1) 2 Nixons
Location: Pop-up spots vary but include Revelry Brewing (10 Conroy St.) on Sunday evenings
The draw: For the most creative ramen in Charleston, chef Jeffrey Stoneberger obsesses about every detail, especially the toasted wheat noodles. “Preparing them by hand is extremely difficult in Charleston’s humidity,” he says. For consistency, Stoneberger has his own recipe made by the folks at Sun Noodles—the same outfit that supplies noodle heavyweights David Chang and Ivan Orkin.
Don’t miss: Innovative broths incorporating ingredients like local blue crab and benne seeds
More info: twitter.com/2nixons
2) Two Boroughs Larder
Location: 186 Coming St.
The groundwork: Josh and Heather Keeler had a craving for ramen in 2011. But when they couldn’t find the perfect bowl, they set about creating one for themselves. Per Josh, “It took about six months to get the durum flour eggless noodles right. We broke three Kitchenaids trying to do it!”
DIY: The pork-based dish hookds diners up daily, but Thursdays offer a wider selection of ingredients for build-your-own bowls for build your own bowls.
More info: twoboroughslarder.com
3) Aya Cookhouse
Location: 915 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Mount Pleasant
Go for: The time intensive pork-based tonkotsu broth on the dinner menu, adapted from an old family recipe
Order up: Wednesday is $5 Ramen Night; choose from a vegetarian shiitake-mushroom-based broth, salt broth (shio), soy broth (soya), tonkotsu, and a red miso broth. Then add shrimp, fried chicken, pork, or tofu, plus fresh veggies.
More info: ayacookhouse.com
4) Stereo 8
Location: 951 Folly Rd., James Island
Layer by layer: At this music-driven eatery, the ramen broth takes two days to make and involves a long (really long) list of staged ingredients. Add to that crispy pork, shiitakes, green onions, sprouts, cilantro, and a soft egg, and you’ve got a kickin’ bowl of flavor.
The inspiration: Chef Matthias Quinn Gerke’s broth is a recreation of those he enjoyed at ramen houses while growing up on the West Coast. “I carried the taste memory with me for years,” he says.
More info: stereo8restaurant.com
5) Xiao Bao Biscuit
Location: 224 Rutledge Ave.
The story: Chef Josh Walker visited Tokyo and drew inspiration from “the younger generation of chefs putting their own spin on ramen.”
A new spin: Despite an ever-changing menu, noodle bowls make regular winter appearances. “This year, we’re working with ingredients from local Fili-West Farms to develop a light broth with a touch of miso and tempura-fried chicken on the side.”
More info: xiaobaobiscuit.com
Been to our top five? Try these additional spots serving up tasty noodle bowls.
Location: 1035-B9 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Mount Pleasant
We all adored Chef Sean Park when he helmed downtown’s O-Ku, and we followed him to Mount Pleasant where he opened his own place along Highway 17. The sushi master moves quietly between kitchen and sushi bar as his daughter waits on guests (in between bouts of homework). Generous ramen bowls use a base of either savory miso broth, or Park’s signature silky tonkotsu—a rich, milky broth drawn from long-cooked pork bones, a process which breaks down natural collagens into suspended liquid, akin to drinking liquefied pork belly.
More info: kanpai777.wix.com/kanpairestaurant
Location: 340 King St.
Chef Masa insists that the most important factor in great ramen is the quality of the broth itself. And this sleek pan-Asian restaurant on King makes its pork-based broth from scratch on a slow simmer, then piles on egg noodles, bok choy, fresh herbs, and a poached egg, plus a five-spiced pork belly and fish-sauce-infused shredded pork, giving the ramen a distinctly Vietnamese taste.
More info: eatatco.com
8) Riso Noodle House
Location: 1890 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.
Tucked in a strip mall in West Ashley close to Citadel Mall, Riso Noodle House serves up a light chicken-based broth comprised of dashi and slow-cooked chicken bones with daikon, ginger, and onions, then flavored with bonito flakes. “Bonito is a dried, smoked fish with lots of natural flavor,” says Chef Ricky Tin. “Our broth isn’t really traditional—it’s closer to a Chinese broth.” He then adds dry noodles, roast pork, soft boiled egg, peas, carrots, dry green onions, a springy fish cake, and dried seaweed for a hearty bowl.
More info: risonoodlehouse.com
9) Myles and Jun Yakitori
Location: 710 Bacons Bridge Rd., Summerville
Summerville boasts an authentic Japanese char grill worth the short drive from downtown, especially if you seek yakibuta-style ramen with sliced pork or shoyu broth with chicken meatballs or tempura shrimp.
More info: mylesandjunyakitori.com
Location: 41 George St.
Set on George Street near the College of Charleston, Menkoi serves late-night studiers and partiers by staying open until 2:30 a.m. on school nights and 3 a.m. on weekends. (You can also hit it up for lunch and dinner.) The array of broths can be dizzying; go for the spicy tonkotsu with added chili. Fresh and bouncy noodles are made from scratch two hours away; service is quick, and prices are reasonable.
More info: facebook.com/menkoicharleston