The Best Ramen In San Francisco guide image

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

SFGuide

The Best Ramen In San Francisco

The 10 best bowls of ramen in the city.

The city is full of ramen enthusiasts who won’t think twice about lining up on the sidewalk, in the fog, to get some noodle soup. And there’s no shortage of great options here, from paitan ramen to rich tonkotsu to dipping ramen. The next time you’re looking to dive into a fantastic bowl, use this guide. It's the 10 best places for ramen.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Julia Chen

Mensho Tokyo review image
8.4

Mensho Tokyo

$$$$

676 Geary St, San Francisco
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There’s a perpetual line in front of Mensho Tokyo in the Tenderloin. But it's one of the few places worth giving up an hour (or more) of your evening to wait—their ramen with house-made noodles is phenomenal. The creamy and umami-packed chicken-based broth alone will single-handedly make you black out whatever time you stood outside. There are a handful of options, including mazesoba (soupless ramen) and a version incorporating matcha. Go with the spicy lamb or tori paitan with chashu. If you don’t have extra moments to spare, their counter-service spin-off inside the Twitter Building called Jikasei Mensho has the same noodle bowls, and no line.

Tonkotsu ramen reigns supreme in SF. But Nojo Ramen Tavern and their menu of entirely chicken-based broth is a refreshing change-up. This Hayes Valley spot will get you fired up about fowl. The main attraction is the soy sauce ramen that arrives with an entire chicken leg glistening on top. It’s a head-turner, but don’t lose focus on everything else on the menu. From the tan-tan spicy miso with ground chicken to the onion-packed chicken meatballs you should absolutely add to any bowl, you’ll leave with a new love for all things chicken-related. 

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Taishoken is the newest place to join the small group of SF spots offering tsukemen, or dip ramen, but it’s one of the most impressive. Their house-made noodles should be in the dictionary next to words like “chewy” and “flawless.” And, unlike most spots, someone on staff will pour dashi into any leftover broth so you can drink it directly out of the bowl once you’ve devoured all the noodles and chashu. Despite this place specializing in tsukemen, there are five other types of ramen worth getting jazzed about—especially the spicy paitan version with razor-thin noodles and pork.

Marufuku opened in the Japantown Center Mall in 2017, yet has already expanded to eight locations across the country. One bite of their creamy tonkotsu ramen, an intensely porky flavor bomb, is all it takes to see why. Put your name on the waitlist (there will always be a wait), and wander the mall, surrounded by colored pens and shiba inu tote bags. But it’s a great activity to pass the time, and certainly adds to Friday night dinner dates and midweek lunches planned around noodle soup. 

This Japanese and Thai noodle house is the answer for ramen bowls without any fuss. The spicy miso ramen is a fiery affair, and the tonkotsu ramen is smokey from roasted black garlic oil. There are only four ramen bowls to choose from at this Bernal Heights spot—and you should add pork belly with blistered skin to any of them. Juicy karaage, corn tempura, and pork-stuffed gyoza complete this always enjoyable experience. Since Nute’s is busy at all times and only has a handful of tables inside, prepare to wait. 

Hinodeya specializes in dashi broth, so go here for ramen that won’t put you to sleep immediately after eating it. This Japantown place is walk-in only (like their other locations in Chinatown and Union Square), but any time spent waiting is worth it once the garlicky ramen loaded with clams arrives. They also have a great vegan version topped with inari, kale, and acorn squash. Whatever you order, expect to clean your bowl within ten minutes flat, and still have the energy to do a lap around Peace Plaza. 

When you want to pair ramen with izakaya standards like agedashi tofu and bacon-wrapped mochi, Coco’s Ramen is the answer. The cozy Bernal Heights spot excels at nigiri and sushi rolls—and bowls of ramen that are worth any cross-town journey. You can customize every aspect of them, from the type of soup (tonkotsu, miso, shoyu, shio, or curry) to the spice level. The noodles themselves are bouncy and ideally chewy, and the broth is complex. Toppings range from pork katsu and tempura shrimp to fried eggs—but if you don’t order the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, you will have regrets. 

Iza Ramen in Lower Haight is one of the most dependable ramen spots around. It’s consistent, easy to walk into, and lowkey enough that you won’t have to use your outside voice to catch up with someone across the table. There are exactly three options on the menu: house ramen with a “special” broth blend of pork, chicken, bonito, and vegetables, dipping ramen, and vegetarian miso. Funnel soup into your mouth while you catch a game on one of the TVs, and know this is the place to be for last-minute date nights, or anytime you're going through an existential crisis.

Like Marufuku, Ippudo is a ramen chain worthy of your time. You customize noodle firmness, on a scale ranging from yawa (soft) to bari kata (firm), which is what sets them apart. The route you take is all about personal preference, but always go firm, since the noodles will cook a bit more in the soup. Tonkotsu broth is their specialty—the Karaka, a spicier version of the creamy original, is a foolproof order. And if you’re someone who gets hot and bothered at the sound of slow-simmered pork belly chashu, they put it on everything here.

You might know Waraku as the place to hit up when the lines at Marufuku and Hinodeya are ungodly long. But the ramen at this Japantown spot stands on its own. They have more variety than other places, and each type is excellent across the board, from the spicy tantan men and chicken shoyu ramen to the braised pork belly-filled tonkotsu with black garlic and vegetarian ramen topped with Impossible meat. All of the options are great, but if you can’t choose go with tsukemen. We’d eat a whole bowl of the springy noodles plain. And the mushrooms and bean sprouts that come on the side cut through the richness of the broth nicely. 

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