June 20, 2016
Where to eat in Kitakata
Kitakata boasts over 130 stores to choose so you are spoilt for choice! Ask around or pick up one of the ramen guides to find one that appeals.
I only spent a weekend in Kitakata but I stretched my stomach to the max to aid you in your noodle quest. Six bowls of ramen later, I understood why they say Kitakata ramen really is different in every shop.
Wherever you decide to eat, it's clear that ramen is the modern day soul of Kitakata. There is even a ramen shrine. So don't forget to pay your respects before you leave.
The pioneer shop! The interior is decorated in a Chinese style – lots of red and gold – and there's a large signed photo of famous baseball player, Sadaharu Oh, as his father was a good friend of shop founder, Bankinsei. The standard bowl of chūka soba has a strong sardine flavor. The gyōza dumplings are very garlicky, and very popular. Everything is homemade. It takes five hours every night to prepare the 220 portions of noodles for the next day... and so, if the portions run out, they run out!
Address: 7745 Ippongiue, Kitakata-shi, Fukushima-ken
2 Shokudō Namae
Opened in 1972 by Kohei Namae, he can still be found in the kitchen with his wife cooking up ramen and other dishes. Nestled in a residential area, Shokudō Namae is well worth a visit. The soup is clear and salty, but with surprising depth in flavor. The sliced chashu is also excellent – sweet and tender. For those who like slightly firmer noodles, you can order the house specialty "gokubuto teuchi ramen" (fat handmade noodles).
Address: 7693-3 Eikyū, Kitakata-shi, Fukushima-ken
One of the older ramen stores, dating from 1948. Jinko Yamanaka, the third generation manager, employs a team of women, and the lighter broth they cook up makes the store popular with female customers. The taste is clear and comforting, and you definitely won't feel guilty for drinking it all up. The side dish of pickled daikon (white radish) is a wonderful addition and works to freshen the palate.
Address: 4650 2chome, Kitakata-shi, Fukushima-ken
4 Bannai Shokudō
One of the most famous stores in Kitakata – if you visit at lunchtime, you will definitely have to queue. Although the broth uses sardines and pork, the flavor is very light and quite close to salt ramen in taste. Interesting fact: the noodles at Bannai Shokudō are made at the factory Soga Seimen, but undergo a special process of "temomi" – hand-rubbing. This makes the noodles wavier, with a less smooth and uniform surface and width compared to purely machine made ones.
Address: 7230, Hosoda, Kitakata-shi, Fukushima-ken
Located slightly out of town, this is less a ramen restaurant than a full ramen sightseeing experience. There's a giant shop, a restaurant that seats 500 people and a noodle-making factory. Here you can see each step of the noodle production process, from the mixing to the rolling and pressing. The restaurant makes a soup using kelp from the Hidaka region, sardines, chicken, and pork bones in their soy sauce base.
Address: 48-2, Idojiri, Saikachi, Sekishibamachi, Kitakata-shi, Fukushima-ken
Text and photos: Phoebe Amoroso