Bay Area Bites Guide to 9 Favorite South Bay Ramen Shops

A thick and hearty tonkotsu ramen at Ryowa in Mountain View.

If you read "ramen" and the image you conjure up is a packaged brick of instant noodles from your dormitory days, this guide is for you. It is not clear whether the Chinese or the Japanese get credit for the creation of ramen. But Momofuku Ando, the Taiwanese-Japanese founder and chairman of Nissin Foods invented instant noodles in 1958 which made ramen inexpensive and easily accessible. In the 1980s ramen became a Japanese cultural icon and its popularity spread internationally. The reality is the while the noodle soup is a popular option for those on their lunch hour, the restaurants serving the dish often spend hours preparing noodles and simmering their broth which have a broad range of interpretations and styles. Ramen is continually trending in the Bay Area (some restaurants with cult-like followings) as devoted customers slurp up the springy noodles and rich broth year-round. From a simple sea salt base to the slowly simmered tonkotsu, this guide highlights nine popular destinations for ramen in the South Bay Area.

Please feel free to share your favorite South Bay ramen shops that are not included in this guide.

A visit to this Bay Area pinnacle of ramen goodness often comes with a wait list that can be anywhere from one half to two hours long, as you and throngs of people wait to get inside the small strip mall restaurant. There isn’t even a guarantee you will get in — at Orenchi once the kitchen runs out, service is up. If you finally get a seat, you will be rewarded with a bowl of chewy noodles in a delicious broth made from organic chicken and Canadian black pork, that simmered for more than 18 hours. Orenchi just expanded its reach to open Orenchi Beyond in San Francisco.

Orenchi Ramen
3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara [map]
Ph: (408) 246-2955
Hours: Tue-Thu 11:30am-1:30pm 6-9pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-1:30pm 6-9:30pm; Sun 11:30am-1:30pm 5-8:30pm
Price Range: $$ (entrees $11-$17)

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Located across Homestead road from Orenchi, Misoya may seem to be overshadowed by its neighbor but a menu of miso ramen from various Japanese regions keeps this noodle house a popular location in the South Bay, just one of several Misoya locations that operate around the world. Misoya serves three varieties of soy-based ramen: Kome Miso (full-bodied miso flavor of traditional Japanese miso), Shiro Miso (a variation popular in Kyoto) and Mame Miso (a deep, bitter miso flavor).

Misoya Ramen
3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara [map]
Ph: (408) 615-7888
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-3pm 5-9pm; Fri 11:30am-3pm 5-10:30pm; Sat 11:30am-10:30pm; Sun 11:30am-9pm
Facebook: Ramen Misoya Silicon Valley
Price Range: $$ (entrees $11-$17)

A relative newcomer in the South Bay ramen scene, Shalala has become a popular Mountain View spot for ramen and izakaya. Each bowl of ramen starts out as a traditional tonkotsu pork broth and can be dressed up to the customers choosing. The main attraction is the restaurant’s spicy miso ramen which adds a slightly sweet, spicy and nutty flavor to the already rich and flavorful tonkotsu base.

Shalala
698 W Dana St, Mountain View [map]
Ph: (650) 965-8001
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-2pm 5:30-9:30pm; Fri 11:30am-2pm 5:30-11:30pm; Sat 11:30am-2:30pm 5:30-11:30pm; Sun 11:30am-2:30pm 5:30-9pm
Facebook: Ramen Shalala
Price Range: $$ (entrees $11-$17)

This international ramen franchise has an ever-popular South Bay location inside the food court at Mitsuwa Marketplace. The ramen combinations here run the gamut and can make your head spin slightly. Choose from soy, pork bone, miso or soybean broth bases which then can be altered with different toppings, extra noodles or made spicy. The most popular ramen is the #7 special pork toroniku. Be aware that it is cash only and the line to order can be a lengthy ordeal.

Santouka
675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose [map]
Ph: (408) 446-1101
Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-7:30pm
Price Range: $$ (entrees $11-$17) Cash only

Tucked away in a strip mall speckled with other Asian restaurants and grocers, guests converge outside Kotetsu Ramen as they wait to get inside during lunch and dinner service. On the menu you will find the popular ramen offerings available as kuro (soy sauce) or shoyu (sea salt) based, as well as Japanese small plates and draft beer. The broth here is rich, comforting and very filling.

Kotetsu Ramen
2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara [map]
Ph: (408) 557-0822
Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-1:30pm 6-9:30pm; Sun 11:30am-2pm 6-9pm
Price Range: $$ (entrees $11-$17)

A stones throw from Santa Clara University, Ramen Taka prepares a hakata style ramen which uses a thinner noodle compared to the traditional wavy, Chinese wheat noodles. The standard Taka Ramen is made from a buttery traditional pork bone broth but a miso and shio base are also available. Also on the menu is a take on the recent trend, a ramen burger using fried wavy noodles in place of a bun.

Ramen Taka
2219 The Alameda, Santa Clara [map]
Ph: (408) 474-0106
Hours: Mon 11:30am-2pm 5:30-9pm; Wed-Sat 11:30am-2pm 5:30-9pm; Sun 11:30am-2:30pm 5:30-8:30pm
Facebook: Ramen Taka
Price Range: $$ (entrees $11-$17)

This popular Mountain View location prides itself on hand-pulled noodles prepared daily and their distinctive kuro garlic broth. In addition to a traditional, milky tonkotsu pork broth Maru Ichi prepares a special kuro broth which comes out with a black, oily sheen from slow-roasted garlic oil. The result is a indescribable savory blend of goodness that lends well to the the chewy, fresh noodles.

Maru Ichi
368 Castro St, Mountain View [map]
Ph: (650) 564-9931
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm 5-9:30pm; Sat 11:30am-10pm; Sun 11:30am-9pm
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

Ramen House Ryowa remains a crowd favorite in Mountain View for enjoying comforting bowls of butter corn or the velvety tonkotsu ramen. Seating is only available at one of the two horseshoe shaped booths which face televisions that continually play reruns of amusing Japanese game shows. Perhaps scoffed at by some ramen purists, jars of kimchi sit at the ready for your ramen or simply for snacking on as you wait.

Ramen House Ryowa
859 Villa St, Mountain View [map]
Ph: (650) 965-8829
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-10:30pm; Sun 11am-9pm
Facebook: Ramen House Ryowa
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

This small ramen counter is just around the corner from the larger Santouka ramen and while there is a wait at Kahoo as well, it is much shorter. Kahoo offers the many variations of ramen such as shoyu, shio and miso, as well as Japanese small plates and rice dishes. The popular kokumaru shoyo ramen gets an extra flavor boost with sprinklings of crispy pork back fat.

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Kahoo Ramen
4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose [map]
Ph: (408) 255-8244
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-2pm 5:30-9:30pm; Fri 11:30am-2pm 5:30-10pm; Sat 11:30am-10pm; Sun 11:30am-9:30pm
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

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