I’m not one to encourage hype. Hype turns something great into something mediocre. So when there was so much hype surrounding Toki Underground, the tiny ramen spot on H Street famous for its 3 hour wait, I said to myself, pass. I waited quite a while before attempting to visit Toki Underground but I finally did.
If you have commitment issues, then I don’t recommend Toki Underground for you. Because let me tell you coming here takes commitment. Unless you’ve made reservations weeks in advance, but even then the lottery feels more attainable than snatching reservations here.
The shop is hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The restaurant is above The Pug, look for the blue logo on the door. If you come early enough you may be able to get a shorter wait time like 30-45 mins, otherwise if you come during prime-time you’re waiting three hours.
So, what do you do to kill three hours? I recommend going to the Biergarten Haus across the street. Getting a boot or two and wait until you receive a text from the host that there is a spot open for you.
The interior of Toki Underground is small and intimate with stool seating surrounding the perimeter of the restaurant. There are no tables where you can face someone. The walls are covered with anime and there are shelves of character figurines protected in plastic cases. It’s what a traditional ramen shop should look like.
While waiting for your ramen I recommend getting an order of the steamed buns or the chicken wings. The buns are perfect to share as you can build your own little bun-dle of joy. It comes with chicken karaage, pickled radish, scallions and Japanese mayo. The wings come five to an order. They’re sweet, sticky, spicy and crunchy – everything you could ever possibly want in a wing.
Keep in mind that this is not Japanese style ramen, it is actually Taiwanese. So it would technically be unfair to compare it side-by-side to other favorite ramen spots in the city. If you want something more Japanese based you’re going to have to go to its Japanese counterparts. Your ramen at Toki Underground will have a full body broth instead of the more delicate clear both most people are accustomed to. That being said all the broths offered at Toki Underground are great, some better than others.
I have a feeling that the hype surrounding Toki Underground was because of it’s hard to get to location and long wait time. Meaning if you’ve been there, then people will know you’ve braved the three hour out of control popularity of the shop. Toki Underground is good, it is, and gets massive props for creating an authentic ambiance in a city that wants modernity.
Recommendations: The steamed buns are great to share. My favorite bowl is the Taipei Chicken Curry followed by the Vegetarian. Alt+f5 is my favorite cocktail thus far.
Pass: The miso butter cookies are not anything too special. Don’t get me wrong, the actual cookies are good especially with a refreshing glass of milk, but it’s just a basic cookie with some miso butter on the side.
When you should come here: When you’re flying solo or with just a friend or two. This is not a place you should stay for hours drinking and chatting up a storm. For a place this tiny, they rely on quick turnover so eat quick, and get out.
Verdict: Toki Underground is worth trying at least once. I think there is better ramen elsewhere in DC that is easier to get to and will have a better dining experience with friends.