14 Great Noodle Soups For When You Just Need Some Noodle Soup guide image


14 Great Noodle Soups For When You Just Need Some Noodle Soup

14 delicious bowls to keep you warm.

Noodles and soup are great on their own, but add the two together and magic happens. These bowls of ramen, khao soi, phở, and other noodle soups have the soothing effects of a crackling fireplace and Morgan Freeman doing ASMR, combined. While this guide doesn’t cover every single noodle soup in the city, it’s the place to start the next time big weather things are happening, or when the temperature hits a cool 55 degrees.


Turtle Tower

Soup: Phở Gà

When the sky looks like a gray amorphous blob, our primal instinct is to head toward Turtle Tower. Phở is Hanoi-style (without bean sprouts and minimally garnished), and served with flat noodles that are the optimal level of chew. Our go-to is the phở gà—strips of chicken soak up the fragrant broth perfectly. Another Turtle Tower location is in Civic Center, but this SoMa outpost is the one open for dinner. 

Soup: Tori Paitan Ramen

Yes, we know, there’s always a wait to get into this Tenderloin ramen spot. But standing in line for ramen this next-level is worth it. The classic tori paitan is iconic. The noodles are thick and the right amount of chewy. Melty chashu is umami-rich, and the fried burdock root topping adds crunch. This is an A+ bowl of noodle soup and everyone in line knows it.  

Soup: Seolleong Tang

You don’t need us to tell you that the crowds waiting outside of Daeho in Japantown are here for cheesy kalbijjim—the dish is a local celebrity, on par with Canon Curry. But their seolleong tang is just as deserving of stardom. The milky ox bone soup comes with a tangle of slippery glass noodles and your protein of choice, from brisket and oxtail to spicy beef. Deeply flavorful broth brings you one step closer to full-blown enlightenment. Don’t question how. Just go.  

Soup: BBQ Pork Wun Tun Noodle Soup

As you can deduce from the name, this casual Chinatown spot specializes in wontons. And they’re no ordinary wontons. They’re so good you’ll have visions of miniature pork and shrimp pouches dancing around before you fall asleep. Get them in the BBQ pork wun tun noodle soup with long and springy noodles. Plenty of chili oil is on hand if you want to add a kick. 

The Best Restaurants In San Francisco’s Chinatown guide image

SF Guide

The Best Restaurants In San Francisco’s Chinatown

Soup: Tan Tan Noodles

This always-packed Chinatown noodle house offers regional Chinese specialties galore. On days when you really want to stay under the covers, it’s tan tan noodles all the way. The broth is nutty and rich. There’s an overabundance of wheat noodles. And the soup leaves a tingly, numbing sensation in your mouth that somehow doesn’t overpower.

Soup: Hakata Tonkotsu

This Japantown spot needs no introduction, but we’ll give one anyway—Marufuku’s tonkotsu ramen is worth the hours-long wait it draws every night. We’d drink their intensely porky broth by the liter. And you should, too. Hop in line to get your hands on the Hakata Tonkotsu. It’s loaded with melt-in-your-mouth char siu and is the centerpiece of every table. 

Soup: Chicken Phở

Tangled is a casual, counter-service restaurant offering a variety of Vietnamese noodle soups in the Castro. Think bun rieu, phở, and bún bò huế. You won’t be disappointed with whatever you end up with, especially since everything is well-seasoned and comforting. But we prefer the lighter chicken phở. This hot bowl comes with a ton of vermicelli and no shortage of chicken strips and a beautiful fragrant broth.

Soup: Spicy Curry Chicken Vermicelli Soup

Not to be confused with PPQ Dungeness Island on Clement, this small Vietnamese spot in the Outer Sunset makes vermicelli bowls, rice plates, and garlic noodles. Hone in on the curry chicken vermicelli soup (#8). As much as we love noodles, we’re here for the aromatic broth it goes in. It’s slightly sweet and a tad creamy, and the spice leaves a warming sensation on your lips. The soft chicken and big pile of rice noodles are an added benefit though.

Tokusei Tsukemen

Dip ramen is the specialty at this swanky Japanese spot in the Mission—thick noodles are served in a broth with the consistency of gravy. Do everything in your power, short of running here in flip flops, to get a bowl—the soup has so much flavor that your brain will need a few seconds to comprehend its seismic power. When you’re done wolfing down the noodles, someone will pour dashi into the leftover soup so you can enjoy every last bit right out of the bowl. 

Note: Thai Time is currently takeout and delivery only.

Soup: Kao Soy

This little Thai restaurant in the Richmond nails every element of a kao soy. Their rendition has zing from a squeeze of lemon, bouncy egg noodles, and a creamy yellow curry broth that’ll stick in your mind for weeks. You’ll have regrets about not ordering more even before you get to your last drop—all the more reason to return next time your heater decides to blow a fuse.  

Soup: Qishan Spicy & Sour Pork Noodle Soup

Terra Cotta Warrior in the Sunset is our preferred place for hand-pulled, Shanxi-style noodle dishes. Zeroing in on the Qishan pork noodle soup is the move. The deep-red broth is both sour and spicy, and tastes like burrowing yourself into a pillow fort. You’ll clean the bowl and leave no noodle behind, and return for another round the next time it's cold and wet. 

Soup: Hamaguri Ramen

You’ll encounter great ramen bowls at Marufuku, Mensho, and the other top ramen spots across town. Hinodeya is one of the few that offers hamaguri ramen—and for that we are grateful. It’s garlicky, comes with dashi broth, and is piled high with littleneck clams that give the dish some brininess. There are three Hinodeya locations across town, but we love the Japantown original that’s always bustling with soup-devouring groups.

The Best Ramen In San Francisco guide image

SF Guide

The Best Ramen In San Francisco

Soup: Ong No Kaw Soi

Our favorite Burmese rendition of khao soi is at Mandalay in the Richmond. The coconutty chicken noodle soup, with a hard-boiled egg that absorbs all the broth and an AeroGarden’s worth of herbs sprinkled on top, will be sucked up like a vacuum by everyone at the table in record time. The soup is one of the best dishes on the menu at this bright spot and the liquid embodiment of self-care.

Soup: Phở Đặc Biệt

Kevin’s is a Sunset institution for noodles and soup, full stop. If you need more proof, look to the perpetually packed dining room and crowds waiting on the sidewalk each night. The casual Vietnamese restaurant runs a tight operation—before you even have time to glance at the menu, someone will appear to take your order. Go with the phở dặc biệt. It’s a classic you’ll see at most phở spots, and this version is generously packed with tripe, tendon, flank, brisket, and thin-sliced steak. 

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photo credit: Sarah Felker

14 Great Noodle Soups For When You Just Need Some Noodle Soup guide image