Cafe Water Should Be Renamed Cafe "Ramen"

Café Water on the corner of Water and Pine looks like a run-of-the-mill deli in almost every way — hot bar, salad bar, Wall of a Thousand Beverages, etc. — but tucked away in the back corner is a Lunch’er’s dream: A made-to-order ramen soup bar. For $5.95 you get a steaming quart of ramen-y goodness that you think you won’t be able to finish.

Oh, but you’ll finish it. And an hour later you’ll find yourself slumped over your keyboard, comatose but happy. Good ramen from a deli? Believe it.

As I type those words I can hear Zach’s eyebrows rising in disbelief, and just like midtown, downtown’s generic delis don’t have much about them to recommend. But this ramen really is a stand-out. Everything is cooked right before your eyes with fresh veggies and good meat and served so piping hot that I’ve burnt my mouth more than once in my eagerness to chow down.

Now, before you get any crazy ideas, these guys aren’t hand-rolling noodles back there. They’re using standard store-bought “ramen” packets so the noodles themselves are unspectacular to say the least, but they make up for that shortcoming in other areas. Every order gets a generous helping of vegetables — carrots, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and broccoli — and the broth is really well-seasoned.

And really well-salted. If you’ve got sodium issues, this is not the ramen for you. I also suspect our old friend M.S. Glutamate is hanging around as there is definitely a nice umami tang happening. But there’s broccoli in it, right? How can something with broccoli be bad for you?

And as if the presence of broccoli here didn’t tip you off, this place is in no way part of the new super-authentic Japanese noodle trend. Chris is actually the Japan expert, but I know enough about “real” Japanese ramen to assure you that this isn’t it. I don’t think that’s a mark against it in any way, I just don’t want to hear any whining about how “this isn’t really ramen.” Call it whatever you like, I think it’s tasty. A noodle by any other name…

There are some decisions to be made here. First you’ve got to pick between chicken, beef, vegetable, seafood, or kimchi (this last one’s high on my To Try list). Then white, medium, or spicy. And finally egg or no egg. I do spicy chicken ramen with egg. If you’ve never tried egg in ramen, I highly recommend giving it a shot. It doesn’t turn the whole thing into egg drop soup or anything, but gives it a nice extra protein-y kick.

Also, know that when they say spicy they mean spicy. Going the medium route here is no cop-out. The spicy broth leaves your Styrofoam cup bright red, so it’s probably not going to do great things for your insides if you have a sensitive stomach. If you like it hot, however, you’ll be a happy camper.

With the soup season upon us, this ramen is a great bet, but there’s also a lot more to try at Café Water. The kimchi ramen seems intriguing, they make tofu soups that look really good, there’s quality-looking sushi for relatively cheap, and the hot bar is always bustling. I’m planning some return visits, but for now, here’s your +/- on the ramen.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Every order is freshly made and served piping hot.
  • You get a big cup of soup for small amount of money.
  • Plenty of veggies and meat in each serving make for a filling lunch.
  • Great seasoning and serious spiciness mean this isn’t your standard deli noodles.

THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • The noodles are limp and lame. If they’re going to use packet noodles, could they at least not overcook them?
  • I don’t like salt and MSG and this tastes like lots of both. I feel like I’ve been pickled.
  • Has anybody heard of authenticity? This cup of soup may taste good, but traditional ramen it is not.

Café Water, 79 Pine St. (btw. Water+Pearl), 212-785-1320



  • Oh wow, thanks Kevin! I was just mourning the loss of Riverside Cafe/Deli the other day, because they were also a generic deli except in the back… where they had the Mongolian BBQ (with a huge selection- lots of seafood and stuff), bibimbap, ramen AND udon like you’re talking here… dammit, I miss Riverside. I’ll check this place out though. Great writeup.

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    That looks yummy and reminds me of the Ramen that they have at Delmonico Gourmet Deli on 41st and Lex. My favorite there is the spicy shrimp ramen. There’s enough shrimp in there for a 2 people.

  • Nice! Spicy ramen (despite being packaged ramen) with a hearty helping of vegs and meat sounds great! *drools*

  • It is made from instant pocket of ramen noodle it seems. The korean ramen noodle to be exact. They just added other stuff like egg and broccoli so I think $6 is a fair amount.

  • The soondubu jigae here is actually quite good as well.

  • Great job Kevin! I’ve been to both this cafe and have seen the area in the back, but didn’t realize it was something special. I used to hit it after leaving the gym at night when that back area is closed. Thanks. I’ve actually been to this cafe as well as Yvo’s beloved Riverside Cafe more than I care to admit. The closing of the Riverside Cafe was when the recession was really made personal to me and I also mourn it every time I pass by the shuttered up store, d4mn it.

  • For once I commend the down town-ers.

  • @mkim1206

    The noodles are instant definitely, but I’m pretty sure there’s something going on in the broth well beyond those seasoning packets. Could be wrong, but I think it’s true.

    And don’t forget the meat either. That may mean the veggie noodles are less of a good deal, but I’m still happy for my $6…

  • Sramn2205 you are the MAN!/WOMAN……..i was going to go there today after seieng this post…cuz i went last year but i forgot where it was…thanks!

  • Chris PLEASE visit Ajisen! they make yummy Ramen!
    My fave is the spare rib ramen with tea egg- Might need some today cuz its chilly today!!

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    Thanks Samwich (I am the woman btw :) Don’t forget to get the egg in it

  • I been to Ajisen in Flushing. They’re okay for a quick ramen fix. My fav has to be their Ajisen Deluxe ramen so far. The spicy pork wasn’t that good.

  • Today’s an excellent day for this except Riverside (RIP! I didn’t realize how much I <3'ed that place until it closed…) is across the street, Cafe Water is like 5-6 blocks away. Damn. IT.

  • My comment just got eaten?

  • yvo, howd it taste?

  • I wonder if they use packs of Shin Ramyun? Or just any generic Top Ramen stuff. ;P

  • does it matter…its Raman?….not Vodka…

    meanwhile don tlisten to me…im a Raman Noob.

  • StreetMeas – i’m 99% sure it’s Shin Ramyun.

  • eating the chicken tempura udon soup right now. this thing is huge!

  • Some koreatown sit down places were charging 3 bucks at one point for this with some paanchan

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