Many a Bay Area newcomer has uttered the words, "California has no seasons." Though you would be wrong to carry this belief, our perpetual temperate weather just means that you can shamelessly enjoy a hot bowl of ramen year-round. For some, ramen is the ultimate comfort food when you need a warm hug from within your belly. This hearty and soul-warming Japanese soup isn’t just for college dorm rooms and people on a budget. When you peruse the list below, try to forget that you ever knew that bright orange package of freeze-dried noodles. There are a slew of incredible ramen restaurants in the South Bay that serve up a dish by the same name, but that is almost not from the same universe. They are churning out house-made broths, hand-pulled noodles and just waiting for your approval. While I love loudly slurping down some ramen at my local neighborhood restaurants, all of the places on this list offer ramen to-go, so you can slurp away from the comfort of your couch and remain socially distanced, despite the recently loosened restrictions on indoor dining, reported by the San José Spotlight.
Ordering ramen is fairly unique compared to the process for other popular noodle soup dishes. There is a little formula that might come in handy. Broth + Noodles + toppings = ramen. There are actually four different styles of ramen broths to choose from. They are shio, shoyu, miso, and tonkotsu — with the latter being the classic, porky one that tends to get the most attention. After picking your broth, throw in some noodles and then choose from an endless array of toppings to achieve a simple path to comfort food that will get you through any rainy or boiling hot day. Let’s take a look at the top 16 places to eat ramen in the South Bay, in no particular order.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is located in Mitsuwa, one of the most popular Japanese grocery stores in the area. The parking lot is always packed and there is a line to get into both Mitsuwa and to order food at Santouka. However, all the waiting is well worth it! Shio is the Japanese word for “salt,” and it is a hearty, yellow broth. Santouka’s salt ramen is what they are known for, so be sure to try the shio broth on your first try. Shio broth is made from fish, pork, or chicken bones and has a salty, savory flavor. Santouka ramen has a flawless balance of texture and flavors. It is topped with roasted pork, green onions, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, fish cake, a sour plum, and sesame seeds. If you have never tried ramen before, swing by Santouka and try it here first.
675 Saratoga Avenue #103, San Jose
If you are a true ramen aficionado, you have probably heard of Orenchi Ramen. With multiple locations in the Bay Area, Orenchi Ramen has made Thrillist’s, “Best Ramen Restaurants in America.” Orenchi Ramen is meticulous when it comes to their food, and regardless of what type you try, you really can’t go wrong. They offer classic broths like shio, tonkotsu, and shoyu, but also a vegan curry broth for those searching for something plant-based. If you are looking for an entertaining and delicious activity to do at home, Orenchi Ramen is now offering ramen and udon kits that you can make in your own kitchen. Only $13.80, these kits contain raw ramen noodles, broth, and all the fixings. It also comes with a recipe guide so you can prepare your very own bowl of Orenchi ramen at home.
3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
It doesn’t get much better than Hironori Ramen. It has been dubbed "The Best Ramen in California" and won multiple awards since its opening in 2017. Hironori has locations all over the state, and luckily we have one in Santa Clara. Their broth is arguably prepared like none other. At Hironori, fantastic ramen starts with the broth. The shoyu ramen is made with only the finest quality soy sauce that is barreled for two years. These soy sauce barrels have been used in Japan for over 300 years at one of the oldest and most exceptional soy sauce factories. Also imported from Japan is a unique Japanese flour from which all their noodles are handmade. For around $14 a bowl, this comforting ramen has a depth of flavor like no other, and is the kind of meal that will make your day.
4300 Great America Pkwy #180, Santa Clara
Ramen Nagi is quite frankly happiness in a bowl. Located in Palo Alto, the people over at Ramen Nagi are some serious ramen enthusiasts, and you can customize your order to your liking. Start with one of the four main ramen broths or choose their rotating, “limited king.” The limited king pushes the boundaries of creativity and there have been over 1,000 varieties since Ramen Nagi opened its doors. You can also customize your noodles, toppings, and flavor level by adjusting the spice level, richness in oil, and amount of house-made nagi sauce. All the toppings are flawlessly prepared and regardless of how you like your ramen, you won’t be disappointed.
