Jamia Dinkins is an area resident and Senior at IUPUI. You might remember Jamia wrote this great article for us on Key2Locs and Beauty, Brows, and Beyond at Shadeland Station Shopping Center.
Jamia is back for one final undergrad writing project for her course in Nonfiction Publications. She reached out to us to ask if she could do an area restaurant round-up. She stopped in for meals at Ramen Ray, Long Thanhs, and Happy Dragon.
On to Jamia’s article!
We’re finally entering the spring months, and alongside the torrential rain and wind gusts, we’ve seen days perfect for a walk on the 71st Street trail (with our gloriously unfinished overpass) or a quick drive with the windows down to get a bite to eat outside our living or dining rooms.
Tor those of us who’ve made it a goal to explore more eateries off the beaten path, nowhere is better than the northeast corner of Indy. I invite you, reader, to follow along as I highlight a couple of underrated culinary treasures in and around North Shadeland.
My first stop was Ramen Ray, located at 5628 E. 71st Street, barely a block from our local Kroger. If there were any sign that this would be a restaurant I’d enjoy, it had to be the smell of garlic and broth even before you opened the doors.
At first glance, this shop can be easily missed, but to underestimate this shop would be a mistake. Past the standard fluorescent “OPEN” sign and inside those four walls, jazz played in the background, right above the gentle murmur of chatter. This spot has booths and standard seating inside, with long tables for family seating.
This was my first time eating authentic ramen. As a graduating college student that has, at times, gone days on Maruchan instant ramen cups, this was a new but exciting experience. (Plus, it smelled infinitely more delicious than my cup of ramen ever could!) With six base ramen types and options to customize it,
I ordered the black garlic tonkatsu ramen, pork gyozas (pan-fried dumplings), and a Japanese bottled sweet tea.
The sweet tea surprised me—refreshing and sweet, with a fruitiness not usually found in your standard iced Lipton tea.
The ramen and gyoza are both made to order, and a 10-minute wait resulted in a gorgeous bowl of ramen piled with garlic, green onion, bean sprouts, and chashu pork (a preparation of cooking pork belly that results in round, flavorful, tender pieces of meat).
With this bowl, I received a similarly gorgeous platter of gyoza with tender tops and crispy bottoms, and a side of dipping sauce.
While I’ve never had authentic ramen, I am a huge fan of gyoza, so I dove into those first. When I say I was blown away, I mean it. Their preparation meant they were perfectly tender and crunchy and seasoned to perfection; I almost didn’t need the dipping sauce it came with.
Almost. The sauce was a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and a hint of sugar to balance out the acidity and saltiness.
Ramen Ray offers forks for chopstick-inept people like me, but I decided to take the hard route to eat my ramen and decided to use the provided chopsticks.
The noodles still have a nice chewiness to them, even despite sitting in the broth. The tonkatsu broth was very flavorful but remained neutral enough not to clash with the stronger toppings like the pickled ginger and green onion.
In between each steaming bite of ramen and gyoza, the iced tea was a refreshing reset.
Ramen Ray does offer Doordash and other delivery options, but nothing could beat the experience of eating out in such an intimate and welcoming setting. My meal in total was close to $28, but for the huge bowl of ramen, the gyozas, and a drink, I’d say it was well worth it.
All in all, Ramen Ray was surely a 10/10 restaurant: be guaranteed to leave with a warm, full stomach and a go-to spot for a hot plate of gyoza.
5628 E. 71st Street, Indianapolis, IN, 46220
Later that day, after errands and homework, I found myself back on the west side of Graham Road, near Kroger, at Long Thanh Restaurant.
This Vietmanese-Chinese restaurant, found at 5707 E. 71st Street, is right across the street from Ramen Ray and certainly serves as a competition.
This time around, my mom joined me to eat. The inside of the restaurant was quiet and dimly lit to provide a calming atmosphere. The fish tank was a lovely touch, alongside the traditional Vietnamese décor lining the walls.
They have a huge variety of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes, clearly labeled on the menu so you can tell the differences. I decided on the well-done pho, the beef egg rolls, and a classic lemonade, while my mom ordered the beef lo mein and crab rangoons to share.
The appetizers hit the table first, fresh out of the fryer. The beef egg rolls were fresh and crunchy, and they were seasoned to perfection. Similarly, the crab rangoons were crisp and savory (and made with imitation crab, for those like me who are shellfish-sensitive). They were both offered with a serving of soy sauce-based dipping sauce but were both tasty by themselves.
My mom’s main course of choice was the beef lo mein, which arrived fresh and steaming, and which she thoroughly enjoyed.
The bowl of broth and noodles came with a side of sage, cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapeno, and lime slices. Now, reader, I’ve never tried pho before, but my roommate is a fan of instant pho, so I took a page out of their book. It was a new flavor—overwhelmingly beef-y—which wasn’t a flavor I was used to; sadly, it wasn’t my favorite thing to try but could be a favorite for someone else!
Long Thanh doesn’t offer delivery but is a quick five-minute drive from the greater North Shadeland area. My meal in total was about 12, which was great considering the size of the appetizers and the bowl of pho.
Overall, this was certainly an 8/10 experience: a great atmosphere, made-to-order meals and appetizers, and a very friendly host experience! I only wished I enjoyed the pho, but this was a matter of my personal taste. There’s nothing wrong with trying something new!
5707 E. 71st Street, Indianapolis, IN, 46220
Now, dear reader, what if you don’t have time to sit in and enjoy the atmosphere and sounds of an authentic ramen shop? What if you’re on the way from work, suffering through Binford traffic, and finding yourself craving classic Chinese takeout?
Look no further than Happy Dragon at 5868 E. 71st Street, sitting quietly between the Subway and the Mailing Station. This Chinese cuisine restaurant is the perfect place for on-the-go goodness. While they don’t offer delivery, they do offer online ordering and pickup, which was the route I took.
My mind was set on dumplings after Ramen Ray’s gyoza blew me away, so I decided to give Happy Dragon’s pork dumplings a try. My usual order from any Chinese takeout includes General Tso’s chicken (spicy, of course), and any variety of fried rice. This day, I went with my classic General Tso’s and a side of pork fried rice.
My order was ready for pickup in 25 minutes, and within ten minutes, I took the Binford Blvd. detour to Happy Dragon and drove back home with food that was still steaming hot.
My first bite was the dumplings—these were also gyoza style, pan-fried, and served with a dipping sauce. Granted, they were takeout, so they didn’t have the crunch that Ramen Ray’s gyoza had, but I was craving dumplings and needed them as soon as I got out of work, then Happy Dragon would surely suffice.
The General Tso’s chicken was just as I expected—still steaming hot and juicy with a little bit of crunch. It had an ample amount of sauce, while some restaurants will either over- or under-sauce their chicken. Personally, I love my General Tso’s spicy, so that they could’ve gotten away with a little more heat, but for those who like a milder flavor, it’s the perfect dish.
As mentioned, Happy Dragon doesn’t offer delivery but does have online ordering and pickup, so while you’re sitting in your car in your job’s parking lot (and not at a red light in standstill traffic—drive safe!), you can pull up the website and order your favorite dish, side, and drink, and have it ready by the time traffic clears.
For Chinese takeout, this was a 9/10 experience, and all of it totaled 18.75–not bad for a quick checkout and huge servings of food that will last until the next day, when you’re again looking for a quick breakfast as you’re rushing out the door.
Plus, you just can’t beat the dining atmosphere of the comfort of your own home.
Happy Dragon (closed Mondays)
5868 E. 71st Street, Indianapolis, IN, 46220