Ramen, the delicious Japanese dish made up of noodles and intensely flavored broth, is taking the world by storm. Formerly known in the U.S. as the instant noodle package loved by college students, traditional ramen restaurants are now popping up everywhere and changing the ramen stereotype. And lucky for me, southern California is absolutely packed with ramen spots.
Los Angeles is home to some of the best bowls of ramen in the country, but did you know nearby Orange County has a fiercely competitive ramen scene as well? After living here for over a year, I’ve done some extensive research (read: ramen eating) and have compiled my favorite ramen restaurants in Orange County (in no particular order).
Here’s my guide to the best ramen in Orange County, California!
Ramen & Tsukemen TAO **NEW**
Ramen & Tsukemen TAO is the newcomer to the Orange County ramen scene. The restaurant is headed up by Japanese ChefToshimasa Sano from the renowned Tsujita ramen shops in Tokyo (with locations in LA as well). If you love Tsujita like I do then you’re going to loveRamen & Tsukemen TAO!
Tsukemen is a speciality at Tsujita so I was excited to taste TAO’s take on this dish. To my delight, the tsukemen had a delicious broth with a deep color and rich umami flavor.
The noodles are perfectly thick with enough bite to warrant long, delicious slurps.
Along with tsukemen, ChefToshimasa Sano brings miso into the spotlight. They offer two miso ramen bowls, White Miso being lighter in color but still full of flavor, and the even more flavorful Red Miso for the miso fanatic.
Whichever miso ramen you pick, you can be certain of the full flavor, the perfectly cooked noodles (which are thinner and more crimped than the tsukemen noodles) and the absolutely unbelievable chashu, sliced with medium thickness, just enough fat and a perfect warm temperature to bring out the aroma and flavor.
Leaving Ramen & Tsukemen TAO full and happy, I can certainly say their tsukemen and miso ramen is a welcomed addition to the Orange Country ramen scene.
Address: 10488 Valley View St, Buena Park, CA 90620
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
Santouka is a ramen restaurant chain originally from Hokkaido, Japan. Lucky for us, it has expanded to about 15 locations in the U.S. and is known for its consistency in quality and taste. TheSantouka location in Orange County is inside of the Mitsuwa Japanese Market in Costa Mesa, located in the food court section. During peak hours, there isusually a small line but thisramenis totally worth the wait.
Their noodles are thin and somewhat crimped — this can mean slightly messy, but hey it’sRamen!
The chashu is thick and comes fully cooked although not breaking apart. They also have a great selection of side bowls and variation on flavors from Shio, Salt, Spicy Miso, and Shoyu all with variable toppings and combos.
I love that they have different sized bowls here too — small, medium or large. Sometimes, it’s nice to just have a small bowl of ramen so you don’t leave feeling overly full!
Address:665 Paularino Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Kitikata Ramen Ban Nai
KitikataRamenBan Nai is a famous albeit smaller Japanese brand, and they get their fame from making a slight alteration to theramenbroth, in their use of a more clarified and thus slightly lighter broth (in color and a little in flavor too). The noodles are crimped and the chashu is not charred but perfectly cooked and cut into small square slices. The fried chicken (or ‘karaage’ in Japanese) here is a must try, as is their delicious home-brewed barley tea.
They have two locations in Orange County: Costa Mesa and Buena Park.
Address:891 Baker St B21, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 and7550 Orangethorpe Ave, Buena Park, CA 90621
In a shopping center not far from Costa Mesa’s Mitsuwa Japanese Market, Hakata Ikkousha stands out as one of the most frequently visited and crowded. The international chain has notoriety in a number of world regions including their home of Japan. They are as traditional and authentic as it comes with regards to Tonkotsuramen but also have several variations of broth (including a vegetarian option). Customers are provided with an order sheet where they can customize their ramen bowl.
Do you like light or intense broth? Would you prefer soft or well done noodles? What are your favorite toppings? I love that you get to completely customize your bowl!
They also offer a “God Fire” spice level that is about the hottest you can order from all the places I have been — so if you like spicy, you’re in luck.
