San Francisco’s historic Japantown is one of just three remaining Japantowns in the country! With that said, it’s been a hub for Japanese art, culture, shopping and so much more for decades. Moreover, Japantown is home to some of the most authentic Japanese food this city has to offer. From fresh mochi and conveyor belt sushi to piping hot crepes and snacks like takoyaki, Japantown has the traditional Japanese cuisine you’re craving. One of the most comforting dishes in the area is San Francisco’s best ramen. These five spots are all within walking distance to one another, making it more than easy to get your noodle fix!
Marufuku Ramen – 1581 Webster St. Ste 235
My favorite ramen spot in Japantown is Marufuku Ramen which specializes in Hakata-style Tonkotsu ramen. The broth is super umami, creamy, and rich. More specifically, the broth is made from boiling pork bones for hours which creates a super flavorful soup. The noodles are super thin and tender, perfect for slurping with the broth on a chilly day. In addition, you can customize your bowl’s spice profile too, which is great for people who enjoy a kick with their noodles. Marufuku prides themselves on making everything by hand and you can certainly tell given how good their food is! This spot gets super busy midday, so try to get there earlier if you can.
What to order: Hakata Tonkotsu with rich pork broth, chashu pork (simmered pork belly), seasoned soft boiled egg, green onions, kikurage mushrooms, bean sprouts, buta kakuni (braised thick pork belly), corn and nori seaweed. The braised thick pork belly was tender and had the perfect ratio of fat to meat. The soup was so flavorful, but not overly salty. Furthermore, the combination of freshness from the green onions and crunch from the corn and veggies rounded this bowl out perfectly!
Umai Ramen House – 22 Peace Plaza Suite 560
This spot is welcoming and cozy. Umai Ramen House specializes in their own style of ramen and special homemade broths. Their broth boils for over 20 hours yielding an umami, rich flavor that’s further intensified by the ingredients, based on what you order. Moreover, they have a selection of bowls with ingredients that aren’t as common and if you’re a fan of meat you’ll love it. Special bowls include meats like spicy sausage, oxtail and even pork ribs!
What to order: Umai Combination Ramen served with pork broth and a combination of pork rib, sausage, oxtail, chasu (pork belly), soft boiled egg, and a variety of veggies like green onion, fresh spinach, corn, bean sprout, seaweed and black fungus. This bowl is definitely big enough for two people. It’s full of different meats including a full rib and a generous piece of oxtail making it almost like a bowl of noodles plus a meat entree. It’s certainly unique and full of intense flavor from the pork broth and meats inside it.
Hinodeya Ramen Bar – 1737 Buchanan Street
This charming ramen bar welcomes each of its guests with a special greeting as you walk through the door. Hinodeya features ramen with a dashi-based broth, which is unlike most of the ramen shops that specialize in pork or chicken-based ramen. Therefore, it’s lighter than most, but still very savory and complex made with a combination of bonito flakes and kombu seaweed. This is Hinodeya’s only U.S. outpost and an expansion of a ramen brand that first opened in Saitama Prefecture in 1885.
What to order: Spicy Miso Butter Corn Ramen made with wheat noodles with koshi in a spicy dashi broth flavored with miso, pork and chicken. This comforting bowl of ramen has chashu pork, menma, ajitsuke tamago, nori seaweed, corn, green onion, sesame seeds, red pepper and a special ingredient — butter. This ramen was savory and a bit creamy thanks to the butter which added richness to the broth.
Ramen Yamadaya – 1728 Buchanan St.
This spacious restaurant features ramen that’s been extracted from around 24 ounces of pork bone that’s been boiling for over 20 hours to make their rich, hearty broth. They specialize in Tokyo Style which utilizes pork and chicken broth and features a thicker noodle. The broth often is flavored with dashi, which comes from dried smoked bonito flakes and sea kelp. Ramen Yamadaya also offers guests a complete vegan option made with house made miso, cashew and sesame butter and vegetables making it a good option for those with dietary restrictions.
What to order: Kara Miso Spicy with awase miso, roasted garlic, pork bone broth, chashu, pork belly, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tokyo onions, soft egg, togarashi bomb, chili oil served with thick noodles. If you’re a fan of a wider, more hearty noodle this ramen bowl is for you. They had a chewier, dense consistency.
Waraku Ramen – 1638 Post St
This restaurant is a modern spot complete with Japanese art, offering guests a chic spot to enjoy this cuisine. They offer four types include the signature tonkotsu; chicken shoyu made with a housemade clear chicken soup base; a black garlic tonkotsu pork; and the signature spicy tantan men which is comes with a chicken bone base seasoned with sesame and topped with a spicy ground chicken. They also offer a vegetarian bowl called the impossible tantan men bowl (using a meat substitute.)
What to order: Black garlic tonkotsu pork ramen which is loaded with kakuni (braised pork belly), chashu, corn, bamboo shoots, kikurage mushrooms, spinach, soft-boiled egg, nori seaweed and a black garlic oil. Those who love garlic will love this deluxe bowl of savory, umami-packed ramen. The meat is tender, juicy and pairs excellently with the tender noodles and garlic-flavored broth.