Warm up with the best ramen in San Francisco, from neighborhood favorites to the newest hotspots.
It’s no mystery why ramen, the Japanese noodle soup dish, is so popular in perpetually chilly San Francisco.
There’s nothing more comforting on those fog-bound days than a bowl of steaming, flavorful broth packed with noodles and tasty toppings.
Ramen’s origin story begins with Chinese immigrants to Japan, whose noodle-filled broth caught on quickly in the early 20th century in Yokohama.
Ramen sold in restaurants gained popularity in post-war Japan until the invention of instant ramen catapulted the simple dish to worldwide fame.
Now the Japanese staple is coming full circle, and ramen lovers are ditching the instant stuff in favor of hand-stretched thin noodles, slow-cooked broth, and tender pieces of braised pork belly or braised chicken leg served in specialty ramen shops across the city.
Whether you’re looking for a casual bite before a movie, or an elevated ramen-tasting menu at the hottest new restaurant in town, our guide to the best ramen in San Francisco will help you find your favorite bowl of tonkotsu (pork broth), shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salty), or miso ramen.
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Marufuku Ramen boasts the best ramen in San Francisco’s Japantown and possibly the best ramen in the Bay Area too.
The sleekly sophisticated restaurant drew long lines when it opened in the Japantown Center Mall in 2017, and its popularity is still going strong today.
As they don’t offer reservations, plan to allow time to put your name on the waitlist when you turn up for your meal.
Popular ramen dishes at Marufuku Ramen include the Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen, the Chicken Paitan (available in limited quantities), and the Hakata Tonkotsu DX.
Note that Marufuku makes its ramen Hakata style, a regional twist that features thin noodles.
This Inner Sunset ramen shop is perfect for snacking on small plates of Japanese comfort food like bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms and chicken karaage, but it’s famous for its tonkotsu.
Served with chashu (braised and sliced pork), half a soft-boiled egg, and seaweed, you can add extra toppings like black garlic oil, wood-eared mushroom, or braised pork belly.
Takeout is available, or make a reservation if you want to eat in the cozy space. As always, the counter seats are the best, where you can watch the busy chefs preparing your meal.
Blowfish to Die For’s executive chef, Ritsu Tsuchida, launched Iza Ramen in 2013, intending to serve the best ramen in the city.
Iza Ramen previously operated as a pop-up out of the sushi restaurant Blowfish to Die For but now has a permanent location in the Lower Haight.
The Iza Ramen house ramen comprises a triple-stock broth, slow-cooked BBQ pork, perfectly chewy noodles, and toppings like toasted crispy seaweed.
However, the most popular ramen dish on the menu at Iza Ramen is Tsukemen-style, with a concentrated broth served on the side as a dipping sauce.
A miso veggie ramen is also available.
Iza Ramen is a low-key spot, perfect for a spontaneous weeknight dinner or a casual date night.
Ushi Taro Ramen
Ushi Taro Ramen, another Sunset spot, serves ramen in a rich beef bone broth, a departure from the pork-heavy bowls of most ramen restaurants.
Don’t be surprised if the bone turns up in your bowl, which creates deep flavors in your tasty broth.
The Original Shio, Spicy Miso Ramen, and Traditional Paitan (a creamy chicken tori paitan ramen), are the most popular ramen dishes at Ushi Taro.
If you’re ordering for take-out, let the restaurant know if you want your noodles left uncooked in your ramen broth to prevent overly-soft noodles at home.
Kaiju Eats Ramen and Izakaya
Kaiju Eats Ramen is a sushi AND ramen spot– an unusual but welcome combination.
The non-traditional theme continues into the menu options: Kaiju Eats infuses popular Japanese dishes into ramen bowls like the Karaage Ramen topped with pieces of marinated fried chicken.
Or try the popular Katsu Curry Ramen, which features a crispy breaded pork cutlet, potatoes, and carrots in a spicy tonkotsu ramen broth.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Kaiju Kobe Ramen, which the restaurant describes as a “monster in a bowl.”
