Late Night Ramen



Like many Americans, for much of my life, “ramen” was synonymous with 25 cent dried noodle soup that you made for yourself when you were home sick from school or when you finally made it to college and that’s all you could afford for lunch.

It turns out ramen is a much more diverse and interesting food style than that. In Japan, ramen is a cheap, tasty, relatively healthy, and very quick lunch or dinner for a busy salaryman or student. There’s another aspect to this that is much more fun.

Traditionally in an izakaya dining experience, you’ll finish the night with a noodle or rice dish in order to fill up after the otsumami (small drinking snacks) courses. An alternative that’s quite popular with many Japanese drinkers, is to stop off for a bowl of late night ramen. Typically these ramen shops will be packed with happily drunk people slurping bowls of soup while chatting boisterously with lots of laughter.

Something that you’ll notice, though, is that many of the diners will not be drinking beer with their ramen (a personal favorite combination of mine), but water or nothing at all. These late night ramen stops are to help everyone sober up a bit before the trip home and get a little something in their stomachs so they sleep better. Having a beer with the soup would defeat this purpose.

An upside to taking this approach to a night out at New York izakayas is that some of the top ramen shops, which often have very long waits during lunch or dinner, are much less crowded late night. After a recent night out with friends for a birthday party, we ended up at Ippudo with almost no wait. That’s never happened before. It’s worth checking to see if your favorite ramen shop is open to feed your late night craving.

As NYC has been experiencing a ramen boom, an interesting thing has begun happening. Japanese restaurants that don’t serve ramen on their regular menus have begun having “secret ramen” pop up menus where you can go have ramen after the regular dinner service has finished. Perhaps the best I’ve had thus far is at Ushiwakamaru, a high end sushi place on Houston Street. There’s no mention of late night ramen on their menu. There’s no mention on their website. Their hours of operation are only until 11pm most nights. And yet, if you see a little red lantern hanging outside after midnight, you can walk in and have a fantastic bowl of ramen. There are several styles to choose from, but I prefer the seafood ramen they offer. It’s got a generous helping of clams, crab meat, and seaweed.

So there you have it. Another facet to izakaya life that continues to expand in the US. If you haven’t had the pleasure, do so soon. Late night ramen is a great way to end the night.

If you know of any other late night pop-up ramen places, please say so in the comments. 1 or 8 in Williamsburg does this as does Wasan in the East Village. Any place else you can think of?



3 Responses to “Late Night Ramen”
  1. I LOVE IPPUDO!!!!11!1!11!!!

  2. Mike says:

    Seo on east 49th has late night ramen, but I haven’t had it. We were trying to find ramen on a weeknight but arrived too early, it is only served after 10 or 11pm.

  3. Nothing compares to an event night when one stumbles into the right noodle shop at the right time with the right company and enjoys the right bowl of hot ramen. This is much easier to do when one lives in Japan.

    In Chicago Chinatown recently it was a near miss for me at Joy Lee’s Noodle, but it was close enough to be great fun (Am I correct, Mingshu?). And sometimes one gets lucky. We did. Mingshu said, “They don’t sell shochu or sake here, but they will let us bring in our own bottle. Fortunately we were practically next door to Chinatown Place Liquor. Kampai. LaMonte Heflick, ASP Sake Education Council Feb 2014

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