The 15 Best Ramen Spots In The Bay Area

 February 5, 2016
Posted by jenn

“Ramen,” says Japanese celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto, “is a dish that’s very high in calories and sodium.” Respectfully, chef, that’s bullshit. Ramen isn’t a dish: It’s a bowl. The rest of that statement, however, is accurate. Ramen is a large, complete meal, and if done right it can be among the most fulfilling and comforting you’ve ever had. Over these last few years, you may have noticed trendier noodle joints joining the ranks of established players in the Bay Area, following on a similar ramen explosion back east in the last decade. Call it a Ramenaissance. Here are some, new and old, that stand out.

Coco’s Ramen
To get to Coco’s on the Mission strip in Bernal Heights, a spot indicated loosely with a paper sign for “Ramen,” duck inside the more clearly designated Crazy Sushi and hang a left. The two are separate but symbiotically related businesses. In a warm red room, made warmer with a little sake and some steaming broth, snag one of a few tables or a seat at the bar and ask for your old friend tonkotsu — though he shoyu and curry based options are reason to stray. —Caleb Pershan
3319 Mission Street between Virginia Avenue and 29th Street

Photo: Facebook

Iza Ramen
Born out of a pop-up at Blowfish Sushi in the Mission, Iza Ramen just debuted in the Lower Haight three months ago and already has a wintertime neighborhood following. The chef is Blowfish sushi chef-partner Ritsuo Tsuchida, and ramen here is traditional in both tonkotsu (pork) and tsukemen (dipping noodles separate from broth) styles, with a rich, creamy, well executed broth. Also notable: some generous and juicy chicken karaage, a.k.a. Japanese fried chicken. — Jay Barmann
237 Fillmore Street at Haight

Izakaya Goku
From the Waraku and Men Oh Ramen empire stems Izakaya Goku, a casual Mission District spot near the end of the 16th Street strip, its emphasis split between small plates and big bowls. As for the latter, offerings are milky-rich, including the vegetarian broth, while the one departure would be the clam and garlic ramen, which is saltier and lighter. When considering spiciness, keep in mind that the Goku or (“hella spicy”) setting won’t exactly make your hair change color. In fact, it’s pretty mild. —Caleb Pershan
3232 16th Street between Dolores and Spencer Streets

A limited edition from last week: duck breast tsukemen with seared foie gras and tonkotsu broth. Photo: Izakaya Sozai/Instagram

Izakaya Sozai
This Sunset spot is going strong after six years under the helm of chef Ritsu Osuka, who came here after a stint at Blowfish Sushi’s L.A. location. Osuka’s ramen has been praised by fellow ramen chef Richie Nakano as some of the best in town, with noodles that are the ideal of chewiness. The place holds two and a half stars from the Chronicle in addition to being a neighborhood favorite, and Osuka keeps things exciting with constantly changing specials that he posts to Instagram. — Jay Barmann
1500 Irving Street at 16th Avenue

Ken Ken’s Canadian Crab Special Ramen. Photo from Ken Ken’s website

Ken Ken Ramen
Takahiro Hori, Stefan Roesch, and Robert Patterson began Ken Ken as a pop-up, but did well enough to open a brick and mortar location in the Mission not that long thereafter. This is the pick for most noodle-seeking vegetarians, with broth options including vegan, miso, soy, or salt. Overall, though, it’s an unassuming menu that relies on solid food, not crazy combinations. As with many places on this list, there are no reservations at Ken Ken — and they’ve been known to run out of ramen. So skip lunch and make it an early (they open at 6 p.m.) dinner. It’ll be good practice for when you’re old! — Eve Batey
3378 18th Street between Mission and Capp Streets

Photo via Yelp.

Men Oh Ramen
If you’re on the hunt for a serious focus on pork-based broth, then this spot is for you. Men Oh lasers in on a very specific style of ramen made in the Tokushima Prefecture of Japan, and they strive to faithfully recreate it here. The restaurant has two Bay Area locations — one in SF and one in Union City — and its chefs put a lot of effort into reproducing the broth they make at their Japan restaurants. This means that all of the ramens offered by Men Oh (Tokushima, Tonkotsu, and Spicy Tonkotsu) are made from their pork-bone soup. With house-made noodles and an encouraged bowl of rice to pour your both on after finishing with the Berkshire Kurobuta pork, you’ll be quite full (but will probably want to order more anyway). — Jack Morse
5120 Geary Boulevard, between 15th and 16th Avenue

Photo courtesy of Nojo Ramen Tavern

Nojo Ramen Tavern
Tonkotsu purists may scoff, but the new incarnation of Nojo, now dubbed Nojo Ramen Tavern, specializes not in porky goodness but in chicken ramen. Specifically, they’re doing a chicken-based ramen with optional braised chicken leg on top (pictured), and just yesterday Hoodlinepraised the fluffiness of the chicken meatballs in the Chicken Paitan Ramen ($15). It’s now owned by a big Japanese conglomerate, AP Company, and is not the independent Nojo of yore — chef-owner Greg Dunmore has officially left the building. But because this is their very first U.S. location, they look to be trying to make an immediate good impression. The original izakaya menu is gone, but you can still get some starters like gyoza and salads, and otherwise you have your pick of five types of chicken ramen with an array of toppings. Note they’re only really open for dinner now, but you can get brunch ramen starting at 11 a.m. on Sundays only. — Jay Barmann
231 Franklin Street near Hayes

