Bannai Shokudo (坂内食堂) might be the most famous ramen shop in Kitakata. We even have them to thank for Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai.
Bannai Shokudo - A Storied History
Bannai Shokudo was born in 1958 in Kitakata City, Fukushima Prefecture.
To say that Kitakata City loves its ramen is an understatement. They boast more ramen shops per capita than anywhere else in Japan. Bannai Shokudo is at the center of this.
Furthermore, ramen chain Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai, which has branches outside of Japan, has a strong historic connection to Bannai Shokudo.
The Kitakata Ramen
Kitakata Ramen is one of Japan's "Big 3" ramen styles. The other 2 are Sapporo Ramen and Hakata Ramen.
In Kitakata, shoyu (soy sauce) seasoned ramen is often the way to go. There are essentially 4 shoyu ramen choices at Bannai Shokudo:
Shina Soba (the standard ramen, pictured)
Negi Soba (extra spring onions)
Niku Soba (extra chashu pork)
Negi Chashu (extra spring onions and chashu pork)
The "Shiba Soba" already comes with everything you need. The soy sauce-powered soup is as clear as nearby Lake Inawashiro. It actually looks and tastes closer to a shio-powered (salt) ramen. The soup is only pork bones.
While light, it carries a rich flavor. The toppings are simple - chewy menma (bamboo shoots) and refreshing white negi (spring onions). But the topping highlight would have to be the soft slices of pork belly.
This is a common site in Kitakata ramen - a floral arrangement of pork.
Hiding below the pork are thick, water-filled Kitakata style noodles. These noodles have a certain bounciness to them. They're a joy to slurp.
Kitakata City is so obsessed with ramen that they eat it for breakfast. This is possible at Bannai Shokudo too. They're open every day except Thursday from 7 am to 6 pm.
In the above video, I'm doing just that - enjoying their ramen for breakfast!
Bannai Shokudo is a little more touristy than other Kitakata ramen shops. For one, they have English menus. But they're also popular with Japanese tourists. The fact that they have a lot of space contributes to this.
Therefore, some might say that the overall experience a bit more manufactured. Regardless of this, Bannai Shokudo serves great ramen. In summary, they deserve all the credit they've received up to now.
Shop Hours: 7 am ~ 6 pm (closed only on Thu)