The 6 Best Bowls of Ramen in Town
Slurping is encouraged
With the recent onslaught of new ramen joints--Iza Ramen, Hawker Eats and the soon-to-come Itani Ramen and Mensho Tokyo--San Francisco finally joins New York and L.A. in the veritable ramen revolution.
And since we all know nothing’s quite as satisfying as piping-hot ramen when the weather is cold and gray, we’ve rounded up some of the best bowls around just in time for the rainy season (thanks, El Niño). Start planning for the next downpour now.
Orenchi is known to have the best ramen in the Bay Area, but it’s an hour’s drive to Santa Clara, plus there’s a two- to three-hour wait for a table! Thankfully, they’ve opened an outpost in SF, where you can savor the traditional tonkotsu pork perfection. Or be daring and try the slightly different tori soba instead (chicken soup with pork shoulder, lemon slices, Brazilian peppercorn, leeks and shredded seaweed).
174 Valencia St.; orenchi-beyond.com
Choosing a ramen purveyor in Japantown is no small feat. (How can there be this many restaurants in three square blocks?) Take our advice and go to Waraku. The menu has only four ramen options, and none of them miso. We say order the tsukemen, which involves dipping a side of noodles into rich, creamy broth.
1638 Post St.; 415-292-3388 or warakuus.com
Touristy? Yes. (The unfortunate by-product of a listing in Lonely Planet.) Still worth the wait? Definitely. Customize your bowl at this tiny hole-in-the-wall by choosing density (rich or light), broth flavor (miso, soy, salt) and spiciness level. Pro tip: Avoid the crowds by going here for late-night noodles. It’s open until 1 a.m.
430 Geary St.; 415-771-1280
Expect rich, creamy broth, pork belly and a soft-boiled egg at this ramen holy place, whose signature bowl is named after the restaurant’s Japanese-born chef. Order it after appetizers and sake, just as you would at a traditional izakaya. Word to the wise: Make a reservation or risk waiting at least an hour for a table.
1500 Irving St.; 415-742-5122 or izakayasozai.com
Ken Ken Ramen
The former pop-up gone brick-and-mortar caters to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike with miso, salt, soy and vegan broths. If you’re a meat eater, go for the tonkotsu ramen with braised pork (served only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Herbivores will delight in meatless toppings including green apples, mushrooms, leeks, bok choy and carrots.
3378 18th St.; 415-967-2636 or eatkenkenramen.com
Not technically in the Seven By Seven, this high-end ramen spot right across the bridge in Oakland is a must-visit. It’s helmed by a Chez Panisse vet, so you can expect quality on the nightly changing menu--from the distinctly firm noodles and umami-rich broth to toppings that include salt-cured egg, king oyster mushrooms, butter beans and mustard greens. Despite a recent expansion, there’s still quite a wait at this no-reservations joint. Get there when it opens at 5.
5812 College Ave., Oakland; 510-788-6370 or ramenshop.com