This Insane Japanese Drumming Game Takes Some Serious Skill
Slurp Noodle BarAddress and Info
What to try: Slurp! Ramen
Not only is Slurp the Castro’s best ramen (we’re not aware of any competition), it’s got to be the only “International Noodle Bar” in the entire city. When they say International, they mean it. In the laksa ramen, Southeast Asian seafood and chicken coconut milk-based noodle soup meets classic skinny, springy Japanese ramen noodles (OK, so it’s basically laksa, not ramen, but have fun with it). The signature ramen bowl comes with corn and a bacon-enriched tonkotsu broth, while the veg crowd will love the veggie-miso one adorned with spinach. Slurp those ramen bowls and appreciate how the Castro’s dining choices are getting to be a lot more than just Frances, Starbelly, and Super Duper.
Orenchi BeyondAddress and Info
What to try: Orenchi Ramen
The old days (pre-2015 opening of Orenchi Beyond) went something like this: one hour drive to Santa Clara, two to three hour wait for the best ramen in the Bay Area at older sister Orenchi, hour drive back to SF. But now we’ve got our own! It truly is tonkotsu perfection, somehow porkier than all the other bowls on this list. Bonus: The restaurant is now open Tuesday-Thursday for lunch and the perfect 1-2 food coma/wake-up punch with Four Barrel across the street.
Ramen UndergroundAddress and Info
What to try: Habanero soy sauce ramen with boiled egg and kakuni (pork belly)
Suit-wearing, coffee-fueled titans of the cubicle make a beeline for Ramen Underground at the FiDi/Chinatown border each lunchtime for signature chicken-based ramens. What lifts Ramen Underground way above its peers is the uniquely customizable menu. You want habanero with that miso broth? Boom. Herb butter and kimchi with the spicy salt chicken broth ramen? You betcha. The choice is yours and far easier when you arrive at the end of the noontime rush.
Nojo Ramen TavernAddress and Info
What to try: Chicken paitan soy sauce ramen
This is not what Nojo was in our last ramen round-up. That was Nojo, an izakaya with an incredible weekend-only chicken ramen. This is the Nojo Ramen Tavern, where every night is chicken ramen night, and the main bowls come with some type of chicken (like a whole leg) or tsukune (meatballs). Nojo 2.0 is kind of the same, just owned by a huge Japanese corporation these days. It’s a key part of what just might be getting close to the Mission as our city’s premier dining neighborhood. Also, they’ve got a special veggie version here as well.
21 Taste HouseAddress and Info
What to try: Lobster tonkotsu ramen
You can be boring way out in this quiet residential neighborhood and get the regular ol’ ramens. OR you can trust the house signature. That’s shoyu, shio, miso, or tonkotsu ramen with a hefty dose of lobster in the broth. It’s great and comes with soft shell crab and lobster tail. We can't stress enough how much you should try it.
Men Oh TokushimaAddress and Info
What you're getting: Tokushima Ramen
Look, ramen is ultimately about pork. And being a pork expert (addict?), you’re fully aware that Kurobuta pork is basically the holy pig breed grail. It’s the swine equivalent of caviar or kobe beef. Tokushima is a city on Southeast Japan’s island of Shikoku and happens to be both home to some of the world’s best Kurobuta pigs and home of this small international ramen chain, responsible for that soft, fatty, stir-fried Kurobuta pork belly in your bowl.
Izakaya SozaiAddress and Info
What to try: Ritsu tonkotsu ramen with braised pork belly
Every other restaurant opening in town these days calls itself an “izakaya” but Sozai was an original years ago and is the real thing. It's got late-night eats like fried cheese or yakitori skewers of every chicken part ever named, but there’s also a formality here -- no eating ramen until the snacks are done and the sake finished. This is one of the few true izakayas... that also so happens to make phenomenal ramen.
ChottoAddress and Info
What you're getting: Karamiso tonkotsu ramen
What better way to fuel that Crissy Field run than a bowl of awesome tonkotsu? I guess maybe some kale? Annnnnyway Chotto is the move in the Marina. Yes, even though it's an izakaya better known for its kushiyaki (chicken skewers).
DJ SushiAddress and Info
What to try: Pork belly ramen soup
Your itinerary of bars and strip clubs and such is up to you. But please, PLEASE don’t fall into the touristy, overpriced Italian food traps on Columbus. It’s Little Italy, but here, in the formerly named Mura Ramen, and now just the same place with a jazzier name, you can have ramen and sushi rolls that easily trump the nearby spaghetti dishes.
