Columbus Park Ramen - Bonjwing-Lee

by Jenny Vergara

Where to Find The Hottest Bowls in Kansas City

Soups, ramen and noodle bowls of any kind are enjoyed as a way to comfort and warm the body. It is simply the best liquid medicine around. Got a cold or flu bug? A little itch in your throat? No better way to heal yourself than with a hot, steaming bowl of satisfying noodle soup.

Kansas City has a commendable amount of great Asian noodle soup spots. So, if you prefer soups with an ethnic heritage, full of flavor, ancient spice and a bit of heat, then we’ve got you covered.

A note about ramen: There can be no doubt that ramen is definitely having a moment in the Kansas City food scene. Ramen bars have been popping up all over the country fueled by the gospel of the noodle bowl by the likes of two chefs in New York City; David Chang and Ivan Orkin. Kansas City is not immune to ramen’s many charms, as we have one ramen shop currently open with lines out the door at Columbus Park Ramen Shop, and we have the soon-to-open Komatsu in Westport scheduled to open in 2016.

Now then, let’s dive deep into the hottest bowls in Kansas City:

Columbus Park Ramen Shop

“Breakfast by day and ramen by night” is the rallying cry for married chefs Josh and Abbey-Jo Eans, who opened their Columbus Park Ramen Shop in October 2015 in the 450-square-foot garage space behind their current breakfast-and-lunch spot, Happy Gillis Cafe & Hangout. Open for dinner only, when you arrive, simply write your name on the list, and then order a beverage, and wait for them to call your name when your table is ready. Once you are seated, get the daily pickle plate to enjoy with your ramen. Choose from four different kinds of ramen—tonkotsu, shoyu, kimchi and mushroom. To drink, choose from canned craft beer and jellied sparking sake, for the kiddos get one of their interesting Japanese sodas.

Columbus Park Ramen - Bonjwing Lee

549 Gillis St., Kansas City, MO, 816-492-5549

Vietnam Café

I first heard about Vietnam Café years ago, from Chef friends, who swore by the place. It is family run, friendly, cheap and delicious. You’ll be charmed by the inside of the place, as it still retains many of the original architectural features of the drugstore it used to be years ago. Located in Columbus Park, this is a fantastic pit stop to hit after you have shopped at The City Market downtown. The Pho is a stand-out here. An incredibly rich and flavorful broth is cooked with your choice of meat and served over noodles with fresh bean sprouts, sweet basil, cilantro, sliced jalapeno, and lime wedges on the side. Get your Pho on, seven days a week. Open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

522 Campbell St., Kansas City, MO, 816-472-4888

Iron Horse

Chef Peter Wong lived and cooked all over Asia, before landing in Los Angeles. There, in his restaurant at the time, he made special hand-pulled noodles for celebrities like Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis Jr. and even George Bush Sr. when he was Vice President. These days, Peter, his wife and family have made their home in Olathe, and for years have been quietly serving up the fresh hand-pulled noodles and delicious Asian dishes that earned him a stellar reputation all those years ago. Seriously, get any dish on the menu that comes with their noodles. Call 24 hours ahead of time to order the Beggar’s Chicken, a tender chicken is stuffed with vegetables, covered in tin foil, then dirt and clay and slow cooked, sealing in all of the juices inside the dish.

918 Old 56 Hwy., Olathe, KS, 913-829-9898

Sama Zama

Sama Zama in Westport

Owner Erika Koike opened her first restaurant, One Bite Japanese, in south JoCo, but she soon realized she needed to reach a more diverse and urban audience. Sama Zama, which means “varied” in Japanese, now calls Westport home. Her exposed and distressed brick walls and streamlined Asian décor seems much more of a fit on Westport’s new restaurant row. Looking for comfort in a bowl? Get her Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen (dine-in only) with its light, pork-based broth, topped with tender slices of pork over ramen noodles. Take the Spicy Ramen Challenge, and if you finished the entire bowl in 10 minutes or less, it’s free, and you get your picture on the wall.

425 Westport Rd., Kansas City, MO, 816-756-3600

Po’s Dumpling Bar

You are in good hands when the owner, Po Hwang, is your server and his wife, Ow, is in charge of the kitchen. Po’s is trying hard to cater to palates of all types, but ask the owner for his authentic Asian favorites on his menu and you will enjoy tender dumplings and home-cooked Chinese noodle bowls and dishes, just like, well, Po’s Mom used to make. Do not miss the Emperor’s Dumplings—get six pan-fried dumplings with savory filling of your choice. Pork with Preserved Cabbage Noodle Soup and Chicken Noodle Soup are both excellent, and will cure what ails you. Tell Po you like it hot and spicy and he will be happy to dial up the heat on any dish.

1715 W 39th St., Kansas City, MO, 816-931-5991

Big Bowl Pho

In 2014, chef Dom Wiruhayarn and his wife Marisa opened Big Bowl Pho next door to their Tasty Thai restaurant in Kansas City’s Northland to rave reviews. Despite the strip center it is located in, the inside of this restaurant shines like the jewel that it is. Make this your spot to grab a bite coming from or going to Kansas City International Airport. Get the Deluxe Pho that features rice noodles floating in a umami-rich, earthy broth filled with thin slices of beef shank, brisket and tendon with fresh herbs. The portions are generous, leaving you plenty to take home and enjoy for your next meal.

7106 NW Prairie View Rd., Kansas City, MO, 816-382-3488

iPho Tower Vietnamese-French Bistro

Owner Spike Nguyen opened his original location on Independence Avenue as Pho Hoa, but when he decided to open his second location on Broadway last spring, he renamed both locations iPho Tower. (Get it?) We stumbled in here on New Year’s Day looking for something to take the edge off our headache and his Spicy Bun Bo Hue did the trick. Made with pork broth and featuring slices of beef brisket and beef meatballs over vermicelli rice noodles, the soup has a fantastic depth and spice to it, with aromas of anise or five spice in the broth.

3623 Broadway and 1447 Independence Ae., Kansas City, MO, 816-531-2353

Nguyen Pho+Grill

Married couple Kim and Jack Nguyen decided to jump on the chance to open their new Nguyen Pho+Grill Vietnamese restaurant because they loved the bustling corner location, and as a bonus it is located right on the new streetcar line. Jack works the front of the house while Kim is in the kitchen cooking. This place serves up the couple’s family recipes featuring pho, vermicelli and bahn mi. Try their Combo Charbroiled Lemongrass Pork Vermicelli with shrimp and a crispy egg roll—it’s a sweet and sour take on the traditional noodle bowl. Want yours to go? Use the website to place and pay for your order before you pick it up.

500 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO, 816-569-2262

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