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6 ramen spots that keep the winter blues at bay

Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai has four locations in Orange County. | Photo by Kaysha Weiner Photographer Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai has four locations in Orange County. | Photo by Kaysha Weiner Photographer

For many people, ramen is the ultimate comfort food—a warm hug in a bowl. With indoor dining limited throughout the state, some Japanese eateries have come up with inventive ways to ensure that their customers still get to enjoy a piping-hot bowl of ramen at home.

1. Ramen Musashi

44-491 Town Center Way, Suite G, Palm Desert. 760-674-7299; ramenpalmdesert.com.

Ramen and gyoza at Ramen Musashi in Palm Desert. | Photo by C&S Hospitality Ventures,

Ramen and gyoza at Ramen Musashi in Palm Desert. | Photo by C&S Hospitality Ventures,

Ramen Musashi features the option of thin or wide noodles and a variety of ramen soup bases that include a classic tonkotsu, a vegetarian dashi, and a chicken broth with spicy yuzu citrus topping. The eatery recently expanded its selection of cold noodle dishes that are perfectly tailored for the scorching desert heat, including hayashi chukka, a chilled ramen dressed with shoyu sauce and garnished with imitation crab, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, carrot, egg, and shredded chicken or ham. Or try the zarusoba, cold buckwheat noodles served with a dipping sauce.

2. Menya Ultra Ramen

Two locations in San Diego: 8199 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Suite M, and 8141 Mira Mesa Boulevard. 858-571-2010 (Clairemont Mesa) and 858-397-2247 (Mira Mesa); menya-ultra.com.

Ramen kit from Menya Ultra Ramen in San Diego. | Photo by Takashi Endo

Ramen kit from Menya Ultra Ramen in San Diego. | Photo by Takashi Endo

In addition to more than 10 ramen eateries in Japan and Taiwan, this award-winning chain from ramen master Takashi Endo also has two locations in San Diego. Currently open for limited dine-in service, both shops also offer DIY tonkotsu, miso, and cold tantanmen kits for takeout. Each kit includes servings for four people and comes with cooking instructions. Made daily in Menya Ultra’s central kitchen, the fresh noodles are a particular standout. Try the miso ramen, swimming in a long-simmered pork broth flavored with house-made miso and topped with pork char siu, wood ear mushrooms, grated ginger, and black garlic oil.

3. Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai

Locations in Costa Mesa, Irvine, Buena Park, and Fountain Valley. ramenbannai.com.

Ban nai bun, ramen, gyoza, and fried chicken from Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai. | Photo by Kaysha Weiner Photographer

Ban nai bun, ramen, gyoza, and fried chicken from Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai. | Photo by Kaysha Weiner Photographer

With more than 60 outposts, Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai is considered ramen royalty in Japan. Kitakata specializes in a style of ramen that originated in the city of Kitakata, in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. Its distinctive noodles are flat, wide, and hand-crumpled for a chewy texture, and best accompanied by a delicate shoyu-based soup. The restaurant is also known for the toro char siu (marbled pork belly) that crowns its ramen and is also stuffed in steamed buns and draped over rice bowls. Don’t forget to add a side of boiled gyoza, drizzled with scallions and yuzu chile sauce.

4. Shin-Sen-Gumi 2Go

18203 S. Western Avenue, Suite 104, Gardena. 310-324-3246; shinsengumigroup.com/restaurants/shin-sen-gumi-2go-sansei-center.

Drive-through at Shin-Sen-Gumi 2Go. | Photo by Rachel Ng

Drive-through at Shin-Sen-Gumi 2Go. | Photo by Rachel Ng

Shin-Sen-Gumi is a homegrown restaurant group with a variety of eateries—serving yakitori, shabu-shabu, robata, and ramen—throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. Its fast-casual, express ramen shop in the South Bay has an all-American twist: a drive-through window. This location’s menu includes Shin-Sen-Gumi’s famous thin-noodle Hakata ramen, made with a rich pork broth, as well as the Satsuma ramen—thick noodles with char siu pork, bean sprouts, and a broth of chicken, pork, and vegetables. Other convenient take-out items include curry rice, yakitori, fried rice, and onigiri (rice balls).

5. Nikka Ramen

5701 Calle Real, Goleta. 805-845-7755; nikkaramen.com.

Ramen burrito at Nikka Ramen in Goleta. | Photo by Nikka Marketing Staff

Ramen burrito at Nikka Ramen in Goleta. | Photo by Nikka Marketing Staff

Acclaimed in Santa Barbara County for its traditional ramen, including the “kuro” tonkotsu, a black garlic oil–enriched pork broth that simmers for 24 hours, the eatery also serves a culinary mash-up that puts a highly portable spin on ramen. The takeout-friendly ramen burrito takes a tortilla and stuffs it with ramen noodles, rice, sour cream, avocado, and pico de gallo. The wrap comes with a choice of pork shoulder, pork belly, or chicken char siu, plus a side of ramen broth for dipping.

6. Tsujita and Company Noodle Production

109 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles. 323-591-0470; tsujita-usa.com.

Primarily as a hub for takeout and delivery, the Tsujita storefront on Fairfax Avenue spotlights some of the greatest hits from the well-regarded ramen chain’s Tsujita Artisan Noodle. The to-go menu features variations of its porky, ultra-rich tonkotsu ramen, including a spicy version. Also great for takeout is Tsujita’s other specialty, tsukemen, a soup-less ramen that you dip in a bowl of flavorful, concentrated sauce.

Candice Woo is San Diego restaurant critic of Westways and editor of Eater San Diego. 

AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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