MikiAddress and Info
What you’re getting: Tonkotsu miso ramen
Way out in the avenues, Miki is a tucked-away Japanese spot mostly known only to nearby residents. Ramen is just part of the experience (excellent sushi, soba, list goes on...) and the usual ramen suspects are hits, plus it's got the highest population of chicken broth ramens anywhere -- definitely the place to hit up after getting cultured at the Legion of Honor.
Saiwaii RamenAddress and Info
What to try: Spicy garlic miso ramen
Maybe you just went surfing. Or pretended to be in the Netherlands walking around the Golden Gate Park windmills. Whatever it is that brings you to these parts, you’re cold. And the only thing that's going to warm you up is spicy garlic ramen. Saiwaii comes through in the clutch with exactly that, and it's always on the mark (as are the bacon mochi and salmon skin salad). Of all the restaurants on this list, Saiwaii is that sleeper -- the 10 seed in March Madness that makes the Elite 8 -- who you don’t expect initially to be as outstanding as it is.
Katana-YaAddress and Info
What to try: Katana-Ya ramen with corn, potstickers, fried chicken, and BBQ pork
The only ramen address where Lonely Planet-toting tourists and savvy locals line up with each other, Katana-Ya served the masses long before ramen was cool. It was even a destination before Asian fusion cuisine ripped apart the '90s. The signature ramen has potstickers and fried chicken as garnishes and the spicy beef ramen boasts potatoes. It beats to its own drum, it’s old-school, it's crowded, it’s formidable ramen where you’ll be sitting down, eating, and out in the time it sometimes takes to order a drink at Trick Dog.
Nute’s RamenAddress and Info
What to try: Crispy pork belly tonkotsu ramen
Half ramen, half Thai noodle soups, is the name of the game of this former pop-up that found a permanent home last year. That crackling, succulent pork belly tonkotsu ramen and the vigorously umami-laden spicy miso bowl are a big reason why.
Slurp RamenAddress and Info
What to try: Spicy miso ramen
Hold on. We already mentioned Slurp Ramen, right? Not so fast, my friend. There’s Slurp Noodle Bar and then there’s the newer, unrelated Slurp Ramen across town. No lawsuits. Just a solid menu of tonkotsu ramen variations (do you want red? Black garlic? Miso tonkotsu? Spicy tonkotsu?), plus a tidy menu of pre-ramen snacks (homemade pork gyoza are the go-to). Be aware that it’s closed weekends since it’s kind of in the FiDi and reflects bankers’ hours.
Lower Haight and SoMa
Iza RamenAddress and Info
What to try: Tsukemen
Tsukemen is dipping ramen that involves two bowls: one with an intensely meaty broth and pork slices, and the other with plain noodles to dip into the broth. Frankly, it’s the route every ramen should take. Iza also has a terrific cold ramen for those five days a year it’s warm in SF. Maybe Iza will notice all neighborhoods not on this list and open up shop in each because everyone deserves tsukemen.
Lower Pacific Heights
Hinodeya RamenAddress and Info
What to try: Hinodeya ramen
The latest craze of the SF ramen-verse is this Japantown ramen shop’s specialty: dashi broths. Fish stock-based broths singing with an almost uni meets caviar-umami seafaring profile (and topped with pork). This is the group’s first shop outside Japan and given its popularity since opening late 2016, it probably won’t be the last.
The Mission (Center)
Ken Ken RamenAddress and Info
What to try: Yuzu shio ramen
Ken Ken was THE spot in the 2010-ish heyday of pop-ups. Years later it has become a permanent fixture for classic Tokyo-style tonkotsu ramen and a weekend-only option that’s made with yuzo kocho. Tart and salty with a numbing heat, the condiment is usually found in chicken wings, but you’ll love it in ramen. All the Ken Ken bowls are a solid option, especially with a side of bacon-wrapped soft yolk egg. As the website states, “no ramen, no life.” Amen, Ken Ken.
The Mission (Potrero Side)
The Spice JarAddress and Info
What to try: Spicy sesame miso ramen
The Mission gets not one, not two, but three (four if you count Duboce Triangle) ramen spots because they’re just that good, and it’s a neighborhood of mini-neighborhoods. In the Potrero area, you’ve got to opt between pho, laksa, or two types of ramen (go ramen) at one of the city’s finer Cali-Asian bistros. The tonkotsu-shoyu comes with braised spare rib, while the spicy sesame miso has ground chicken.
Mensho Tokyo SFAddress and Info
What to try: Tori paitan ramen
Mensho SF is the first stateside outpost from a Japanese chain, and the nightly waits here are a pretty good indication of the ramen’s superiority. Chances are if you’re reading this article, the signature tori paitan with duck and pork chashu slices is going to put you into a state of chicken broth-created bliss. It’s almost unfair that the best vegan ramen, made with soy cream and seven kinds of nuts, is here too. Guess what? The lines just got longer.