Credit: Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

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In 2008, a friend from Los Angeles told me there was more to ramen than the cup-of-noodle instant soups my mom had served me as a kid. I didn’t believe him. Four years later, a not-insubstantial number of my dining-out ventures in D.C. involve plunging my face into bowls of tonkatsu broth. I’m not the only one: Lines at the uber-cool Toki Underground, which opened in 2011, remain no joke, and the openings of Sakuramen and Taan this year have done little to alleviate the demand (the wait on Taan’s first night was more than two hours). Even Kramerbooks’ menu includes ramen these days. The allure of the broth-meat-noodle bowl isn’t limited to the Japanese derivation: Consider Pho 14’s two-pronged expansion into Adams Morgan and Van Ness, and the resounding salivation over more widespread, sodium-laden dining options. This year, all of these slurp-engendering options moved from unknown to novelty to a routine culinary choice.