More than a few people seem to be wondering of late, when did ramen because such a trendy dish? It does seem odd that food nerds, restaurant industry folks, and the like have such a craving for something that used to be seen as a cheap late-night or early morning fix for hungry college students returning from a drinking jag or an evening of clubbing. But ramen is indeed big now, going well past the days of 99-cent meals in tiny dorms and moving on to some of the most popular restaurants in the Boston area—and some not-so-popular spots, such as a little eatery in Quincy’s Wollaston neighborhood called Hakata Ramen. Never heard of the place? It appears that you’re not the only one.
While North Quincy is becoming increasingly known as a destination spot for Asian food, neighboring Wollaston is beginning to make a name for itself as well, with an interesting mix of dining spots featuring Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean fare. Hakata Ramen resides in the heart of the neighborhood (near where Hancock Street, Beale Street, and Beach Street meet), and like many storefronts in Wollaston, it is a tiny and unassuming place that is easily overlooked. The interior of Hakata Ramen is simple but attractive and has a slight rustic feel to it, with a few tables spread around the sole room, a counter in the middle for takeout orders, and a very small sushi bar with four seats in the back right section of the space. Because of its lack of room, the restaurant can get crowded quickly, which makes takeout a not-so-bad option for those who live nearby—though if you don’t live nearby, be forewarned that the relatively fatty pork-based ramen broth can thicken up a bit as it cools down.
Unlike some ramen places, Hakata Ramen has a lot more than just ramen, including yakitori, sushi, teriyaki and curry dishes, tempura, and sushi burritos, with this last seeming to be a particularly hot item in the Boston area these days. But ramen seems to be mostly front and center here, with most options having the aforementioned pork bone broth that adds a lot of flavor to the ramen. A few of the highlights at Hakata include a spicy miso ramen that gets increasingly hot as it is eaten—though not so much as to overwhelm the dish; a chicken teriyaki ramen, which is a better choice for those who don’t like highly spiced items and which includes lean chicken with a moderately zesty marinade; a pork katsu ramen with strips of delicious pork and has the black mushroom, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, spinach, and egg that many of the other ramen choices have here as well; a moderately hot kimchi ramen that includes chashu (sliced braised pork belly); and a spicy tofu ramen that also comes with chashu. Hakata Ramen does not have a liquor license, but it does have some interesting nonalcoholic options such as chrysanthemum tea and a lychee soft drink. Prices for the ramen dishes are moderate, ranging between $9 and $14.
Hakata Ramen joins the ever-growing ramen craze without feeling like it has jumped on the craze just for the sake of it; instead, this Quincy spot feels like a real-deal place that is mainly frequented by Asian and Asian-American diners who are simply looking to get a taste of some authentic food and that’s about it. And this is what makes Hakata so appealing in a way: It feels like it could have been in this space for many years before ramen became trendy, which is about as far from the truth as possible, as the restaurant has only been around since 2015. There are a lot of great options for Asian fare in both Wollaston and North Quincy, and Hakata Ramen is perhaps one of the best of the lot—especially if you’re a fan of inexpensive comfort food that’s perfect for a chilly day or night.
HAKATA RAMEN. 673 HANCOCK ST., QUINCY. HAKATARAMENJAPANESE.COM