More than ten years after the ramen craze swept through New York City, San Francisco is fully in the grip of its own and this is a full six years after Ken Ken and Hapa Ramen began doing pop-ups, and selling out. Waits on weekends at the newly opened Mensho Tokyo (672 Geary Street) in the Tenderloin are clocking in at well over an hour, and were up to three and a half hours (!) on opening weekend according to Inside Scoop. Similarly, at four-month-old Iza Ramen (237 Fillmore Street) in the Lower Haight, long waits are common, especially after 7 p.m., and the same is true at one-and-a-half-year-old Orenchi Beyond on Valencia, though to a slightly lesser degree.
Here at SFist, our first roundup of the best ramen spots in Bay last month has been one of the most popular posts of the year to date, and has over 6,000 Likes on Facebook.
The case of Mensho Tokyo, though, seems to be one of ramen fans craving something closer to the real-deal ramen, straight from Tokyo, that has so far eluded San Francisco ramen spots. While we have some great, occasionally Americanized examples outside the city Oakland's Ramen Shop and San Mateo's Ramen Dojo being the standouts it is clear that the hunger is real for yummy, rich, fatty tonkotsu, especially among those who've had the real thing elsewhere and are willing to stand in line for it.
Ramen chef and owner Tomoharu Shono even waxes lyrical about it. "The ramen cook pours his love into the ramen," says a message on the restaurant wall. "The customer is embraced and moved by that love. This is the definition of true ramen. Ramen is always bubbling with the love of all."
Mensho's ramen has been much-Instagrammed as well, heightening its allure in its opening weeks, and Yelpers are loving it to the tune of four and a half stars so far though it could be a case of their being so hungry, and so insistent that the experience is worth it, after waiting hours for a single bowl of ramen. Says one, "One of the best ramen's i've had in the city! The only drawback is its like a 1.5-2 hour wait for a 20 minute dinner session."