541 Bryant St, Palo Alto
We can’t discuss South Bay ramen without bringing San Jose's Japantown into the mix. Kumako Ramen is in the heart of Japantown and has been voted the best ramen by Metro Magazine for eight consecutive years in a row. Eight years, people! Kumako is also family-owned and operated with some remarkable broth and noodles. You also cannot beat their prices. For around $11 a bowl, they have large portions and serve up all four classic ramen flavors. Their tonkotsu ramen is topped with kaiware or daikon radish sprouts which is a nice touch. If you like appetizers, their gyoza has been voted the best in Silicon Valley by Wave magazine. After trying Kumako Ramen it will probably become your go-to ramen spot.
211 Jackson St, San Jose
If you like hand-picked ingredients and locally sourced food, then Ramen Osaka is the place for you. Located in San Jose, Ramen Osaka works with local farmers in the area to provide pesticide-free and fresh ingredients. They slow cook their broth for eight hours, and use locally made noodles. In short, they have killer ramen and have truly found the recipe for success. Ramen Osaka has the four main kinds of ramen broth as well as a tomato broth if you are feeling adventurous. One of their most popular bowls of ramen is the black garlic tonkotsu ramen. Their tonkotsu, or pork broth, is savory and rich. Did we mention they are open until midnight so you can get your late-night ramen fix here?
4035 Evergreen Village Square #40, San Jose
Ramen Hajime is located in Santa Clara and they seriously take ramen to the next level. Hajime means, “beginning” in Japanese. They analyze every aspect of a bowl of ramen and perfect it until the details are flawless. For Ramen Hajime, a good bowl of ramen starts with the water. They use an ultra purifying reverse osmosis water filtration system to ensure that their ramen is impeccably made from the beginning. Of course, they also slow-cook their broth, have hand-made noodles, and only the highest quality pork. They have a ton of different ramen options including two vegan and the “meat meat meat.” There is something for everyone and you won’t be disappointed.
5229 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara
Ramen Tenma has seriously addictive ramen and coincidentally is also a really entertaining place to go for a meal! There are trivia questions up on the walls, and if answered correctly, you get a free appetizer or treat. How cool is that? Ramen Tenma’s noodles also set them apart from other ramen restaurants in the area. There are three different kinds of noodles to pick from. So if you are particular about your noodles being thin, medium, or thick you can customize your ramen to your liking. If customer service is your thing, then you will want to stop at Ramen Tenma. Customers rave about the kind chef here who often gives free chocolate cookie sticks at the end of your meal.
487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
Katana Ramen has truly mastered the art of COVID dining. Ramen ordered to-go comes in two containers. One filled with the boiling hot soup and another with the noodles and toppings. The noodles and toppings are warm so you aren’t pouring hot broth over cold fixing. The Katana Ramen is $14.95 and comes with chashu, gyoza, karaage, egg, corn, bamboo, green onions, seaweed. They don’t skimp on the toppings and they are piled on heavily. The chashu is arguably the best part — it is melt-in-your-mouth tender and a very hearty serving. The fried chicken karaage soaks up the broth which is savory and peppery. They also have a build-your-own ramen starting at $9.95. There is no outdoor seating and it is take-out only, so plan ahead.
4750 Almaden Expy, San Jose
Ramen Taka deserves all the five-star reviews and repeat visits. Situated right next to Santa Clara University, Ramen Taka serves up Hakata-style ramen. Hakata is a district in Kyushu, Japan where you can find ramen with a rich, milky, tonkotsu broth and thin noodles that have less of a curl to them. It is definitely worth a try if you are a ramen enthusiast. If you are an appetizer person, Ramen Taka has a ton of great options like their chashu buns. Pillowy bao bun dough, buttery chashu, pickled ginger, and lettuce — these chashu buns are a must-have. Did we mention they also have Spam musubi?
