Diners have several ramen options at Ramen-san in Chicago,

Once the staple of budget meals and college students, ramen has come a long way. Soup shops across the country now offer authentic varieties of the rich Japanese noodle dish, which is particularly welcome on chilly winter days. “It’s the ultimate authentic comfort noodle soup,” says Maggie Nemser, a judge on Bravo’s Best New Restaurant (Wednesdays, 10 p.m.) and editor-in-chief of BlackboardEats.com. “Ramen showcases how there can be elegance in something that is so available to everyone.” She shares some favorite spots to slurp soup with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Diners have several ramen options, including kimchi and fried chicken; ground pork, cabbage and chiles; and the popular smoked brisket and burnt garlic. “Everybody raves about it. But if you’re going on a date, make sure your date has it too,” Nemser says. 312-377-9950; ramensan.com