The city’s supply of ramen restaurants has received a boost in recent years. But let’s not forget the few old local restaurants that were peddling noodles before ramen was considered cool.

All the local shops listed below have been in business for decades, and get a steady supply of regular customers. Often more popular than competitors and many new shops. Proof that they must be doing something right.

Katana-Ya – 430 Geary St.

Probably the most famous ramen shop in the city, it’s been listed in numerous travel guides and must try food lists. The restaurant is very small, so crowds waiting outside is a daily occurrence. Customize your noodle bowl in any way you want. Choose shio, shoyu or miso broths and many topping options, even replace ramen, with soba or udon noodles. It’s conveniently located just a few blocks from Union Square and open until 1 am.

Suzu Noodle House – 1825 Post St

The second most popular ramen shop in the city, and #1 dining destination in Japantown. No customization and no to go orders, but the number of set combinations would satisfy most diners. The shio, shoyu and miso broths have a lighter style compared to all other local shops, a characteristic that regular customers prefer.

Hotei Restaurant – 1290 9th Ave.

This is the sister restaurant to popular sushi restaurant Ebisu, just across the street. On chilly days, crowds of Sunset residents patiently wait outside Hotei, seeking the warmth of a hot bowl of noodles. Other menu options include: bowls of udon, soba or somen noodles, oden – a Japanese winter stew, salads, rice plates and sushi.

Tanpopo – 1740 Buchanan St.

The word means “Dandelion” in Japanese. This somewhat hidden Japantown restaurant was named after a quirky 1985 movie about a ramen shop owner. The pork broth ramen is the most popular choice. Many Japanese students like to come here for the usually quiet and relaxed atmosphere. The menu was simplified a few years ago, with fewer side dishes and more focus on ramen. It’s also one of the few local shops that makes a spicy miso ramen bowl, Karamiso.

Genki Ramen – 3944 Geary Blvd.

Food bloggers rave about the crab legs ramen, but the task of breaking the shell and digging for the crab meat might be too much work for some. Many less labor intensive ramen choices are available. The extensive menu ventures beyond ramen, including yakitori, okonomiyaki, Japanese curry, grilled and fried appetizers, and many rice plates. All at affordable prices. It’s a popular hangout for the late night crowd in the Richmond district. Open until 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Photo Credit: Matt Crawford