Perhaps better known on these shores for deep-dish pizza pies, Chicago served up some really excellent ramen.
After a failed attempt a couple of years ago, I eventually made it to Chicago! With only a few days in town I had a list of things that I wanted to check out, and I can confirm that windy city ramen was firmly on that list!
A good thing about having a close friend in town is being able to rely on their tried and trusted recommendations, so it was on Melissa’s advice that we headed to Gyuro Ramen in the West Loop district of the city.
Some ramen joints go for the minimalist zen vibe. Pale woods, uncluttered surfaces and whisper-volume instrumental music. Gyuro Ramen is NOT one of those places.
Think the neon lights of Akihabara or the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku’s Omoide Yokocho and you’re someway to the Gyuro Ramen ambience. On the wall, an oversized cartoon of Godzilla tucks into a bowl of noodles and paper lanterns dangle overhead.
This was also my first time (as far as I can remember) trying beef broth. It’s very common to see pork and chicken-based broths, and it’s not uncommon to see seafood- or vegetable-based soup. But I’ve not had beef-based ramen before so whilst there were also duck and seaweed-flavoured ramen it was a no-brainer, I needed to try the beef!
There is a long list of appetiser options. If I’d planned properly I’d have arrived hungrier so that I could try more than one, but as it was we shared a portion of Wagyu truffle wontons which were phenomenal.
There were a couple of different options for ramen and lots of customisations available, including different levels of spice and additional broth flavours. I’d like to have tried the creamy mushroom addition! However, I was in the mood to keep things a bit more simple, so went for the signature gyukotsu (translation: beef bone) ramen with extra fishcake slices because the vibrancy of the pink swirl brings me joy. Melissa ordered classic shoyu ramen with added corn. Each bowl came in at around $18, which feels on par with London ramen prices, but much more expensive than ramen in Japan.
Both bowls arrived very quickly and were served with soft-boiled eggs, thin noodles, green onion and bamboo shoots, as well as our additional toppings.
The gyukotso broth was smooth and creamy, bamboo shoots still retained some of their crunch and the charred edges of the thick slice of beef added a BBQ flavour. Melissa’s clear beef broth was lovely, and decidedly more healthy tasting.
Attentive service is great, but did feel a little rushed out of the restaurant – our bowls were cleared the instant that our chopsticks hit the table. I wouldn’t have minded that if there was a queue of customers, but it was early on a Monday evening and there were plenty of spare seats.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the ramen and would definitely return mostly to try more of the appetisers and would be tempted to splash out on the premium gyukotsu ramen for a whopping $30 to see if it’s worth the price.
Check out Gyuro Ramen on Instagram.