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If there is anything in this world I have authority on, it's ramen. I know ramen- it's in my bones. I've been eating the instant stuff once a week since I was five (should I be bragging about that?), and my fondest life memories somehow include ramen. Ramen while camping, ramen after a night of drinking. My ex dumped me over a bowl of ramen, true story.

All that to say that I am a ramen wizard. So when I give you a recommendation for where to go for the best ramen, just trust me, please. I showed you where to go for the best ramen in NYC, now here's the best ramen in the Bay Area- (dare I say it) maybe even all of California???

Santa started out in a little itty bitty space near downtown San Mateo about ten years ago. My family and I used to drive nearly an hour from the South Bay just to get ramen here, and then wait another painful hour in line for a table. They've always had massive street cred.

They recently moved to a bigger space, still in San Mateo. But there's still a line- we went last week at around 7pm and we waited about 20 minutes.

Service is interesting here- you order while you are still in line, so table turnover is faster. It's part genius, but part rude- it all feels so rushed. But it is only ramen afterall- slurp and run!

Santa is not only well-known for their ramen, but also for their appetizers. Oddly, they don't have gyoza here, but their tastuta age (fried chicken) is worth the wait in line.


Yakitori is also plump, and perfectly cooked.


Agedashi tofu.


My brother's extra spicy tonkotsu ramen with corn. Basic ramen comes with green onions, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and 2 slices of roast pork for $8. You can add on things like corn or an egg for extra $$.


My miso ramen. Look at the pork slices!!! The soup was a bit too sweet. Yoskay got the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen which I think was the best soup out of the three- it was just crisp and savory.


My pops says that the noodles are directly imported from Japan, which is why they are so good. Crinckly egg noodles are my favorite! No Hakata style straight noodles for me, thanks.


The place was packed when we left at around 8pm. My folks say that it has gone down in quality, but it is far superior to anything else you would find in the Bay Area, IMHO.


1944 S El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94403
T: 650.344.5918


  • Holy Cow!!! I love ramen too, especially on stinkin' rainy days like today!

    Could you show me a good ramen place in NYC? I have a feeling you'd have some great suggestions, other than Ippudo (been there, done that)! :D

    Ambitious on

  • I like Santouka the best out of the ones mentioned.

    Momofuku pushing boundaries? If you mean getting Americans to eat asian peasant food normally eaten at dirty filthy food stalls with puke buckets in a much cleaner environment with tegan and sara playing loudly in the background, then yes.

    I like Milk Bar, but I feel like I'm getting ripped off whenever I've eaten at Ssam. When I get bill I'm like shit I could have had a 5 course meal 3 blocks away with excellent sushi, wagyu and foie gras for less.

    Ricky on

  • Wow that ramen looks fantastic. Although Kayoko, I must say, I've never quite understood your apparent disdain for Momofuku. The food there—whatever category you put it in—is fantastic and has never ever disappointed. I can't say it stands up to the ramen places you mentioned b/c I'm not a ramen aficionado, but like I said, regardless of category, it's effin' fantastic food. I also like the way they continue to push boundaries. I am curious though to hear the source of the gripe.

    Paystyle on

  • Here's my fave place for ramen in NYC

    But it's a bit difficult to snag a bowl if you don't work around there.

    I personally like Menkui-tei in Midtown, better than the one in the EV. Midtown Lunch writes about it once in a while.

    Setagaya in the EV is ok, as is Minca. Former is good if you like light broth, the latter if you like your soup heavy.

    I hear good things about the new ramen joint on Lex called Terakawa. Sounds like it's another tonkotsu (pork soup) ramen spot, like Ippudo

    Rai-Rai Ken, Momofuku, Ippudo: AVOIDAVOIDAVOID. That's just me though- obvs people love those joints.

    Mitsuwa in NJ has pretty good ramen.

    And there's a great late night spot in midtown that you can get ramen after 10pm.


    kayoko on

  • Wow Ricky, you just have a way with words, don't ya

    First off, the Momofuku ramen is totally NOT good. I know that a lot of people out there think it's the best thing ever, but it's a total farce. It shouldn't even be considered ramen, and I resent it to be categorized as such.

    I personally lost respect for Momofuku when they pulled the Ssam from the menu. In the beginning, it was all about the "asian" burrito, Korean style, and to pull it off the menu entirely was an absolute disgrace.

    In all honesty, the place is a hoax. I want to support it, I really do- it being a popular, well-established joint actually run by an Asian dude—- now that's really awesome!!! It's got the love and support of the NYC community, which is so amazing and I wish I could be on that bandwagon.

    But the bottom line is that the place doesn't cut it for this asian girl. The loud Wu-Tang is too self-aware; the servers are all assholes. The banh mi and the meager 3 steam buns are $10 a pop! Come on DChang, you can do better than that, you know you can. And $200 for the pork butt? Throw me a fucking bone.

    Maybe I have no taste. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

    Whatever, you know I do, or else you would not be reading UM.

    Get that ssam back on the menu, DChang. Then, we'll talk.

    kayoko on

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