2219 The Alameda, Santa Clara
To all the seafood lovers out there, there is no need to worry: Ramen Seas has exactly what you are looking for. Located in Sunnyvale, Ramen Seas has a variety of ramen options, but the seafood ramen is truly exquisite. It is warming and filling, topped with spinach, mushrooms, wakame, green onions, shrimp, scallops, and clams. You can add any of their seafood toppings to the classic ramen flavors as well. If you want something a little lighter, Ramen Seas also has a ramen salad. Yes, you read that correctly. They have a ramen salad. A heaping bed of noodles topped with eggplant, bell pepper, bean sprouts, radish, corn, egg, and chashu with an addicting dressing and it is totally worth trying.
173 Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale
If you are in the process of making the transition from instant ramen to a real bowl of the good stuff, then Porco Ramen is the place to do it. Porco Ramen slow-cooks their pork bone broth for 12 hours. Their flagship item, the Porco, is topped with sous-vide pork cheek to complement the rich tonkotsu broth and noodles cooked to perfection. A huge indicator of a seriously good bowl of ramen is the soft-boiled egg. Porco Ramen nails their egg delivery every time. Each bowl comes with half of a soft boiled egg that is pillowy, gooey, and melts in your mouth in all the right kinds of ways.
1710 Berryessa Rd #107, San Jose
What the Cup
What the Cup has more than just a really catchy name, they have some delectable ramen. Located inside an old converted Taco Bell, What the Cup is best known for their meat. You can choose between spicy pork, shoyu pork, premium chicken or Japanese beef. They only have two broth choices: miso and tonkotso. Both are really good, especially if you add extra meat.
5469 Snell Ave, San Jose
If you haven’t hung out on Castro Street in Mountain View, then you should definitely add it to your South Bay list. There are a variety of different convivial shops and restaurants to choose from, but Maru Ichi is among the best. Their tonktosu ramen has a milky, meaty broth. There is an abundance of toppings and their meats are tender and impeccably cooked. If you order the, “Maruichi Ramen Special,” it is topped with cod roe seasoned with red pepper, which is a nice touch you can’t find just anywhere. Guests report that their COVID safety protocols here are also top-notch. Everything from the tables to the counters are sanitized in between use. Their ramen takeout game is strong and they separate the broth and the toppings as well as provide a large take-out bowl for at-home dining.
368 Castro St, Mountain View
Jinya Ramen Bar
You can find Jinya Ramen Bar on the outskirts of Oakridge Mall in San Jose. I know what you're thinking, and trust us when we say that Jinya is not your average food court meal. Jinya first opened in Tokyo in 2000 by Tomo Takahashi. After traveling to the United States, he felt that authentic Japanese ramen was hard to find so he expanded Jinya and brought it to the states. There are now locations all over the country. Jinya Ramen Bar is a ramen mecca. Each bowl starts with Fuji water that is slow-cooked with the highest quality ingredients for over 20 hours. The noodles undergo a special aging process prior to being cooked. The folks at Jinya say they are “crazy about ramen,” and after trying what they have to offer we are grateful that they are.
925 Blossom Hill Rd #1637, San Jose
Ramen Izakaya Yu-Gen
An izakaya is a casual, Japanese bar that serves appetizers and snacks. Similar to a Spanish tapas bar, you can get some great drinks and high-quality small plates. The menu at Ramen Izakaya Yu-Gen is a fusion between traditional tonkotsu ramen and these addicting small plate dishes. So if you like sake, appetizers, and ramen, then this is the place to visit. Yu-Gen slow cooks their broth for 16 hours and all their soups have that umami flavor. Their chicken paitan deluxe ramen comes highly recommended and is served with a five-spiced roasted chicken leg on a sizzling plate. They also have a killer list of sake to choose from. So, in short, Ramen Izakaya Yu-Gen has everything we could possibly want.
152 Castro St, Mountain View