The Best Ramen In San Francisco guide image


The Best Ramen In San Francisco

The 10 best bowls of ramen in the city.

The city is full of ramen enthusiasts (us included) who wouldn't think twice about lining up on the sidewalk, in the fog, just to get some noodle soup. There’s no shortage of great options in this city, from paitan ramen to rich tonkotsu to tsukemen (or dipping ramen). The next time you need to dive into a fantastic bowl, use this guide. It's the 10 best places for ramen.


Mensho Tokyo

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 housemade 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 minimal lines.


Tonkotsu ramen reigns supreme in this town. But Nojo Ramen Tavern in Hayes Valley and their menu of entirely chicken-based broth is a refreshing change-up. Prepare to get fired up about fowl. The soy sauce ramen is the main attraction and arrives with an entire chicken leg glistening on top. It will turn heads, but don’t lose focus on the rest of the menu. We love the tan-tan spicy miso with ground chicken, and the onion-packed chicken meatballs should absolutely be added to every bowl.

Taishoken is one of the newer spots offering tsukemen, and it’s one of the most impressive. Their housemade noodles should be in the dictionary next to words like “chewy” and “flawless.” Once you’ve devoured all the noodles and chashu, someone on staff will come by to pour dashi into any leftover broth so you can drink it directly out of the bowl. While this place specializes in tsukemen, there are five other kinds of ramen to get jazzed about, like 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 any lunch 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 seasonal 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 pays off once the garlicky ramen loaded with clams hits the table. They also have a great vegan version topped with inari, kale, and acorn squash. Whatever you order, get ready to clean your bowl with great speed, and have enough 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 ramen bowls 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 are bouncy and ideally chewy, while the broth is complex. Toppings range from pork katsu to fried egg—but not ordering the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly will leave you in regret.

Iza Ramen in Lower Haight is one of the most dependable ramen spots around. It’s consistent, easy to walk into, and low-key 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 that this is the place for last-minute dates, or ramen dinners that can soothe an existential crisis.

Like Marufuku, Ippudo in SoMa is another ramen chain—and it's worthy of your time. What sets them apart is your ability to customize noodle firmness, on a scale ranging from yawa (soft) to bari kata (firm). The route to 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 thought of slow-simmered pork belly chashu, they put it on everything here.

Waraku in Japantown is the place to hit up when the lines at Marufuku and Hinodeya are ungodly long. Their ramen stands out. They have more variety, and each type is excellent across the board, from the spicy tantan men to the braised pork belly-filled tonkotsu and the Impossible meat-topped vegetarian one. All of the options are great, but go with tsukemen. We’d eat a whole bowl of just the springy noodles plain. And the mushrooms and bean sprouts that come on the side cut through the broth's richness nicely. 

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photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

The Best Ramen In San Francisco guide image