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Updating LA's Best Ramen Shops, Fall 2013

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2008_10_hasmapsramenmap.jpgAfter an initial explosion of ramen shops a few years ago, the second wave of quality is gearing up to make L.A. one of the hottest markets for ramen in the country. Long-standing favorites such as Daikokuya and Santouka have new competition, but there's still plenty of room to grow in this segment. The Little Tokyo favorite even landed on the Westside's new ramen row, Sawtelle. If there's any indication from the recent Ramen Yococho Fest and L.A. debut of the Ramen Burger™, this city might be the single best place in the country to enjoy ramen. But there's a new noodle king in town, and this one spawned from the previous top contender. From dip-ramen tsukemen to pork-infused tonkotsu bowls galore, here's a map of L.A.'s best ramen shops.


Added 9/13: Tsujita ANNEX, Beni Tora, Daikokuya (Sawtelle)

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Tsujita LA Annex

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This all-ramen restaurant from the popular izakaya (and daytime ramen shop), Tsujita, just across the street serves a completely different bowl here, using thick noodles and a dense, porky broth that's chock full of garlic and pork back fat. The dip-able tsukemen, tinged with a vinegary kick, might be even better, with flat noodles that work best for slurping with gusto. Annex serves in a crowded, loud nook of a room until 12 p.m. (the last order is taken at 11:30 p.m.), seven days a week.

Tsujita LA

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Both the standard ramen and tsukemen are the two best offerings in LA in either category. The broth and noodles are nearly perfect (one might argue a tad salty), while the tsukemen might even be better than the ramen. Only available during lunch and cash only, but definitely one of the biggest destinations for ramen in the city.

Men Oh Tokushima Ramen

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One of the newer entrants to Little Tokyo's ramen scene, Men Oh might be cursed with a sub-par location that's difficult to find for many. Still, the flavorful broth and acceptable noodles makes it more of a hardcore rameniac's spot. Arguably one of the best bowls this side of the city.

Robata JINYA

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The full-service restaurant version of Ramen Jinya, there's a more limited ramen here, but it's probably the best bet for this part of town on West 3rd Street. The spicy and regular tonkotsu ramens are the go-to dishes here, with hefty portions that might leave little room for the excellent robata dishes.

Daikokuya

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As blue chip as you can get for a ramen joint, Daikokuya has been an anchor in LA's ramen world for a very long time. Despite newcomers in Little Tokyo, it's still has long lines for most of the day. The broth is intense and extremely fatty, though the cheap noodles lessens the overall experience a bit. The fried rice is also worth trying.

Ramen Hayatemaru West LA

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If there's a place that has even better ramen side dishes than ramen, this might be the place, with stellar gyoza and chicken karaage to go alongside bowls of white miso ramen and tonkotsu ramen that might not steal one away from the likes of Jinya or Tsujita, but are still respectable at this strip mall West L.A. locale.

Santouka

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The longstanding ramen spot on the Westside, it hasn't lost too much luster despite most of the new ramen places in the city opening on Sawtelle. The miso and shio ramen are tops here, available in various sizes. The broth is unreal, incredibly porky and delicious. Noodles aren't top notch, but it's forgivable.

Ramen Yamadaya

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A mini-chain that has opened numerous locations in the past year, Yamadaya boasts a thick, umami-rich tonkotsu broth and thin noodles. The tsukemen broth has a fishy intensity that adds another layer of umami, while the thicker noodles make slurping easier. The quality has dropped off as the spots have expanded, but still one of the better choices on the Westside.

Jidai-Ya

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A long trip for most in the city, this ramen offering from the folks behind Torihei (izakaya) has an excellent tsukemen that's pure fish funk (in the best sense of the word) to go along with the intense porkiness. The standard ramen offerings can be slightly inconsistent from bowl to bowl, but when it's good, the tonkotsu is very admirable.

Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen

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Imported from the ramen capital of the world, Southern Japan's Fukuoka, the Hakata-style is one of the most recognizable style of ramen. Shin Sen Gumi opened a branch in Little Tokyo to challenge Daikokuya's dominance. Completely customizable depending on the diner's preference, this loud, raucous dining room will surely remind one of Japan. The broth has been slightly bland of late, and noodles aren't the best, but more than adequate to accommodate a ramen craving.

Former Ramen California chef takes the dip-ramen concept to another level, with ingredients such as basil, green onions, and tomatoes in a tonkotsu "au jus." The late-night Hollywood spot feels authentic and incorporates a genuine ramen-ya aesthetic, and has taken this approach to a new spot in Little Tokyo's Weller Court. The quality isn't quite up to snuff, but the approach and dedication are there, leading perhaps, to a step forward for ramen rather than a sturdy devotion to tradition.

Gottsui

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Available only during lunch, this beef-broth based ramen is a contender for one of the best in the city. The thick noodles and nearly-clear broth has a balanced flavor that stays addictive to the last bite. Dinner time boasts some of the best okonomiyaki in the city as well.

Tatsu Ramen

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This technologically savvy ramen joint makes diners order via an iPad strapped to the wall, making for a streamlined order for this 21st century comfort food. The noodles and soup are probably just a cut above, with an umami-rich tonkotsu broth that has decent flavor, but not as much depth as the bowls at Tsujita. Consistency varies as well, depending on the quality of the broth, though noodles are steady in flavor. Serves until 2 a.m. most weekdays and 3 a.m. on the weekends.

