Go slurp: 6 Berkeley, Oakland spots to eat ramen

A ramen renaissance is upon us! But not every bowl of noodles in fatty broth passes muster. Here’s our pick of six good spots to try.

Ramen Shop. Photo Ramen Shop
As soon as the Ramen Shop opened in Rockridge n 2012 it seemed to become the gold standard for ramen in the East Bay. Photo Ramen Shop

If you’ve noticed the new wave of ramen places opening lately, you’re not alone. But like everything else, not all ramen restaurants are created equal. Ramen lovers are a discerning bunch, and not every bowl of noodles in fatty broth passes muster. We did the work for you so you can just go slurp and enjoy. Below are six that are worth checking out, though, as always, we’d love to hear about your favorites if they’re not mentioned.

1. Ramen Shop

“Mind Blown.” “Mouthgasm.” Such words don’t come easily from Ramen lovers on Yelp, but since Ramen Shop (pictured top) opened in late 2012, the Rockridge spot has become the gold standard for ramen in the East Bay. Whether it’s the Chez Panisse pedigree, the Japanese noodle machine or the expertly paired cocktails, these guys are doing something right, as evident by the long lines to eat there. In August, it was reported that they’re taking over the former luggage shop next door, and expanding both the dining and bar space. Appetizers include salads, a much-raved about squid and pork fried rice and house-made pickles; ramen usually comes in three types, with one being vegetarian, often a meyer lemon that is so savory and rich that you may not miss the meat. Yelpers give high praise for its chashu (braised pork belly) and shoyu-marinated eggs, not to mention its black sesame ice cream sandwich for dessert. Ramen Shop is at 5812 College Ave., Oakland. Hours: Mon., Weds., & Thurs. 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Fri., 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sat. 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sun., 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Connect with Ramen Shop on Facebook.

2. Sobo Ramen

Kaisen Ramen on board... A hearty Tonkotsu based broth with a hint of seafood topped with - Red Shrimp (Aka Ebi,) deep fried Shrimp head, Ankimo (Monkfish Liver Pate), Kale, Green Onion, Soft Boiled Egg, and Sesame Seeds.
Kaisen Ramen at Sobo Ramen. Kaisen is a Tonkotsu based broth with a hint of seafood topped with red shrimp (Aka Ebi,) deep fried shrimp head, ankimo (monkfish liver paté), kale, green onion, a soft boiled egg, and sesame seeds. Photo: Sobo Ramen

By listing the sources for its produce and meat on its website, Sobo Ramen in Oakland’s Chinatown is clearly trying to give Ramen Shop a run for its money. It also offers gluten-free and vegan ramen, trying to cater to everyone. Sobo lists 14 – count ‘em, 14! –  varieties of ramen on the menu, some made with chicken broth, some with pork, some with seafood, and some vegan. Appetizers are pretty standard for a Japanese place, but if the 14 ramen varieties aren’t enough choice for you, you can even design your own. Yelpers love it for its “melt-in-your-mouth” chashu, mayu (black garlic oil), quail eggs and fair prices. Sobo Ramen is at 988 Franklin St., #186, Oakland. Hours: Mon. and Tues. 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. All other days 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m, except for Sunday, which is open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and in the evening. Connect with Sobo Ramen on Facebook.

3. Ippo Ramen

An image advertising Ippo Ramen at Umami Mart at 815 Broadway
An image advertising Ippo Ramen at Umami Mart at 815 Broadway in 2013. Photo: Umami Mart

Ippo Ramen is a food truck that supplies three types of ramen – shoyu, shio and miso – at various locations throughout the East Bay, including Oakland’s Linden St. Brewery, West Berkeley’s Kitchen on 10th and Kensington’s Farmers Market, closing up when he runs out. Some complain about small portions, but one Yelper suggested, “treat this as a snack, not a meal and you will appreciate it more.” To find Ippo Ramen, follow them on Facebook.

4. Norikonoko

Shoyu Chashu ramen at Norikonoko. Photo: Sharon F
Shoyu Chashu ramen at Norikonoko. Photo: Sharon F

Berkeley’s Norikonoko Japanese Restaurant is a cozy mom and pop place that charms visitors right away. It may not have a website or a Facebook page, but it does offer three types of ramen: shoy, miso or chashu. The word “delicious” is repeatedly used on Yelp, so even though not a ramen house per se, they clearly know what they’re doing. Many say it’s the best bowl of ramen they’ve had in the East Bay. The menu also has many items from the grill, small plates and bento boxes. Norikonoko is at 2556 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley Hours: Closed Mon. & Tues.  Open for lunch Weds through Fri., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Open for dinner Weds through Sun. 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

5. Mitama Sushi

Ramen at Mitama
Ramen at Mitama: slow-cooked Berkshire pork bellies, egg, sweetcorn, bean sprouts, wakame, narutomaki fish cake and scallion. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Mitama Sushi on College Avenue in Berkeley is a sushi mainstay, but it recently started offering ramen, with the following “warning” on the menu: “Our soup contains natural collagen that is known to help keep your skin healthier and younger.” While there aren’t a huge sample of ramen reviews on Yelp yet, those that are there praise the “rich and satisfying” broth, perfectly cooked egg, hefty portions and fair prices. Mitama also has an enormous sushi menu (especially maki rolls) and a robata grill, so there’s something for everyone. Mitama Sushi is at 3201 College Ave., Berkeley. Hours: Weekdays for lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Weekends for lunch, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. through Thurs. for dinner 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri. and Sat. for dinner 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday for dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Connect with Mitama Sushi on Facebook.

6. Noodle Theory

Noodle Theory. Photo: lunita lu
Noodle Theory. Photo: lunita lu

Noodle Theory is far from traditional, so let’s get that out of the way first. However, with four types of ramen on the menu, it shouldn’t be overlooked. Non-meat eaters love its miso ramen with grilled wild salmon, while its fried chicken karaage ramen in spicy pork broth also satisfies. Two pork options are also on the menu, with one in a spicy, savory cilantro-lime broth. Meat is sourced from Niman Ranch and other local farms. Not traditional in the least, but according to Yelpers, no less tasty. Noodle Theory is at 6099 Claremont Ave., Oakland Hours: Open every day for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Connect with Noodle Theory on Facebook.

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Alix Wall has lived in Oakland since 2002, with some summers spent in Berkeley as a child, and has written for Berkeleyside since 2013. She writes mostly about food.