San Francisco often evokes images of foggy nights, film noir, and steep hills, and we can’t think of a better place for tucking into a steaming, brothy bowl of noodle goodness. This Bay Area city has a wealth of ramen options, and while San Francisco’s Japantown is home to some top spots, other neighborhoods boast destination-worthy restaurants as well.
No two restaurants are the same: ramen flavor styles vary (shio, shoyu, and miso), noodles may be wheat or egg, and broths can range from pork to chicken to beef to vegetarian. And then there are all the toppings–seaweed, egg, and kimchi just to name a few. This West Coast city has even ramped up its vegan ramen menu options in recent years, so it truly is the perfect dish for all. Read on to find some of our favorites places to tuck into the best ramen around.
The Best Ramen in San Francisco
1. Marufuku Ramen, Japantown
San Francisco residents know the ideal place to hang on a rainy day is the Japan Center and a stop at the well-known Marufuku (post-movie at the Kabuki theatre, pre-bookstore browsing at Kinokuniya) is the ideal stop for a nourishing bowl of Hakata-style ramen, made with a 20-hour simmered broth. Choose your spice level (from none to ultra) with the chicken or pork ramen ($13.50-17.50) and request topping options such as green onions, bamboo shoots, nori, and fish powder. Big appetite? Get the Chicken Paitan DX that takes your ramen meal to the next level with an accompanying sizzling chicken leg, corn, and seaweed plate. Still hungry? For $2.50 you can get a noodle refill in your broth. Indulge in some sake or a chilled Sapporo and know it’s time well spent. And if you’re across the Bay? Check out the location on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.
2. Waraku, Japantown
The refined Waraku on Post Street still keeps ramen prices modest ($9-13) and options are plenty. 17-hour simmered broths and a “Tan-Tan-Men” red-ramen option for spice-lovers and veggie ramen topped with tofu brings this locally loved institution to the top of our list. Gear up for noodles with one of the starters including chicken kara-age (fried Japanese-style) and Hitokuchi Gyoza (bite-sized potstickers). Under the weather? We suggest the shoyu ramen comprised of house-made chicken bone broth, the ultimate comfort food.
3. Amami Ramen, Union Square
The casual tucked away ramen spot is just the place for a one-person lunch. Amami, across from the A.C.T. Theater, serves some of the best ramen in San Francisco. Order at the back with friendly staff before taking a seat at the communal table. The ramen menu is divided by tonkotsu, shoyu, and miso. Our favorite? The almost-overflowing bowl of vegetarian ramen chockfull of egg noodles and fried tofu and heaped with green onions. Meat lovers can indulge with an order of the Amami Tonkotsu Ramen for Meat Lovers that includes pork belly, chicken, and beef. Whatever you choose, the calming broths are the perfect antidote to the hustle-and-bustle of the neighborhood, and the front window makes for good people watching any time of day.
4. Nojo Ramen Tavern, Hayes Valley
Set in Hayes Valley near the ballet, symphony and SF Jazz Center, Nojo Ramen Tavern is a trendy Japanese “street food” spot that is always bustling. Join the online waitlist for an estimated table-seating time. Four chicken ramen options and a veggie option that can be made vegan upon request ($15-18.50) are ready for deluxe toppings ($2-7) such as the fluffy Tsukune meatballs, a slow-braised whole chicken leg or Grana Padano cheese. Buns, rice balls and the Nojo salad comprised of beets and almonds (that can be made vegan with a soy milk dressing option) are made for sharing while no one will blame you for keeping the noodles to yourself.
5. Coco’s Ramen, Mission
With six different broths and options for spicy or not, there’s something for every ramen mood at this Mission District restaurant that focuses on organic and local produce. Coco’s curry ramen packs a punch with a flavorful base and chicken and pork stock. We’re partial to the Veggie ramen with a selected trio of choices such as tofu, cabbage, and bean sprouts. While it’s a noodle destination, there’s also a sushi menu with build-your-own rolls. Reservations can be made six or more hours in advance and the dinner waitlist opens at 5:30 pm, otherwise, take your chances at this popular spot that fills up fast. Cozy date night. Check.
6. Iza Ramen, Lower Haight
Just off Haight Street is popular Iza. With a slogan of a “passion for a bowl of ramen,” it’s no doubt this seven-year-old spot brings in the crowds. With its origins as a pop-up at the once-famed Blowfish Sushi, we’re glad this morphed into such a worthy stand-alone spot. The Takoyaki Octopus Balls are a popular appetizer before the bowls of ramen start coming out. They come with variations that include thin and thick noodles as well as hot and cold options. More than a dozen toppings such as toasted seaweed, spinach, and sweet & spicy umami sauce can be ordered on the side. A small but worthwhile wine and sake list is ready to help you wash down your meal. Pro tip: you can bring your own vino for a $20 corkage fee. A second location on Folsom Street brings in the SoMa crowd.
7. Kiaju Eats Ramen & Izakaya, Richmond District
Neighborhood Kaiju is a favorite, and one of the best places to find ramen in San Francisco. Set on Geary with plenty of top-notch restaurant options nearby, this spot wins out as a first-choice with San Franciscans. 20-hour simmered broth? Meatballs in ramen? A floating fried potato nest? We’re there for the range of creative mouth-watering ramen options ($10-25), including the Coconut Shoyu with shredded chicken breast in a coconut-soy broth topped with lotus chips and a soft-boiled egg. Add a Mexican Coke to sip before some quality browsing at the not-too-far Green Apple Books, and you’ve got the ideal Saturday. Fans may also want to check out sister restaurant Kaiju Cooks on Balboa Street.