Yeah, yeah, ramen is great. And we’re not telling you not to eat ramen -- especially not if you’re doing it at one of these 15 spots. What we’re telling you to do is to also eat ramen’s thicker, wheat-flour noodle cousin udon.
Especially if you’re doing it at one of the 11 spots below.
What you’re getting: Uni cream udon
Marugame Monzo exploded onto the udon scene not too long ago, and its noodles have been driving LA completely batshit ever since. Grab yourself a bowl of uni cream udon, or the mentai squid butter udon, then praise the noodle gods: noodle heaven is real.
What you’re getting: Ume bukkake
Look, just ignore the fact that it’s called bukkake, okay? The noodles are outstanding. The ume bukkake comes with the house ume (like a pickled plum) sauce, more plum, dried bonito, grated radish, and ginger. And don’t be a fool, pop some Japanese beef on top of that bad boy for full greatness.
What you’re getting: Yukinabe udon
The South Bay is proud of itself with this one, and so are we. Sanuki No Sato’s yukinabe udon comes with grated daikon and mentaiko (marinated cod roe), all mixed in with perfectly thick noodle-dom.
What you’re getting: Nabeyaki udon
When will we start shutting up about the Valley’s best noodle spot? Never. That’s when. Its udon? Super good.
What you’re getting: Shoyu udon
Super popular? Lucky you, this place does group udon meals, so you can bring all your friends. Hate spending money? The takuan and potato salad are free. Got a heart and a soul and a brain? You’ll eat here, soon.
What you’re getting: Cold kakiage udon
When it’s hot, like always, cold udon noodles are here to make that all better. Load ‘em up with as many toppings as ya can, ‘cause, duh. And pssst, cash only.
What you’re getting: Squid ink udon
Sushi Gen too packed? You’re gonna be fine, because Kinjiro is right next door, and it’s waiting to stuff you full of delicious noodles. Between the squid ink udon and the uni udon with hijiki seaweed, you cannot go wrong.
What you’re getting: Cold tofu udon
Yuko Kitchen’s sesame sauce kicks its udon up, like, a billion notches; its homemade mint lemonade is also the perfect foil for it.
What you’re getting: Tanuki udon
Yabu has a killer selection of different styles of udon for your noodle-aching bones. Try the tanuki udon, with a tempura butter clusters, spinach, scallion, and fish cake. Related: is there a better combination of words in this language than “butter cluster”? (The answer is no.)
What you’re getting: Shrimp and mochi tempura udon
Mochi tempura, you guys. Mochi. Tempura.
What you’re getting: Tom kha udon
“But Wat Dong Moon Lek is a Thai restaurant! Surely it can’t have udon also!” Well it does. And don’t call us Shirley. The tom kha udon is everything that makes regular tom kha so great (chicken, mushrooms, coconut/lemongrass broth) plus -- PLUS!! -- the house udon noodles.
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Wilder Shaw is a regular Thrillist contributor who will never stop marveling at how effing incredible the Japanese are at making food. Plan a trip to Japan with him on Twitter at @WilderShaw_ and Instagram at @wildershaw.
1. Marugame Monzo329 E 1st St, Los Angeles
2. Tsurumaru Udon Honpo333 S Alameda St, Los Angeles
3. Sanuki No Sato18206 S Western Ave, Gardena
4. Daichan11288 Ventura Blvd, Studio City
5. Kotohira Restaurant1747 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena
6. Ichimi Ann Bamboo Garden1618 Cravens Ave, Torrance
7. KINJIRO424 E 2nd St, Los Angeles
8. Yuko Kitchen5484 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
9. Yabu Restaurant11820 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
10. Oumi Sasaya2383 Lomita Blvd, Lomita
11. Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodle4356 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles
Unsurprisingly right in the heart of our tiny little version of Tokyo, Monzo is a dimly lit udon spot with a sorta-showmanship twist: an open kitchen with a dude making the noodles right in front of you, all day, every day. Unless he's on break, or tired, or whatever.
Droppin' broth like it's hot ('cause it is) at the mall in Little Tokyo, Tsurumaru Udon's a thoroughly legit Japanese-import noodleria serving big bowls of those slippery, delicious pups assembly-line style.
One of the best spots in the South Bay, Sanuki No Sato's yukinabe udon comes with grated daikon and mentaiko (marinated cod roe), all mixed in with perfectly thick noodle-dom.
This strip mall challenges everything we believed with THREE spots that are more than just tolerable -- in fact they're seriously good. But for home-made japanese food and awesome poke bowls, go to Daichan. The self proclaimed "Japanese soul food" includes menu items like Hawaiian ginger chicken and house-made cucumber miso.
This place kills the udon game, with group meals so you and all your friends can enjoy takuan and potato salad for free.
This Torrance spot has the udon answer to a hot LA day: cold kakiage udon. With tons of toppings, because duh.
This Little Tokyo spot is ready to stuff you with delicious noodles. Between the squid ink udon and the uni udon with hijiki seaweed, you cannot go wrong.
At this Mid-Wilshire spot you can get cold tofu udon for those hot LA days, and the sesame sauce kicks its udon up, like, a billion notches. The mint lemonade is also on point.
This West LA spot has a killer selection of udon for all your noodle needs. Try the tanuki udon, with tempura batter clusters, scallions, and fish cake.
This spot has some of the best udon in LA. Get the shrimp and mochi tempura udon. Mochi tempura, you guys. Mochi. Tempura.
Yes, the hipster vibe at this neighborhood joint is unmistakable, but don't expect any poser Thai food here. What you'll find is things for the slightly more adventurous Thai eater, like deep-fried crispy taro and a rambutan/shrimp salad tossed in a creamy coconut-lime dressing.