Michelle learned to love ramen as a teenager, growing up in Singapore and traveling around Asia with her family. Brian is newer to the scene: He didn't even try instant ramen in college. Together, they're hunting for DFW's best ramen.
The Shop: Maki Boy in Irving
The Atmosphere: A Christmas wreath hangs in the front entryway at Irving's Maki Boy, and the cash register is adorned with little stuffed Christmas penguins wearing knit scarves. The mint bowl is an old Halloween bucket. Someone has painted flowers and birds on the walls, then surrounded them with framed photos of coral reefs. A slot machine in the corner emits a steady tenor beat, and the restaurant speakers loudly blare a Zumba workout playlist. The private dining room's curtain has talking cartoon cats. Above the bar, there's a single bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut, with a little sign saying NOT FOR SALE. Right next to the Veuve is a Turkish flag, which makes sense, because the owners are Korean.
So basically the atmosphere is perfect and we love it.
Service: Order at the register and they'll bring your stuff out. If you plan on sampling the bar's impressive range of Asian beers, sit at the counter to ogle the collection and more easily get the staff's attention.
What We Ordered: The $8.95 sushi/ramen combo meal. There are two kinds of ramen, miso and spicy seafood, and if you order the combo your "mini" bowl is served with 10 pieces of sushi. "Mini" is a word which, at Maki Boy, means "still too big to finish." The sushi is chef's choice. Michelle ordered the miso ramen combo, and Brian got the spicy seafood ramen.
You can get other standard fare, too, like udon, bento boxes, and specialty sushi rolls. Plus, Maki Boy has a liquor license and knows how to use it. Pro tip from Michelle's husband about the Korean beer Hite: "It is not good. I will save you the trouble. It is not good."
All meals come with free appetizers at a little salad bar. Stock up on pickled ginger and lemon for your sushi, grab some kimchi, or do what we do and pig out on the delicious marinated broccoli.
The Ramen: The spicy seafood ramen is loaded with scallops, shrimp, clams, imitation crab leg, and a tiny baby octopus, none of them overcooked. There's some squash and seaweed, too. The broth is pretty damn spicy. If you're one of those True Texans who chomps habaneros like chewing gum, there's sriracha on hand for you, but most mortals will be plenty happy with the spice level. By the end, Brian felt warm and woozy, but burned out. This bowl was very, very salty.
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The miso ramen isn't loaded with much of anything -- a few pieces of squash, a single piece of imitation crab, some miso chunks, seaweed flakes, and green onions. The broth is oversalted to make up for underlying blandness: no meat flavor in the broth, and definitely no nuances of garlic or ginger. The noodles were equally bland and slightly overcooked. Opt for the heartier, more flavorful spicy seafood ramen or a bowl of udon instead.
Maki Boy has its hits and misses, but that's not too bad for $8.95. Our favorite things were the broccoli, the atmosphere, and the fact that we got so much food for the cost of a single Uptown sushi roll. But with such salty broth and no pork option, this ramen won't be winning our loyalty.
Recommended if: your office is in Irving, you're pescatarian, and your coworkers-who-lunch are cheapskates.
Maki Boy, 3455 N. Belt Line Rd, Irving, 972-252-7400. $7.50 chicken udon, $8.95 ramen/sushi combo