Sunday, April 10, 2016
Strings Ramen in Lincoln Park. They also have a location, which is also their original, in Chinatown. The location of the Lincoln Park location is a little confusing to find. The sign for the restaurant is in front of a brownstone two-flat with an elevated first floor. It made sense to me that the restaurant was on the main floor, but after walking up the stairs, I saw a sign on the door that said, "Strings Ramen - Downstairs", so I went to the basement unit and found the restaurant. The space unsurprisingly looked like a basement with a low ceiling and high windows, but it was fairly nicely done. The space was pretty open with a long bar on one side, which, I saw was not a bar as such, but a serving counter as the restaurant is a BYOB. The lights were hanging lights that looked like Chinese lanterns and everything was done in light colored woods. Seating was all at high top tables for four (plus the counter) with a banquette on the wall opposite the bar/counter. The menu at Strings features the four standard ramens, Shoyu (Mushroom Broth), Shio (Sea Salt Broth with Chicken or Turkey Stock), Miso, and Tonkotsu (Pork Broth), but they also have premium versions of each and Hell Ramen which features five levels of hotness. While the Hell Ramen sounded interesting, I went with the premium Miso Ramen which included King Crab Leg, Bean Sprouts, Asari (Clam), Scallions, Shichimi (Seven Color Chili Pepper), Black Sesame, Nori, and diced Kuro Buta (Berkshire Pork). We also ordered Soft-boiled Eggs to cut into the ramen, because the egg yolk adds a richness to the broth. While it did taste good and there were peppers in the broth, it was still pretty bland. On the table was a couple of hot pepper mixes that you could add to make the ramen spicier or you could get a half mix of the peppers used in the hotter Hell Ramens. We ordered one of these and it very definitely helped. After adding the pepper mix, I really enjoyed the ramen. The crab leg was split so it was easy to get to the meat and there were plenty of small shrimp and clams. The Kuro Bota was bite sized and tender and also added a little richness.
While this is not the absolute best ramen that I have ever had, it is good, especially after adding some of the hot pepper mix, and is well worth returning. It is low key and friendly and the waiter was very helpful.