Featuring onion sautéed Kobe beef, a panko egg, and tortilla chips, all nestled in a garlic spicy soy broth, it’s not a subtle dish, but it’s full of punchy flavors.
Can’t get enough of Japanese cuisine? Check out our top recommendations for the best sushi in San Francisco!
Mensho Tokyo is the San Francisco branch of this Japanese ramen chain, which generated a lot of buzz when it received a nod of approval from the Michelin guide. It’s now serving (perhaps) the most famous ramen in SF.
While you won’t find Michelin star ramen restaurants in San Francisco (you’ll need to travel to Tokyo for that), Mensho Tokyo is the ramen joint closest to star status and boasts some of San Francisco’s best spicy ramen.
As a result, Mensho Tokyo is super-popular among ramen lovers, who line up patiently for steaming bowls of creamy broth.
Popular ramen dishes include the Spicy Lamb Ramen, the Organic Shoyu Ramen, Garlic Knock Out, and the Tori Paitan Ramen.
Turn up early in the week for the best chance of getting a table quickly at one of the most popular ramen spots in the city.
Nojo Ramen Tavern
Stop by Nojo Ramen Tavern in Hayes Valley for izakaya-style small plates, authentic ramen, and fall-off-the-bone chicken.
Like Ushi Taro Ramen, Nojo Ramen steers away from pork and embraces chicken broth as its base flavor instead.
Nojo Ramen Tavern is unbound by tradition and likes to play around with flavors. Try the signature ramen (named simply ‘Soy’), which involves a slow-braised whole chicken leg, and plenty of soy sauce. It’s available as a dine-in-only dish.
Other popular dishes include the Shio, which comes with fluffy chicken meatballs, and the Tan-Tan Spicy Miso Ramen.
If you’re looking for flavorful veggie ramen, the Vegetarian Miso Ramen is another great dish not lacking in flavor. Ask them to omit the butter if you want to enjoy this as a vegan dish.
Ramen Yamadaya is a fast-casual spot in Japantown, offering delicious ramen in a simple setting. The Yamada-Ya Ramen is a classic option with pork belly, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and Tokyo onions (similar to green onion).
If you enjoy your ramen hot, ask for the spice bomb for a flavor explosion.
Other ramen dishes include pork chashu bowls, katsu curry, and a fantastic crispy seaweed salad.
Tucked away on the second floor, it’s not the most obvious of ramen spots, but worthwhile to search out.
Hinodeya Ramen is a much-loved Japanese chain with no less than three San Francisco locations: one in Japantown, another in the Financial District (where you’ll find the best ramen in Chinatown), and a brand new branch in Union Square.
Each Hinodeya Ramen bowl starts with a complex dashi broth, which is light, tasty, and full of chewy whole-wheat noodles. This restaurant has been operating in Japan for over a century, so it knows a thing or two about ramen.
Choose from the house Hinodeya Ramen with pork, a delicious version with little neck clams, or the popular Zen Ramen– perfect if you’re searching for the best vegan ramen spots in San Francisco.
A hotter version of the house ramen made with chili oil is delicious if you enjoy spicy ramen.
Coco’s Ramen in Bernal Heights offers six different types of broth, which the menu describes variously as creamy, rich, light and refreshing, or spicy.
In other words, there’s a dish at Coco’s Ramen for whatever mood you’re in.
Top it off with braised pork belly or chashu, or stick with seasonal vegetables for a lighter option.
There’s also yakitori and a whole sushi menu, meaning this little neighborhood restaurant can fulfill all your sushi and ramen cravings.
Taishoken has a long and storied history of ramen restaurants in Tokyo, Japan.
The founders can take credit for inventing Tsukemen, a style of ramen where the soup comes on the side as a dipping sauce for the cold noodles.
The San Mateo Taishoken location was the first one outside Japan, followed by this newest venture on Valencia Street.
Fresh, house-made noodles, made daily with machines imported from Japan, are among the best ramen noodles in San Francisco.
