Ramen in San Francisco
You don't have to head all the way to Santa Clara anymore to slurp on tonkotsu master Yoshiyuki Maruyama's beloved noodle soups like the pork-heavy, almost buttery tonkotsu ramen, from Japan’s Fukuoka Prefecture. Regulars also fill up on chicken karaage, soba noodles and vegan miso ramen. The line can get long, so reservations are recommended.
While the Inner Sunset’s Izakaya Sozai is best known for its izakaya format, they also serve delicious ramen. The ritsu tonkotsu ramen is savory perfection with a spicy miso broth, braised pork belly and fried egg (sans spice, if you prefer).
Iza is an expert at tsukemen, a dipping ramen where springy noodles and juicy barbecued pork are dipped into a thicker, mouth-watering broth. Crowds line up for the silky triple-stock broth, with slow-cooked barbecue pork belly, generous noodles, a soy-marinated soft egg and seasonal vegetables or try the Tsukemen. Also on the menu: cold and vegan ramen options, rice bowls (try the tori chili rice), takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and tuna poké salad.
Nojo focuses on chicken-centric ramen, small plates and snacks like the decadent takoyaki fries (inspired by traditional fried octopus balls). Go for the chicken paitan ramen (made with fluffy chicken tsukune meatballs); the unofficial house favorite comes with slow braised whole chicken leg, dashi egg, red onion, scallions and fried gobo swimming in a silky broth laced with fish powder and blackened garlic oil.
Their first location outside of Japan, Hinoyeda Ramen specializes in its namesake style of dashi broth ramen in the heart of SF's Japantown. Hinodeya’s ramen is packed with whole wheat noodles, chashu pork, egg and red peppers in an aromatic broth made with bonito, kombu and scallops. Enjoy alongside appetizers like fried yams and shishito peppers.
This tiny mom and pop spot only seats around two dozen, lending an intimate, hidden-gem quality. Tables are divided by screens and flags are strung overhead. There's a wide variety of choices on the menu, including six chicken- and pork-based broths—shoyu, miso, sio, spicy miso, garlic shoyu, and garlic miso. (You'll also find three vegetarian alternatives, topped with onion, carrot, zucchini, Chinese cabbage, and broccoli.) Order the pork belly, then pile on extras like corn, butter, green onion, egg, and bamboo shoots.
Regulars head to Kaiju Eats for hefty bowls of ramen in traditional (spicy miso ramen, for example) and non-traditional styles like kimchi kabocha, katsu curry and coconut shoyu ramen, made with topppings like lotus chips or curry aioli. If you're not in the mood for noodles, their tataki, gyoza, chicken karaage, donburi bowls, skewers and sushi options are equally delicious.
The first U.S. location of this Japanese chain opened in SF in 2016. The signature tori paitan laced with slices of duck and pork chashu in chicken broth is popular here, but we like the tsukemen (noodles dipped in broth) and vegan tantanmen made from soy cream and seven types of nuts. For carnivores, the decadent spicy lamb chashu ramen has a cult following and is packed with ground lamb, double pork chashu, ramen noodles and creamy dressing.
Marufuku Ramen does their ramen done hakata style (a regional variation on pork tonkotsu with thin noodles). The lush broth is cooked over 20 hours for maximum umami flavor. The chashu chicken paitan in white broth is another winner; pair it with wasabi beer or SF-made Sequoia Saké.
Slurp Ramen may be known for its spicy miso tonkotsu ramen, but the Chinatown spot serves a number of styles of tonkotsu ramen—all made with 100% Berkshire pork. Choose from shoyu and miso broths with add-ons like kimchi or wood ear mushrooms. The black and red ramens incporporate either black garlic oil or mildly spicy chili garlic oil.