Silver Lake Ramen

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This Silver Lake ramen-ya serves late into the night in this part of town, with solid tonkotsu and shoyu offerings that might not be better than some of the best spots around town, but work in a pinch for the local hipsters and dive-bar aficionados in Echo Park. The tonkotsu broth is the one to order, with all the fixin's.

Kotoya Japanese Ramen

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This year-old venture from Japanese ramen artist Shinsuke Horinouch, who brought his recipes and techniques from Asagaya, a suburb of Tokyo. The rich broth doesn't overwhelm in fattiness like a tonkotsu, and the noodles are slightly better than average alkaline, but the whole bowl somehow adds up to a delicious umami-bomb thanks to high quality sides and nearly perfect chashu pork slivers.

Ramen Iroha

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This popular Tokyo ramen chain has set up shop inside the Gardena Marukai market, dishing bowls of chicken-based ramen featuring thick, chewy noodles. There's also soy and spicy ramen, both with mouth-wateringly delicious chashu pork, though some have complained of lackluster service.

Foo Foo Tei

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This isolated ramen shop in an industrial area has a bit of a reverential feel to it. The varied menu boasts a number of different ramen styles (31 to be exact), but the shio and miso bowls are a good place to start. The lines can be crushing, so get there early or expect to wait.

Ramen Yukinoya

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The styles are typical at this City of Industry ramen joint - tonkotsu, shio, and spicy miso, but the execution is very respectable, with a salty, dense broth that holds up to the thicker, curly noodles that will have locals forgetting about Daikokuya in lower SGV or Downtown. Thick chashu slices and perfectly cooked boiled eggs round out the toppings.

Mottainai Ramen

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Known more for the flavor bombs of pork fat, garlic and spice, Mottainai has tonkotsu, miso, and soy ramen that doesn't necessarily outshine the competition, but fills in a niche in South Bay. It's for when you want something a little different, a little off-the-cuff in the ramen world.

Ramen Jinya

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Perhaps credited as launching the ramen revolution in LA, this Studio City joint makes a solid bowl with high-quality but pre-made noodles.

Fujin Ramen

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This West Covina ramen-ya makes near-textbook bowls of Hakata-style ramen, including a fatty, murky tonkotsu broth sporting very thin noodles. Nearly element is well-thought and prepared with care, including the tender chashu and the perfectly cooked egg. Definitely a find for those in this part of town.

Daikokuya

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This Westside entrant has already started drawing lines out the door. While the original Little Tokyo shop has been around for years, this ramenya, which took over Jinya, had a rabid following from the start, serving huge bowls of tonkotsu based broth that will be sure to please most people.

Beni Tora

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Known for their extra large gyoza, Beni Tora makes some fantastic spicy tan tan men based ramen bowls from the more mild black ramen to the spicy red tan tan men. Try the dry tan tan men for something that's very similar to Chinese-style dan dan mien, but made with ramen noodles.

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Tsujita LA Annex

This all-ramen restaurant from the popular izakaya (and daytime ramen shop), Tsujita, just across the street serves a completely different bowl here, using thick noodles and a dense, porky broth that's chock full of garlic and pork back fat. The dip-able tsukemen, tinged with a vinegary kick, might be even better, with flat noodles that work best for slurping with gusto. Annex serves in a crowded, loud nook of a room until 12 p.m. (the last order is taken at 11:30 p.m.), seven days a week.

Tsujita LA

Both the standard ramen and tsukemen are the two best offerings in LA in either category. The broth and noodles are nearly perfect (one might argue a tad salty), while the tsukemen might even be better than the ramen. Only available during lunch and cash only, but definitely one of the biggest destinations for ramen in the city.

Men Oh Tokushima Ramen

One of the newer entrants to Little Tokyo's ramen scene, Men Oh might be cursed with a sub-par location that's difficult to find for many. Still, the flavorful broth and acceptable noodles makes it more of a hardcore rameniac's spot. Arguably one of the best bowls this side of the city.

Robata JINYA

The full-service restaurant version of Ramen Jinya, there's a more limited ramen here, but it's probably the best bet for this part of town on West 3rd Street. The spicy and regular tonkotsu ramens are the go-to dishes here, with hefty portions that might leave little room for the excellent robata dishes.

Daikokuya

As blue chip as you can get for a ramen joint, Daikokuya has been an anchor in LA's ramen world for a very long time. Despite newcomers in Little Tokyo, it's still has long lines for most of the day. The broth is intense and extremely fatty, though the cheap noodles lessens the overall experience a bit. The fried rice is also worth trying.

Ramen Hayatemaru West LA

If there's a place that has even better ramen side dishes than ramen, this might be the place, with stellar gyoza and chicken karaage to go alongside bowls of white miso ramen and tonkotsu ramen that might not steal one away from the likes of Jinya or Tsujita, but are still respectable at this strip mall West L.A. locale.

Santouka

The longstanding ramen spot on the Westside, it hasn't lost too much luster despite most of the new ramen places in the city opening on Sawtelle. The miso and shio ramen are tops here, available in various sizes. The broth is unreal, incredibly porky and delicious. Noodles aren't top notch, but it's forgivable.

Ramen Yamadaya

A mini-chain that has opened numerous locations in the past year, Yamadaya boasts a thick, umami-rich tonkotsu broth and thin noodles. The tsukemen broth has a fishy intensity that adds another layer of umami, while the thicker noodles make slurping easier. The quality has dropped off as the spots have expanded, but still one of the better choices on the Westside.

Jidai-Ya