SFGuide

The Best Ramen In San Francisco

The 11 best bowls of ramen in the city.
The Best Ramen In San Francisco image

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

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. The next time you need to dive into a fantastic bowl, use this guide. It's the 11 best places for ramen.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

Japanese

Tenderloin

$$$$Perfect For:Dining SoloCasual Weeknight Dinner
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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 housemade noodles is phenomenal. The creamy and umami-packed chicken-based broth alone will single-handedly make you black out whatever time you spent standing 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.

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

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Noodle In A Haystack is the ramen tasting menu experience SF deserves. At the minimal spot in the Richmond, the $195, 10-ish course meal includes everything from a mind-altering pork belly karaage to a dorayaki finisher. Surprisingly, there are just two seasonally rotating ramen courses, but they make them count—these bowls are easily the best ramen you’ll eat ever. Whether you get a more carbonara-like, soupless one topped with uni and soy-cured egg yolk, or a tom yum-inspired paitan ramen with shrimp, this is brain-rewiring stuff—and why snagging one of the ten counter seats is never easy. Once you do, prepare to never look at a bowl of ramen the same way again.

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 nine 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 broth is on the lighter side). The Japantown spot is walk-in only (like their Chinatown and Union Square locations), but any time spent waiting for a table pays off once a bowl of garlicky ramen loaded with clams hits the table. They also have a great vegan version topped with inari, kale, and kabocha squash. Whatever you order, get ready to clean your bowl with speed—and still have enough energy to do laps 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 worhty of 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 with regret.

The world revolves around beef at this casual Sunset spot. It’s the base for the super rich broth in all the ramen (except the vegan one), and features heavily on the menu of comforting dishes like stir-fried beef over rice, oxtail mazemen, and karaage (beef is used instead of traditional chicken). One bowl to hone in on is the fantastic spicy ramen, which is extra fragrant from truffle and topped with medium rare slices of beef filet (you can also tack on bone marrow if you’re feeling luxurious). The space is always filled with families and dates slurping up the thick-ish noodles and looking happy to spend an hour or two in beef-land. 

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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