Shokudo Namae (食堂なまえ) has been serving tasty ramen in Kitakata since 1972. They happen to be one of the highest ranked ramen shops in Japan too.
Shokudo Namae - Kitakata's Finest
Let's first set the scene. Kitakata City in Fukushima prefecture is home to more ramen shops per capita than anywhere else in Japan. To say that Kitakata residents like ramen is a gargantuan understatement.
Amid this dramatic ramen backdrop, Shokudo Namae managed to stick out. It's one of the highest ranked ramen shops in Kitakata and one of the highest ranked in all of Japan. It's even part of Tabelog's (think Yelp) top 100 East Japan ramen shop list.
Ramen with Insanely Thick Noodles
The ramen in Kitakata City is often defined by a clear, relatively light soup. The soup is usually pork bones but can include ingredients like fish. This is the case at Shokudo Namae - they use both pork bones and dried fish.
Another distinguishing feature of Kitakata ramen is thick, wavy noodles with a lot of water content. This extra water gives them extra springiness and a fun chewiness. Shokudo Namae serves these kind of noodles in their standard Kitakata ramen (which they call "chuukasoba".
But there's an option to get even thicker noodles, or "gokubuto teuchimen". These thicker, hand-pressed noodles are some of thickest I've seen in any ramen.
To summarize, we have a light soy sauce seasoned soup with noodles as thick as ropes!
In terms of toppings, it's hard to miss the big slices of pork belly. It's common to see them arranged this way in Kitakata ramen. The remaining toppings are negi (spring onions), menma (bamboo shoots), and naruto (fish cake).
A Ramen Hut?
Shokudo Namae is tiny. It looks more like a ramen hut than a ramen shop. But on the inside, you'll feel like you're part of something special.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of ramen in Kitakata. The city is like the ramen world's version of Disneyland. But among the many ramen shops there, Shokudo Namae really sticks out...thick noodles included.