The Unvegan

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‘Ramen’

Ramen Hood’s Grand Opening

Nommin’ on some ramen.

When I left LA to move to Phoenix I had one major concern. No, it wasn’t the heat in the summer, it was the lack of ramen. You see, LA spoils you with a lot of Asian food, but ramen is easily one of the best of them. People go through life only knowing ramen from a dry cup and I feel terrible for those people, but is it better to have ramen and lost it than to never have had ramen at all? Lost or not, ramen has returned to my life in the form of Ramen Hood in Scottsdale. I headed out for the grand opening to see if it would fulfill my needs.

A Shady Bowl of Ramen at Umami

Such a combo!

Arizona State University is home to about 90,000 students, and while they don’t all go to the main campus in Tempe, that is unbelievably massive. So, I figured they had to have some good ethnic food because when you throw out such a wide net the students can’t all be white. Thus, when given the option of a couple of different ramen spots, I picked Umami in Tempe because I thought it had a better chance of being good than one in another area. Plus, school was out for summer and that always helps.

Porked Up Japanese at Momofuku Noodle Bar

A ramen of many colors.
A ramen of many colors.

In the world of ramen, Los Angeles generally dishes out some of the best in the country. Yet, New York may have produced one of the most famous. Momofuku Noodle Bar is by no means known for traditional ramen, but its success has spawned other Momofuku offshoots in New York and even internationally. Thus, when I found myself hungry at an off-peak hour I decided I had to take the opportunity to hit up the noodle bar.

All About That Skull at Ramen Tatsunoya

Perfection.
Perfection.

Pasadena isn’t exactly known for being at the forefront of the food world. Often a restaurant finds success elsewhere in LA and decides Pasadena is a good outpost for a sequel. You could say that is the case with Ramen Tatsunoya, which first found success in Japan, then as a popup in Torrance, but Pasadena was officially chosen as it’s first location for a long-term foray into the United States. The incessant¬†hour-long line out the door proves that this wasn’t a bad idea.

A Solid Bowl at Orochon Ramen

View from the top.
View from the top.

It’s pretty well-known that Little Tokyo is now home to some of the best restaurants in LA. One of these is better-known for their spicy ramen challenge perhaps moreso than how good their ramen actually is. This place is Orochon Ramen, which can be found in one of Little Tokyo’s mini malls and I set out to try their non-crazy-spicy ramen to see how it held up.

Asian Fusion at Grit & Grace

Kinda like dim sum.
Kinda like dim sum.

EDIT: Grit & Grace is now a noodle bar, but I’m guessing it is just as delicious as before.

While some parts of the country might have Asian fusion around every corner, Pittsburgh has (most likely for the better) avoided much of this. There is, however, a spot downtown called Grit & Grace that has welcomed that sort of cuisine. It starts with a little something they call American Dim Sum. It’s nothing at all like actual dim sum aside from the fact that it is in small servings, but it is quite delicious. We had some of the Pork Belly Bites (with orange, chili, garlic and ginger) and Kimchi Balls (with rice and cheese). They were both incredible, and the balls surprisingly so because I have a rational hatred of kimchi and these tasted nothing like it.

A Bowl of Awesome at Daikokuya

It's like the inside is outside.
It’s like the inside is outside.

In all my time living in LA I had one major failure. Well maybe more than one failure, but one of them is not making a trip to Daikokuya. Fortunately, that ramen spot set up an outpost over in Little Little Tokyo. It has a crazy wait, but when you step inside it feels like you’ve really stepped onto a street in Japan (as evidenced by that picture to the left inside the place).

Don and Ramen at Tampopo

Spicy for reals.
Spicy for reals.

Down in Gardena and Torrance, it’s hard to turn a corner without spotting a ramen shop. So when my coworkers and I set out for some Hakata Ramen Shinsengumi and found the line to be too long, it wasn’t hard to get our ramen fix elsewhere. That led us to Tampopo in Gardena. Tampopo may have a good amount of ramen on their menu, but they reminded me of an old-fashioned Japanese izakaya moreso than a simple ramen restaurant.