Cheap Eats 2011: Toki Underground

With graffiti-painted walls and Taiwanese-cartoon figurines, this 23-stool shoebox is the epitome of Washington’s next restaurant generation: edgy, scruffy, loud. But customers don’t wait two hours on a Tuesday for the vibe–the ramen and dumplings coming from the kitchen are admirable.

Chef/owner Erik Bruner-Yang, 27, who spent a month apprenticing at a noodle shop in Taiwan, doesn’t take shortcuts. The base for most of his soups is a tonkotsu broth, which starts with pork bones simmered more than 24 hours. He makes dumpling wrappers in-house and whips up his own hot sauce–a four-alarm concoction similar to Sriracha.

Two people can make a meal from one big bowl of ramen (all five varieties are $10 each) and an order of dumplings (six for $5), which means a Cheap Eats budget can include cocktails. Good thing, because the seven-drink list is creative–you’ll see pepper-honey liqueur and shiso-lemongrass simple syrup–and delicious.

Also good: Pan-fried dumplings with pork or beef; classic ramen with pork loin, egg, and pickled ginger; nuttier-tasting miso ramen with pickled cucumbers, mushrooms, and seaweed; spicy kimchee ramen; passionfruit sorbet; Super Duper Car and Pizzacato Five cocktails.

Open daily for dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.