With a wide selection of appetizers and side dishes including karaage, there’s likely something for everyone in your group. Lastly, don’t forget to try their iced oolong tea, so tasty!
Address:3033 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Located in Costa Mesa, Ramen Zetton has an interesting mix of various Japanese dishes and ramen styles. They have some really delicious non-ramenoptions like beef curry, tuna and nato (fermented soy bean) as well as Tan TanRamenwhich is a Chinese-Japaneseramenhybrid that’s usually spicier and often contains ground pork or chicken. Their chashu is always on point but I find I have to tweak my order a bit each time to hone in on my favorite flavors. This place is awesome for introducing people toramenbecause they really have something for everyone!
Address:735 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
HiroNori Craft Ramen is hands down my favorite ramen spot! Located in Irvine (with another location in Long Beach), this is a popular lunch spot and can get quite crowded during peak hours. Pro tip: you can see live wait times and add yourself to the waitlist on the Yelp app!
My favorite order is the Tonkotsu ramen with an added egg and a side of black garlic oil. The broth is complex with a very rich pork flavor. And the melt-in-your-mouth pork chashu is cooked with a blowtorch before serving for a perfect finish!
They also have some great appetizers including a chashu bun, salads and delicious karaage. There’s also a highly rated veganramenoption — they’ve created a realistic and authentic umami flavor so your vegetarian / vegan friends don’t have to miss out on the deliciousness!
Address:2222 Michelson Dr #234, Irvine, CA 92612
Ramain 39is definitely at the top of my favorites list! It’s located on Beach Blvd in Huntington Beach which is usually pretty light on ramenoptions (especially compared to the dozens of ramen shops in Costa Mesa!). Since this place opened however, they are now “on the map” and highly rated among ramen lovers. With more of a trendy (vs. traditional) interior and an open kitchen, it’s a different ambience than most shops.
To start, they have an incredible list of sushi items and appetizers… but don’t fill up because their tonkotsuramenis really one of the best out there!
The broth flavors were delicious and the chashu was perfectly cooked — it’s prepared in a similar style to the melt-in-your-mouth chasu at HiroNori. Along with ramen, they also offer a Tsukemen, or dipping noodle, which was just as delicious as the ramen. It’s worth going back a second time to try both!
Address:18583 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
The Shin-Sen-Gumi chain has locations in Japan and California and each specializes in a different Japanese style — robata, yakitori, shabu shabu, udon, ramen and more. There are two ramen locations in Orange County: Fountain Valley and Irvine.
Similar to Hakata Ikkousha, I loved that they have a customizable ramen experience — you get to choose your noodle style, broth flavor and toppings!
As an add on, I ordered the charred pork belly for additional flavor and did not regret it. Shin-Sen-Gum also offers different sizes of ramen bowls: small, medium and large. I opted for the small size and it was the perfect serving of flavorful ramen.
Address: 18315 Brookhurst St #1, Fountain Valley, CA 92708 and 6404 Irvine Blvd, Irvine, CA 92620
Ramen Yamadaya has several locations across California including LA, San Diego, San Francisco and Orange County. Located in the ramen zone of Costa Mesa, Yamadaya has become well-known for their rich, flavorful broth and fatty pork chashu. The noodles are thick and straight but firm; definitely one of the better noodles out there.
My favorite touch here is adding a piece of braised kakuni pork belly as an addition to the Tonkotsu ramen — it has a light char and offers a nice layer of complexity.
Address:1175 Baker St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
GuRamen, Taps & Tapas
Gu Ramen, Taps & Tapas is definitely not your traditional ramen restaurant! But with locations in Laguna Beach, Santa Ana and Long Beach, Gu is conveniently located along the coast… and it’s not often you get to eatramenso close to the beach!
The noodles are served a bit soft, and not quite the same as the Japanese legends but their broth is simple yet tasty and their chashu is tender and flavorful. While they’re not quite on the same level (in terms of authenticity) as the rest of the list, they make up for it with their fun ambience and huge selection of appetizers. They also have a selection of craft beers (as well as the Japanese favorites) and they play music videos at the bar which adds to the trendy atmosphere.
Address:907 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, 108 W 3rd St Long Beach, CA 90802 and304 Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701