Image: Underground Front (Door).
Last Updated: February 2022
Current Status: Open for sit-down, take-out and delivery. Reservations recommended on busy nights. Outdoor seating also available, but no reservations for those. They are also hosting a yakitori pop-up on Sundays.
Overview: Seating is at a winding counter that jumps across the paths that servers cut to hurry drinks and food around the room. It is cramped, and a din envelops the room. Random stickers are plastered everywhere, including the entrance that it shares with the dive(y) bar The Pug (though they may move soon). It is a perfect setting for the indulgent appetizers (Bao buns, dumplings) and big bowls of ramen. Pork is the centerpiece here, including in the base broth, though the chicken curry (among other items) gets rave reviews too. The broth is rich, and an added creamy egg adds extra depth and texture. Pieces of kale left to simmer till slightly wilting balance the flavors.
A bartender slings cocktails with a Japanese twist and pulls a limited choice of beers out of a freezer chest. Sake is also available. It all adds to the antithesis of a Covid-era dining spot with close quarters of young adults drinking and slurping, but it is also exactly what you might be craving after two years of living arms-length. And the ramen gives another comforting thing to crave. Take-out available if you are not comfortable dining in.
In the decade after Toki Underground opened in 2011, D.C. has built up a solid cast of ramen places – primarily from the Daikaya team, but also some smaller shops (not to mention an out-of-state chain). Toki deserves a huge amount of credit for that. Erik Bruner-Yang conceived Toki as an homage to the small shops in Taipei where he worked before coming to D.C. Bruner-Yang, of course, went on to great success (and sadly had a falling out with his Toki partners). That initial creative spark, however, changed D.C. dining and you can still taste why.
Eater DC: 2012 Restaurant of the Year
Michelin: Bib Gourmand. They were annoyed by the wait, but have not updated to note that reservations are now possible. Despite the fact they have added the Resy link right on the Toki page! Oh Michelin, if only you’d ask for help.
Food Network: It is a resident of Flavortown.