You can get a side of Korean chile with your spicy-chicken bowl.

For an embarrassingly long stretch of time, my view of ramen was shaped by the plastic-wrapped oblongs of dried noodles with a salt-riddled seasoning pack found in the soup aisle at the grocery store. Then my youngest daughter took me to a hipster ramen joint in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the scales fell from my eyes.

Ramen O Ramen, located in Star Ranch Plaza, sits just a few doors away from its sister restaurant, Sushi O Sushi (which we last reviewed in 2014). This shop’s simple and straightforward goal: big bowls of noodles in delicious broth.

The pork-based chashu broth has a lip-smacking quality, managing to be light but robust at the same time. Good news for the plant-based crowd: There’s a vegan broth, too, and it shines, giving me taste bud flashbacks to Thanksgiving. The flavorful broth uses lots of vegetables — carrots, celery, onion and ginger, which add a lovely depth.

Both broths have several flavor options, including miso, spicy miso, shoyu (soy sauce) or tomato. Each one I tried was delicious, although I think the ultimate combination would be spicy with tomato, for something a little different. Not sure what to choose? I saw the extremely friendly and knowledgeable staff offer a new customer samples of some of the broths so she could better choose which one suited her. 

Once I settle on the base broth to hold the bountiful bowl of chewy noodles, I have to choose a topping. Each bowl already comes adorned with half of a perfectly cooked hardboiled egg, a cheerful pinwheel slice of fishcake, fresh spinach leaves, sliced green onions, and a handful of crunchy fresh bean sprouts, which add snap and freshness.

First up, chashu pork. The meltingly tender pork is sliced thin enough to handle easily with chopsticks or the deep-bowled soup spoon. The also-tender chicken is flat-out amazing. Ordered  plain, you can taste the slightly sweet and salty marinade accenting the natural flavor. But the spicy option takes the chicken to a whole new level. The earthy, familiar flavor immediately reminds me of one of my favorite Korean chicken dishes. Sure enough, when I inquire, I’m told they use a Korean chile powder on the chicken — and you can order a side to go with any bowl of ramen you order.

Amping things up, I try the kimchi with the spicy miso broth. The vegan kimchi (no fish sauce!), made in-house, presents a perfect, crunchy, earthy counterpoint to the soup. It comes on the side, allowing diners to add it to their liking. I end up dumping the juice from the kimchi into my bowl for even more flavor. The spicy miso broth is exactly that, giving an electric buzz to the big bowl of comforting noodles.

Filling as a giant comforting bowl of noodles can be, Ramen O Ramen also offers a couple of side dishes. The shumai disappoints, with both the wrapper and filling being overly soft, although the shrimp have a great fresh flavor. The seaweed salad, vivid green, presents the crunchy/chewy texture of seaweed dressed with a lightly sweetened sesame dressing and a sprinkle of sesame


The next time the need for comfort food presents itself, I now have a ramen joint that isn’t full of hipsters, but delivers on flavor and satisfaction.