PHX Night Market
Pasadena used to be a ramen desert, but Tatsunoya’s excellence means it’s come a long way: Go with the Koku Tonkotsu for a bolder flavor or the Jun Tonkotsu for a mellower taste, but both broths are guaranteed to have you slurping their house-made, deliciously thin noodles into oblivion. Their toppings are simple, so don’t forget to add that flavored soft-boiled egg.
Listen, LA: Yes, tonkotsu is undeniably delicious, but it’s about time we get over our pork obsession. The chicken-based broths here are legit, having been boiled for 10 straight hours to achieve a golden color with just the right texture and unctuousness, and the noodles are also perfectly suited, with a good bite in every strand. Try the Tori Paitan ramen with its medium-width house noodles and a rich-but-still-palatable chicken broth (and yes, just a touch of pork) that won’t bowl you over the way thicker broths do.
At this arguably (arguably, OK?) superior alternative to Daikokuya nearby, Men Oh’s tokushima style combines soy with pork bones in its broth -- the results are an amazingly complex soup that will have you drinking the bowl at the end. Stir-fried pork is available as a topping instead of your standard braised chashu, as well as the option to add a raw, poached, or soft-boiled egg -- all three of which may just blow your mind.
The ultra-thick kotteri broth is the go-to order at this pre-trend favorite, which still stands supreme thanks to great ingredients and overall unctuousness. If you’re able to make it for happy hour (Monday through Thursday, 6pm-8 p.m.) you’ll be able to score a bowl for $4.50! Saddle that up with a variety of rice bowls -- perhaps topped with umami-licious cod roe -- and you’re set. Asa’s under-the-radar placement in a strip mall is all the more appropriate when you grab a late night bowl -- after all, where else would you eat in the South Bay until 1am?
While there’s more ramen in Glendale than there used to be, the ramen is what people often order off the izakaya-style menu at Kanpai. It’s a simple shop with a minimalist interior and old school vibe set within the recesses of a strip mall. The tomato and shoyu broth soup are the gems here, as are the kale -- yes, kale -- noodles. Now no one can accuse you for not eating your vegetables!
Put the spoon down and step away from the boat noodles, sir. You’d be surprised to hear there’s pretty decent ramen at Fukurou, so take advantage of the variety of stellar soup noodle options in Thai Town. For just $9 you can get an amazing pork belly fried rice and a bowl of soup that tastes like your mom made it. Well, not YOUR mom. But somebody’s mom.
The fact that this former beauty queen has retired to the county fair circuit doesn’t mean the lines have gotten any shorter. Other places, like Shin-Sen-Gumi and Manichi, have moved into Downtown (and even next door), but none is quite as popular as the tonkotsu original that started the LA ramen craze more than 10 years ago -- so much so that there are many more locations now, including ones in West Hollywood and Sawtelle. Vegans in your party will appreciate the spicy sesame and tomato broths at the original location in Little Tokyo, because what better way to mix things up?
Food court ramen? Yes. For sure. This classic, fast-food ramen spot in the Mitsuwa Marketplace was the king of the Westside before Tsujita came along. But it’s still super popular and their super-complex shio, or salt, variety is more than worth hitting up for a quick fix -- if you don’t get distracted by the insanely good food court tempura from Hannosuke.
Order your bowl of ramen from the iPads hanging on the wall, then go find a seat and think about how happy you are to not be in line at Pink’s around the corner. Their pork and chicken ramen are both great, but how can you not go commando with their soup-less "naked" ramen?
Don’t expect anything traditional in your bowl within the confines of this wood-laden South Pasadena strip-mall spot -- or their new Eagle Rock outpost, for that matter. Start things off with the crazy-good Brussels sprouts, then move on to either the signature bowl or the shoyu (which is a lighter variety). Their signature bowl has made a name for itself, thanks to black garlic and truffle-oil abetted ramen, which is also available in a spicy version. You can also go to the other end with their kimchi ramen variety, which comes with chile peppers and crunchy onions.
This mini chain (there are also locations in Downtown LA, West LA, Fountain Valley, Monterey Park, and Gardena) makes its name on totally customizable bowls of soup, with a choose-your-own-adventure-style menu that leads to the exact dish you want.
This now-prolific contender in The Valley has just opened a third location in Studio City and features a wide variety of ramen flavors, but the real star is the straight, thick noodle made in-house. If you have a special person to share one huge bowl of ramen with, get the Tamashii Combo, which comes with homemade gyoza, chicken wontons, and sunomono (seaweed and cucumber salad). And there’s sushi and steamed sides that you’ve also seen at dim sum. Have cravings for spice? Go for the maximum level (a four) with the Fire Ramen.
Though its siblings Ramen Jinya and Robata Jinya are contenders in the middle of town for sure, the OG Jinya Ramen Bar (outside of Tokyo, natch) has become a go-to for Valley broth lovers, thanks to consistently delicious, dashi-laden bowls.
Torrance is loaded with quality noodlecatessans, but Umenoya has stood strong as a favorite for years, buoyed by a perfectly fatty tonkotsu broth, chewy-not-sticky noodles, and -- oh yeah -- being open until 2:30am.
Forget best in Sawtelle -- you could make an argument that this tiny ramen shop is the best in the US. Their dip ramen is insane, but if the crowds are too big you can always head across the street to their annex for a style known in Japan as "man’s ramen," you know... because... thicker noodles?
Sure, this place is a spin-off from the Tsujita clan, but they’ve more than earned a sequel. Here you'll find three styles, two of which you can turn up to atomically hot levels on a scale of one to six. Get it with broth or oil. Yes, I said oil. Hot oil. And if you ask, they’ll even give you a bib to protect your threads. We warned you. If you’re not up for the heat, don’t underestimate their standard broth, with no heat, as it’s just as delicious as the varieties which earned them their namesake.
There may be over 400 of these in Japan, but you’ll be visiting the first in the U.S. on Melrose, where you’ll find a tasty broth that seamlessly blends tonkotsu and shoyu styles. The house noodles -- which come in thin and thick varieties -- are excellent, with enough chew and bite to keep you satisfied. Don’t miss the excellent karaage (fried chicken) with its delicate, crispy breading and huge variety of dipping sauces for dunking, as it’s pretty much the best side order ever.
There are quite a few different flavor profiles to choose from at the excellent Kotoya, all of which are equally delicious. Go with one of the white broths, whether tonkotsu or miso, or red tonkotsu with spice levels that range from one to three. If you like your noodles almost al dente, go thin; if chewy’s your ideal, go thick. Not thick enough? Kotoya’s also got three different tsukemen (dipping ramen), perfect for an even thicker broth to adhere to every strand that ends up in your mouth.