With an explosion of ramen joints from West L.A. to the South Bay, you don’t have to look far (or fork over much) for this coveted, comforting dish. Stellar bowls of ramen can be found in upscale Japanese restaurants, hole-in-the-wall eateries, peppered throughout Little Tokyo, hiding in major shopping malls and, at this point, all over the city. Whether you like your broth tonkotsu (long-simmered pork bone), miso, shoyu (soy) or shio (salt) flavored—or are in the mood for ramen from Tokushima or any other given part of Japan—noodle options are aplenty. We’ve picked out our favorite ramen spots with bowls worth slurping.
Discover the best ramen in L.A.
Much digital ink has been spilled over Tsujita’s tsukemen, the traditional dipping ramen where the broth arrives separately from the noodles. Tsujita stans wax poetic about how kurobuta pork bones are simmered for no less than 60 hours to create the dipping broth, how the noodles are thick, toothy and dense, and how the wait for a seat can fluctuate between tolerable and formidable (unless you’re dining solo, in which case you’ll usually be seated at the counter in no more than 15 minutes). Suffice to say, in a rare instance of hype living up to reality, all that ink bleeds true: This is the best tsukemen in the city. This spot’s noodle bowl is the one to which you’ll forever compare all others, much to your chagrin. Because after you’ve eaten here, you’ll be resigned to the fact that when the mood for tsukemen strikes, you’ll most likely need to make the trek to Sawtelle, WeHo or Glendale. Put your name down. And wait… and wait. It’ll be worth it.
This minimalist, nouveau ramen den has us wondering where it’s been all our lives. Combining a reverence for broth with creativity for toppings, this K-town gem has fast become our destination for a unique bowl. Iki offers traditional ramen—shio, shoyu, tonkatsu, etc.—but even those manage to deviate from the norm with light, bright and nuanced broths. When you really want to mix it up (and we suggest you do), go for options like the yuzu shio, which gets a zing from citrus; the a5 wagyu variety, which is laced with richness from the umami-packed beef fat; and the brothless mazemen, which can be ordered with langostino, uni or garlic chicken. And we know you’re here for the ramen, but you might as well opt for seafood-studded donburi rice bowls and a hand roll or two—because at Iki, it’s hard to go wrong with anything.
This buzzy Little Tokyo spot—with five locations in Los Angeles with a devoted following—is a ramen mecca. A wrap-around counter faces the open kitchen, providing a social atmosphere to dig into piping hot bowls of flavorful, porky broth and chewy noodles. Chijire-style egg noodles—served in varying firmness—sit in a rich tonkotsu soup and is topped with slices of kurobuta pork belly; fans of accoutrements can amp it up with kotteri-style, boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and green onions, or go big with a ramen combo, adding rice bowls topped with eel, pork cutlets or tuna. Add an order of pan-fried pork gyoza to make the line even more worthwhile.
Chef-owner Travis Lett’s Venice izakaya and ramen shop veers in a different direction from his previous ventures, Gjusta and Gjelina, and it works. That’s not to say he’s neglected his California-produce focus, and instead of weaving it onto pizzas and into jars of jams, he’s weaving it into steaming cauldrons of ramen. The small plates at MTN are a must, but so is the ramen, which can be found toward the bottom of the menu. L.A. more or less flipped at the thought of spending $20 per bowl, but with options like dungeness crab ramen—which includes a miso-heavy crab broth and pickled peppers—or the Peads & Barnetts ramen—still rich and incredibly flavorful despite a lighter shio broth—it’s quickly become one of the Westside’s most stylish and sought-after seats, higher price tag be damned.
Tucked away in Honda Plaza, Men Oh Tokushima is a small, near-hidden shop with a handful of tables and a long bar worth seeking out for a hearty bowl and some karaage. This spot’s style hails from the Tokushima region of Japan, where the dominant industry is pig farming. Thus, the signature item—the Tokushima ramen—is an unctuous, deeply pork-flavored bowl with toppings that include not only lovely slices of tender chashu, but also strips of stir-fried pork. Those additions, plus the pork-bone– and soy-sauce–based broth, make this bowl one of the more complex ones in town.
Ramen shops are few and far between in Chinatown, but this tsukemen-style spot more than helps fill the gap with some of the heartierst ramen in the city. Okiboru makes its own noodles in-house daily, which can arrive in broth, if you must, but the best dish is the tsukemen: Dunk the noodles into a rich three-day pork broth, and even a vegan broth, and top your bowl with house-pickled veggies, chasu pork, chasu ribs and soft-boiled eggs. (We dream about the smoky, charred chasu ribs whenever a rainy day rolls around.) There are gluten-free noodles, too, plus all-natural sodas and iced matcha tea to round out the menu.
This tiny South Bay ramen shop seems to fill up almost the second it opens its doors for lunch. While you can’t go wrong with any of the offerings here, we recommend the excellent tonkotsu shoyu ramen, a pork- and soy-sauce–based broth served with thick, heavy noodles. Try adding a little fresh garlic for some zing—and if you’re feeling particularly DIY, ask for a garlic press so you can mash your own clove. Add a side of the U.F.O. Gyoza, half a dozen dumplings pan-fried together, to create one massive, standout plate.
