite for Most Traditional because it sticks to the basics: properly in-house steeped broth and appropriately paired noodles, with basic toppings that are buildable for the more experienced ramen connoisseurs. The Tonkotsu, in particular, is the “hardest flavor profile to perfect,” which is why Gaku is especially proud of using its own overnight pork stock to create a deliciously light and creamy broth, paired expertly with specific Tonkotsu noodles and tender spirals of pork. Our suggestion? For lovers of flavor (and, well, mushrooms), add-in the miso-marinated mushrooms—they hold a spectacular flavor that will convert even the most fungus-adverse guests.

East Tao Ramen

{955 Lincoln Street, Unit I, Denver; 720.667.1190}

Crispy Chicken Ramen

Star Feature: Best Happy Hour/Lunch Spot

Chic and Modern Downtown Space // Full Bar

Whether looking for a quick workweek lunch or a final stop after some downtown shopping, you’ll find what you need at East Tao. Located street-level as one of the shops at the Beauvallon, East Tao Ramen can cater to every need, be it a swanky weekend dinner or a mid-week pick-me-up. With a wide and varied menu of Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese fare, the ramen shop fits in well with the hustle and bustle of Lincoln Street. Be sure to sample the Cha Shao ramen especially if you’re a pork fan, because this dish not only serves local pork belly, but it’s some of the choicest meat ever featured in a ramen dish. Our other recommendations include the Kimchi or Golden Tofu ramen, which both serve equally as unique plays on the traditional Japanese country food. Enjoy the upscale setting and friendly service, sit back, and relax with a delicious bowl of ramen and a cocktail to match.

A LOOK INTO 2020 RAMEN:

JINYA Ramen Bar | Slated to open in Denver in Spring 2020

North America’s largest ramen chain will open its first location in the Denver area across from Union Station in Spring 2020. JINYA references the historical estate of the samurai and community meeting point, and the elevated ramen concept embodies this principle, intended to be a cozy, neighborhood spot for lively, social gatherings. JINYA is known for its slow-cooked approach to ramen, made from broths simmered for 10 hours in-house. The ramen-focused menu features 13 signature bowls with more than 20 toppings, allowing for countless combinations. From its customizable menu to sleek interiors, JINYA provides a modern, approachable take on Japanese dining.