Mac with cheese, spaghetti with marinara, bowties with butter—the kids love pasta and you can prepare it in your sleep. But if you’re ready to stretch beyond the tried-and-true, go out for Japanese ramen. The kind we’re talking about is a traditional dish that consists of good-for-you (often wheat-based) noodles served in a flavorful broth and topped with anything and everything, from marinated pork to fresh veggies. Hungry yet? Here are six must-try noodle spots around D.C.

3141938218_444dfa1d22_zPhoto: caitlinswan via Flickr

This downtown Bethesda restaurant offers not only ramen, but also sushi, bento boxes and other noodle dishes. Edamame, goyza, miso soup, and avocado rolls make great appetizers to keep the kids busy until the main meal attraction arrives.  In addition to tonkotsu, Raku offers other noodle dishes for the kids.  Let them try the dashi broth, a clear noodle soup that comes with either udon (whole wheat noodles), or soba (buckwheat noodles) and add shrimp for a little protein.

Insider Tip: Make it a family date night by taking on a trip to Caroline Freeland Park or All Fired Up pottery studio before or after dinner.

7240 Woodmont Ave. (Bethesda, Md)
Open Mon.-Fri., 11:30 am-11:00 pm; Sat.-Sun., 12:00 pm-11:00 pm

tanpopo-ramenPhoto: Ayren Jackson-Cannady

Not only will the littles love saying the name of this ramen house—tan-po-po—they’ll also adore the super flavorful Miso Ton-Kotsu Ramen bowl, which includes miso flavored broth, garlic butter, corn and bean sprouts. The restaurant itself is teeny-tiny (go during the week to avoid long waits), but the portions are ginormous. You could easily split one bowl two ways and leave stuffed.

Insider Tip: Want to freshen up pre- or post-meal? The restroom is located outside the restaurant and is shared by other restaurants/vendors in the indoor strip mall.

4316 Markham St. (Annandale, Va)
Open: Tue.-Sun., 11:30 am-2 pm (lunch), 5 pm-9:30 pm (dinner)

ramenPhoto: Shelby Settles Harper

Sakuramen Ramen Bar
This Korean Japanese fusion restaurant in Adams Morgan is located downstairs from the main drag on 18th Street, making it a cozy place to take the kids. The gyoza, a pan-fried dumpling made with either pork or vegetables, makes a yummy kid-friendly appetizer, as do the steamed pork buns. Order the kids some tonkotsu, a pork-based ramen topped with various vegetables. One $13 bowl with extra pork (an additional $2.50) can serve up to three little ones.

Insider tip: Best to order it with little to no spices, so that the kids can feast on the noodles, soup and delicious pork without feeling the fire.

2441 18th St. NW (Adams Morgan)
Open Tues.-Thurs., 6:00 pm-10:30 pm; Fri.-Sat., 11:30 am-11:00 pm; Sun., 11:30 am-10:00 pm


Ren’s Ramen
There are four types of ramen at Ren’s, which is perhaps the most authentic of the “ramen-ya” joints in the D.C. area.  The first three all have a pork-flavored broth with additional bases of miso, soy sauce or salt.  The fourth, a seaweed broth with soy sauce, is good for vegetarians. All four types of ramen come with a variety of veggies (think: bamboo shoots and bean sprouts) and an optional slice of pork.  A basic bowl of ramen is $10 ($1 extra for vegetarian). Kids seem to favor the tonkatsu, or salt and pork-flavored broth, which is especially rich and delicious at Ren’s Ramen. One bowl with additional pork ($3.50) and some goyza appetizers can fill two little ones.

Insider Tip: Pre-feast, take the kids to the awesome Wheaton Regional Park, a five–minute drive from Ren’s Ramen, to work up a supreme appetite.

11403 Amherst Ave. (Wheaton, Md)
Open Mon.-Sat., 11:30 am-10:00 pm; Sun., 11:30 am-9:30 pm

screenshot-2016-12-19-at-2-31-12-amPhoto: Reony T via Yelp

Maneki Neko
Maneki-neko, which translates to “beckoning cat,” is a common Japanese figurine that is often believed to bring good luck to the owner.  This Falls Church restaurant of the same name is filled with these figurines, which kiddos freak out over. A basic bowl of ramen here is $8.95 and comes with vegetables and pork in a seasoned broth, drizzled with either miso or soy sauce.  One bowl is large enough to serve two small children.

Insider tip: Next door to Maneki Neko is Doodlehopper, a toy store that your kids will not want to leave.  If your tummy is grumbling, go after dinner. Consider yourself warned.

238 W Broad St. (Falls Church, Va)
Open Mon.-Fri., 11:30 am-10:00 pm

screenshot-2016-12-18-at-4-28-21-pmPhoto: Boru Ramen

Boru Ramen
Talk about slow cooking–the Ramen at this eatery is simmered for more than eight hours(!!) for a flavor burst kids love. The broth is then poured over one of five noodle combinations–from a spicy miso ramen (for the fire breather) to a milder braised pork belly bowl. If noodles aren’t kiddo’s thing, Boru also serves up rice bowls, edamame, gyoza and mochi ice cream. Yes. Please.

Insider tip: Wash it all down with a Japanese soda called Ramune or an iced green tea.

2915 Columbia Pike. (Arlington, Va)
Open Daily, 11 am-10:00 pm


Where does your family go for a noodle fix? Tell us in the Comments section below.

—Shelby Settles Harper and Ayren Jackson-Cannady