Arguably the most popular fast-growing ramen spot in L.A.—with locations in Silver Lake, Highland Park (née Ramen of York), DTLA, Santa Monica and Long Beach, to name a few—Silverlake Ramen consistently draws lines for its craveable tonkotsu. Start, though, with a light bite—try the cucumber salad with slivers of crab, sprouts, sesame seed and house vinaigrette—before moving onto heartier Japanese staples. Yes, there are options like a California roll on the menu, but stick with the house specialty: spicy tonkotsu ramen boasting thick cuts of pork belly, green onions, spinach, bean sprouts, dried seaweed, garlic sauce, chewy noodles all bathed in a rich pork broth cooked for 16 hours. Trust us, it’s worth the wait.
Upon entering this Hakata-based chain, you’ll be met with a chorus of “Irashi.” You’ll then be handed an order sheet, where you can customize your bowl to your exact specifications—choose the intensity (i.e. saltiness) of your broth, the doneness of your noodles and toppings (egg, wontons, spare ribs, garlic ships, even cod roe)—and combine chicken rice balls, deep fried cheese egg rolls and gyoza additions. Half the fun is ordering too many toppings on your first visit, which will arrive one after another in a parade of bowls, and thankfully it's easy to join this parade: Shin-Sen-Gumi has a few locations spread across the city, including Monterey Park, Little Tokyo, West L.A. and Gardena.
Sawtelle may be home to a large concentration of ramen shops, but other Westside neighborhoods are picking up steam, so to speak. With locations in Culver City and Torrance, Ramen Yamadaya is gaining a foothold and it’s just as popular as any noodle joint along Sawtelle. Twenty hours of simmering pork bones is what goes into Yamadaya’s signature tonkotsu broth, forming the base for one of the creamiest, cleanest, porkiest bowls of tonkotsu ramen in town. The thin noodles work well here; you’ll slurp them up much too quickly for them to lose their bite. Don’t miss the dip-and-slurp tsukemen, which is equally as good.
Spice seekers, rejoice: Killer Noodle says they sling the hottest noodles in town, and they mean it. Don’t say they didn’t warn you: Their list of restaurant rules includes “our restaurant aims for painful, delicious and spicy,” and “Please take care of your bottoms when you complete your meal.” Using a combination of Chinese spices—namely, Hana-Sansho and prickly ash—they season your noodle bowl from level zero to six, and even manage to bring their insane spice and flavor to their vegan bowls. If you’d rather play it safe, they also offer small rice bowls topped with fried pork, char siu and tofu. But come on. You’re here, aren’t you?
This Japanese chain has many stateside locations, including a Los Angeles outpost located in Mitsuwa’s food court—prompting some to refer to Santouka as the McDonald’s of ramen joints. But the analogy does a disservice to the noodle spot: This certainly is fast-food ramen, but a bowl of Santouka’s shio ramen is better than a 20-piece box of nuggets on any day of week (and trust us, we’re into those, too). The broth is a blend of pork stock—pork bones simmered some 20 hours—and seafood, seasoned crucially with a bit of salt to create a mild, almost creamy base. Chewy, curly noodles and a pickled Japanese plum complete a great bowl.
It might be hard, at first, to get past the all-vegan aspect of Ramen Hood. Aren’t fatty slices of pork and thick tonkotsu broth why most people crave ramen anyway? But Ramen Hood, which sits inside Grand Central Market, doesn’t serve watery, flavorless bowls; instead, you can choose from either plain or spicy ramen, both boasting a thick, sunflower seed broth filled with king oyster mushrooms, nori, scallions, bean sprouts and hearty noodles. A vegan egg, made from soy milk and nutritional yeast, can be added for $2—and while it doesn’t taste exactly like an egg, it’s pretty close. There are a few sides available as well, like crispy broccoli sitting in a pool of soy chili glaze, and tofu al pastor. But the ramen is the star, and well worth a try even if you’re all about that fatty pork belly.
It seems as though you can’t drive in any direction without stumbling upon at least one ramen joint boasting about its tonkotsu broth. Despite all the new shops spouting up in the city, one of the earliest tonkotsu specialists is still the best: Jinya offers a full slate of pork-based ramen, all of which smack strong with not only pork, but also what someone might tell you is an “industrial” amount of dashi and dried fish; purists can order the Tonkotsu Black for a garlicky and straightforward approach to this soup; for the adventurous, there’s the Tonkotsu Spicy, which stays true to its name. Of course, if you’re not into tonkotsu at all, Jinya also offers one of our favorite vegan bowls in the city: the spicy creamy vegan, made garlicky and studded with tofu, greens and sesame. Locations include Studio City, Mid-Wilshire, DTLA, Santa Monica, Hollywood and Burbank.
Nestled into Old Town Pasadena’s busy shopping stretch is Ramen Tatsunoya, a modestly-sized, quiet spot where communal wooden tables and some booths surround a giant trimmed tree trunk at the restaurant’s center. Once seated (the line often stretches into the neighboring alleyway), choose between koku (rich) tonkotsu, jun (light) tonkotsu or spicy tonkotsu as the broth base and top with egg, dried seaweed, green onion and chashu. The menu is straightforward and simple, but high in quality—with an option to try their house-made silky coconut flan for dessert, which is an option always worth going for.