Photo: Instagram

Orenchi Beyond
This always busy Mission ramen spot opened in 2014 and is an off-shoot of the much acclaimed Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara. Shortly after its opening, the Chron’s Jonathan Kauffman, a big fan of the South Bay location, said Orenchi Beyond’s versions were not quite as amazing as those at the original, but still better than most in the ‘hood — and much of Yelp, at least the part who’ve been to the Santa Clara spot, agrees. “Unlike those of many competitors, Orenchi Beyond’s [tonkotsu broth] does not come across as a fatty, mouth-coating sludge. It is deeply porky, but with a clean finish, lightened with dashi,” Kauffman writes. While somewhat stingy with the toppings, Orenchi nevertheless puts out a more than solid bowl of ramen that stands up to most of its local competition, even if you might wait an hour and still have to drive an hour south if you want the superior version. — Jay Barmann
174 Valencia Street at Duboce

Photo via Yelp.

The Ramen Bar
If you’re not too determined in your elusive quest to eat only 100 percent authentic ramen, the California take on ramen offered by The Ramen Bar is a great choice. A collaboration between Ken Tominaga and Michael Mina, this Financial District spot falls into the realm of fast-casual, and in its attempts to make “Japanese ramen with West Coast style,” it succeeds. Tip: Make sure you get the soy-cured egg with your bowl. — Jack Morse
101 California Street, off Davis Street

Ramen Dojo’s pork flavor ramen with extra egg, extra napa cabbage and mushrooms, and extra roasted seaweed. Photo: Claire W/Yelp

Ramen Dojo
Described by longtime Chron food critic Michael Bauer as his favorite place to go for “the most traditional bowl” of ramen in the Bay Area, San Mateo’s Ramen Dojo is credited as one of the icons that has sparked the current local craze for noodles. Owner Kazunori Kobayashi made his noodle and broth bones in Japan before moving to the US in the ’80s and has owned restaurants in the area since 1994. With only 30 seats and a line that forms well before they open, you’ll be in for a wait — but fans say that the springy noodles and robust broth is worth the time spent loitering on the streets of San Mateo. — Eve Batey
805 South B Street, San Mateo

Photo: Aya Brackett for Ramen Shop

Ramen Shop
Easily the most gushed-over and buzzed-about ramen opening of the last several years has been this Rockridge spot, and all that attention is likely due to the fact that these guys went way California with the toppings and non-ramen dishes. With a couple of the owners coming from Chez Panisse, that makes perfect sense. The place also skews from tonkotsu a fair bit, with an ever-changing menu featuring things like clam-miso ramen and gyokai shoyu ramen, as well as a vegetarians’ favorite, the veggie Meyer lemon shoyu ramen. The addition of great cocktails makes the place even more of a draw, and as of last year they expanded next door to create a more spacious bar area, with 22 extra seats in the dining room to accommodate the constant waitlist. For what it’s worth, and if you’re a fan, Michael Bauer declares this the best ramen in the Bay Area — and he’s not alone. — Jay Barmann
5812 College Avenue, Oakland

Photo via Yelp.

Ramen Underground
This one is no surprise. Ramen Underground has been on pretty much every “best of” list since it opened. In fact, it was so popular that a few years ago it moved from its hole-in-the-wall spot across the street to the current location. This joint draws all kinds of ramen-lovers — and corresponding lines — but it has a special appeal for those seeking vegetarian ramen with three different veggie broths. And unlike in its old home, Ramen Underground is no longer BYOB — so enjoy that sake with your habanero soy sauce ramen. — Jack Morse
356 Kearny Street at Pine Street

Sawaii Ramen
Out in the Sunset, spicy and garlicky broth is the Sawaii way, the flavor accentuated by a sprinkling of fried garlic slivers. Miso or tonkotsu can be ordered that way, and all come with thick, chewy noodles and cubed pork belly that’s some of the best around. There are lots of add-ons to play with: I like to throw some chicken karaage in the mix because fried chicken is my passion. In the evenings, Sawaii gets crowded in a hurry, so show up early if you can. Oh, and if you’re up for a food challenge during the day, keep in mind the $11 ramen and sushi lunch special —Caleb Pershan
2240 Irving Street between 23rd and 24th Avenues.

Photo via Yelp.

The Spice Jar
Opened last summer, the Spice Jar serves a range of self-proclaimed Asian comfort foods with ramen being a strong contender for the most comforting of them all. The restaurant itself is full of light, and the huge communal table and friendly owners combine to give this spot a welcoming energy. Definitely try the spicy sesame miso ramen. If you’re a vegetarian, the cooks will make you veggie ramen (mushroom-based broth with tofu substituted for chicken) even though they’ve pulled it from the official menu. — Jack Morse
2500 Bryant Street at 23rd Street

The spicy tan-tan noodles. Photo: Facebook

Three-year-old Waraku has one truly compelling reason to visit it: the excellent, crave-worthy Spicy Tan-Tan Noodles. Holy shit this is some of the best, beautifully spicy ramen I’ve ever had, and totally unlike most other ramen I’ve found in SF. The broth is bright red, tangy, and redolent of porky sriracha, without you having to add any hot sauce of your own, but it won’t blow your head off either if you consider your spice tolerance in the “medium” range. The other ramen is pretty good too, as are starters like the ankimo (monkfish liver) and the whole grilled squid. But you need to have the Spicy Tan-Tan Noodles. That is all. — Jay Barmann
1638 Post Street at Laguna

(Taken 100% from SFist by Caleb Pershan)