Menu options are limited to a couple of vegetarian options or the house ramen, made spicy or original and topped with chashu pork, kikurage mushroom, green onion, and nori seaweed.
Then there’s the famous Tsukemen ramen, and the menu includes a helpful guide on how to enjoy this unusual soup best.
You can make reservations, but there’s also a waitlist if your dining style is more spontaneous.
Shizen is San Francisco’s top vegan sushi restaurant, and this Mission District gem also offers some of the best vegetarian ramen in San Francisco.
Try the light and delicate Shio, the richly-flavored Shoyu, or the Spicy Garlic Miso for a kick of chili.
All the vegan ramen options include toppings like bean curd chashu, bamboo shoots, tempura mushrooms, nori, and green onion.
Don’t skip the vegan sushi while you’re there; a favorite of vegans and meat-eaters alike.
This Japantown favorite is right next to the Kabuki Theater, so it’s the ideal spot to warm up with a steaming bowl of comforting ramen before your movie starts.
Waraku’s signature dish is its Spicy Tantan Men, which consists of a house-made chicken broth, a ground chicken topping, and Sichuan pepper for a fiery kick of spice.
If you’re into spicy ramen, this is one of the best bowls in the city.
The Black Garlic Tonkotsu ramen is another crowd-pleaser, as black garlic is a fermented garlic with a deep, umami flavor.
The Chicken Shoyu Ramen and Pork Tsukemen rounds out the ramen menu.
Fumi Curry and Ramen
If you’re looking for the best tonkatsu ramen in SF, head to Fumi Curry and Ramen in the Mission.
Choose a base of curry or pork broth, then add toppings like pork tonkatsu, chicken katsu, roasted pork chashu, chicken, or vegetables. Or, opt for a seafood ramen with clams, shrimp, and sea bass.
All the ramen dishes include bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, Kikurage mushrooms, sweet corn, spinach, and green onions, so the bowls pack tons of flavor.
Fumi’s satisfying curry rice bowls are also well-renowned if you’re not in the mood for ramen.
There’s a short kid’s menu and a long sake menu in addition to the ramen and rice dishes.
Nute’s is a tiny, cozy Bernal Heights spot serving ramen bowls, small plates, and Thai noodles.
They only accept walk-ins, and the space is small, so be prepared for a wait if you turn up for a weekend dinner.
Although the combination of food cultures may seem odd initially, you get authentic Asian food on whichever side of the menu you pick.
Try the Shoyu Ramen in its rich soy sauce broth for the umami flavors, or opt for the crowd favorite Tonkotsu Ramen with crispy pork belly.
If you’re going with a group, order small plates for the table and share pan-fried gyoza, corn tempura, and karaage.
The Japanese chain Ippudo serves the best ramen in Union Square for when you’re craving ramen bowls after a shopping spree.
This ramen shop is best known for its Shiromaru Tonkotsu, made with pork belly chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, menma, pickled ginger, and scallions.
Another popular ramen dish is the Akamaru Modern, which has a miso paste topping.
The pork Bao Buns and Chicken Karaage are great sides worth ordering when you’re extra hungry.
Ippudo has two more ramen restaurants in the Bay Area, including in Cupertino and Berkeley.
Noodle in a Haystack
Noodle in a Haystack is the much-anticipated first brick-and-mortar location for the beloved ramen pop-up.
Make a reservation for the eight-seat counter and enjoy an intimate dining experience cooked and served by the husband-and-wife team behind the concept.
The menu changes depending on the season and what’s currently available. Founders Clint and Yoko cook whatever makes them happy– and what makes them happy are deliciously sophisticated Japanese-inspired dishes.
You may not get a look at the menu in advance, but expect a tasting menu of high-end ramen, unique toppings, and exquisite attention to detail. But most of all, expect really good ramen!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah McDonald is a travel writer based in the Bay Area. She writes for the national parenting website Red Tricycle and on her own family travel blog, Tiny Trailblazers. She loves exploring California’s outdoors and has a weakness for a national park gift shop.
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