8 Spots For Fantastic Garlic Noodles In SF guide image


8 Spots For Fantastic Garlic Noodles In SF

Ready some breath mints and get to one of these spots.

If we were to nominate a dish to represent SF in a nationwide food-themed Olympics, garlic noodles would be it. The simple yet umami-packed dish—which was reportedly invented at Thanh Long in the Sunset—is a staple on the menus at Vietnamese, Burmese, and soul food restaurants across town. So the next time a bowl of garlicky carbs calls to you, use this guide.


photo credit: Erin Ng

Thanh Long imageoverride image

Thanh Long


4101 Judah St, San Francisco
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The garlic noodles at Thanh Long are the Betty White of SF—iconic and universally loved. The Vietnamese seafood institution was credited with inventing the dish back in the ‘70s. Decades later, the Sunset spot is still a destination for noodles made with what we can only imagine is an entire head of garlic and a super-sized vat of butter. The dish is the fragrant centerpiece to every table and the ideal companion to their pepper-coated roast crabs and peppery shaken beef. Enjoying it in the company of lychee martinis and plastic bibs all around is an ideal way to spend a birthday or last meal in the city. 

Come to this spot in the Richmond for homestyle Burmese food—including the incredible garlic noodles that’ll make you walk away from dinner considering a committed partnership with them, shared apartment and all. The flat egg noodles are peppery and generously coated in butter. Green onions and crunchy garlic bits add excellent texture. They all come together to create punchy umami flavors that’ll have the whole table jockeying for the last bite. 

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The springy garlic noodles are served as combo meals at this Vietnamese spot in the Inner Sunset, so prepare to order them with things like five-spice chicken or charbroiled pork chops. The tangle of chewy noodles has a subtly garlicky scent that manages to waft down Irving St. And biting into the crispy-skinned chicken will result in satisfying crackles that can be heard across the dining room. Since a combo is only $13, consider making a trip to this casual place part of your weekly self-care routine.

photo credit: Julia Chen

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Vegan Mob


The plant-based soul food spot based out of Oakland recently expanded to SF with a food truck that regularly parks in the Mission. Whether you’re vegan or not, you should get there to experience the salty, umami flavor bombs that shine in every dish, from the sticky garlic rice to the mac and cheese to the fried chicken. And, of course, garlic noodles. These thin-ish noodles are loaded with enough minced garlic to warrant throwing back an entire tin of Altoids, and are even better topped with their garlicky shrimp, sweet chili chicken, or lumpia.

A meal at this upscale Vietnamese restaurant in the Richmond is full of absolute bangers. You can feast on a red carpet-worthy spread of BBQ pork chops with broken rice, crackly duck confit spring rolls, and fried whole red snappers over a bed of pineapple chow fun. But don’t overlook their garlic noodles. They stand out from other versions on this list thanks to the addition of bok choy, mushrooms, and decorative edible flower petals. But this dish isn’t only about looks—the noodles are thick, bouncy, and perfectly cooked.

This counter-service spot in the Castro serves Vietnamese staples like phở, bánh mì, and vermicelli plates. They’re all solid, but you’re here for the incredible garlic noodles. Stir-fried with bok choy, broccoli, and scallions, and finished with parmesan, this dish works just as well as a gateway back to reality after a night out as it does for quick dinners under $20. The egg noodles are thick and chewy, and the ideal vehicle for the mini aquarium’s worth of garlic butter and cheese they’re drenched in. The other good news is you can customize what goes on top, like five-spice chicken or lemongrass beef. Know that the flawless charred BBQ pork is the way to go. 

Like Thanh Long, PPQ is another excellent Vietnamese spot focusing on seafood and roast crab (they relocated a few blocks from their original Richmond location in winter 2023). Ordering the butter-soaked garlic noodles is still the unofficial rule. Like Adele and a piano ballad, the noodles pair well with all of their seafood options, like the gorgeously charred tiger prawns and zingy lemongrass calamari. Portions are about the size of a baseball, so consider ordering a couple of bowls for the table in order to avoid ending a friendship over who gets the last serving.

We don’t expect to find garlic noodles at dim sum restaurants. Especially at Osmanthus, a swanky Cantonese spot off a touristy stretch in North Beach. But they’re on the menu, and they’re f*cking incredible. Each noodle is the ideal level of chewy, and has the right ratio of fresh garlic to butter. And once a plate lands on the table, you’ll have to be pried off the premises just so you can stop yourself from ordering another round, and then another.

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