Updated: Apr 19, 2021
181 NE 2nd Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33444
Chances are if you have been to college and don't come from a wealthy background you're familiar with Ramen. To many of the uninitiated Ramen often falls into the category of "struggle meal." I had many instances where Ramen was my go to meal because either my financial aid wasn't disbursed yet, I was pulling an all-nighter and needed a quick snack, or I had a cold or flu and needed an easy meal. However, attending college in Gainesville also blessed me with the opportunity to experience true Ramen, which is by no means a struggle meal, and considered by many to be the ultimate comfort meal. Now whenever I have the opportunity to savor some high end ramen, its a must for me.
This location is consistently rated one of the best Ramen places in Palm Beach County. After visiting this restaurant twice I have to agree. I believe the chef is also the owner because he was the only one running the restaurant both times I visited. There is a varied assortment of broth styles ranging from the common Tonkotsu, Shouyu, and Miso to specialty broths of vegan and oxtail. You also have the ability to choose the strength of your broth. Pictured above I went with my typical choice which is Tonkotsu (a pork broth), but Ramen 369 offers a Shouyu variant of the traditional Tonkotsu which is basically Tonkotsu with soy sauce mixed into the broth. I ordered the strong version of this broth and it was absolutely incredible. This was the second best bowl of Ramen I've had and definitely the best in South Florida.
The broth was hot but not hot enough to burn my tongue as I slurped the noodles. (Please be sure to slurp your Ramen noodles it is actually proper etiquette for this cuisine) All the spices and vegetables added great visuals, aroma, and flavor to the dish. The chashu pork belly was extremely tender and had a great charred smoky flavor to it. I believe the noodles are homemade and had a great bite to them. If I had one criticism when it came to actual taste it would be that I would have preferred the ramen egg yolk slightly creamier but honestly there's no need to nitpick with such a great tasting bowl of Ramen. The chef is simply put an artist.
My Flavor Ruling:
This subject area is a bit tricky because as I mentioned earlier I have visited this location twice and I had two very different experiences service wise. Eating here can be a bit intimidating your first time because it's not a traditional dining experience. You walk in and on your right you will see the menus posted on the wall with a couple of tablets below the menus. You order your food through the tablets. However, since there is only one person working in the restaurant there's no host to walk you through the process or explain any of the dishes to you. So, if you're not familiar with technology or Ramen in general this can be a slightly anxiety inducing experience. After you put your order in you grab your seat at the bar and can watch the chef prepare everyone's Ramen. The first time I ate here there were multiple people being served so the chef was preoccupied with cooking the entire time and since Ramen can be a time consuming process it took a pretty long time before my party got our Ramen. The most recent visit was much different because I was the only person in the restaurant so my food came out much faster and the chef took some time to talk to me about my experience. So really, the customer service will boil down to how busy it is, which is understandable when you have one person manning the establishment. But, I did notice a sign that he was hiring so hopefully the service experience will improve with additional help. Another quick note because I'm not sure where to mention this but this seems the appropriate section for it, the hours the restaurant is open are a little unusual, so check to make sure they're going to be open whenever you decide to visit.
My Service Ruling:
The venue is definitely an experience I recommend but with a few caveats. I have never been to Japan (I hope to one day), but I have watched a couple food specials about the dining experience in Japan, and this place is modeled after a traditional Japanese Ramen shop. In my opinion, it is very cool to be able to get a taste of a different culture and lifestyle as you taste their cuisine. The owner was also playing some nice classical music, which was a nice touch to the experience. However, I did mention there are caveats. The location is relatively small, so if you want to go with a group of friends you need to hope it's not busy or be prepared to take the food to go, which is an option. Also, because the location is small and much of the space is taken up by the kitchen, it can get pretty hot in there if it's busy. Another potential problem is the venue is located in downtown Delray Beach so parking can definitely be an issue depending on the time of day you decide to get your Ramen fix. But I think at the end of the day being able to get a taste of a Japanese Ramen bar experience greatly outweighs the cons.
My Venue Ruling:
Value is the one area where Ramen 369, does not shine. To be fair, quality Ramen is not cheap. But even when comparing 369 to other Ramen places, I found that it is more expensive than most. I also don't like that the Ramen egg is a $2 add-on. This is the only Ramen place I've been to where the egg is not automatically included. I was not aware of this the first time I visited and that left me very disappointed the first time I ate here. After tax and tip 1 bowl of Ramen cost me $23. I'm not complaining, because I do know cooking Ramen is some definite labor, especially for 1 person, and the quality of ingredients with the great taste is definitely worth the price tag. But with that being said, Ramen 369 is not a value pick in my experience, its more of a special treat.
My Value Ruling:
If you're looking to experience Ramen in its authentic form and would like the added bonus of a Japanese Ramen bar experience please do yourself a favor and visit Ramen 369. In my opinion this is the best place to get Ramen in South Florida. I would not recommend going with a large group, but if you just want a great tasting bowl or Ramen, or a different type of date night this is a great option. Also, we've all seen many great businesses go under from the impact of Covid-19 and many of the casualties have been mom and pop style eateries, I am hoping the lack of business on my last visit was an outlier, but just in case, don't take too long to visit.