Ever since Jonathan Gold, one of Los Angeles’ most renowned food critics (formerly writer of LA Weekly and now LA Times) and the first food critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize, wrote a (relatively) raving article about Daikokuya, it seems as if the lines out the door are never ending. With over 4800 reviews on Yelp, it has a cult-like following of people who are willing to endure the hour-long waits. Is it worth it? The ramen is undeniably good, but to be honest, there are better things in life to be doing than waiting for ramen. Like enjoying food. So, if you would rather spend your time eating instead of waiting, these places are for you.
1. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen
Located in the Honda Plaza, this place is overshadowed by their hugely popular neighbor, Sushi Gen. While the lines are permanently existent across the plaza, you will rarely have to wait to snag a seat at this 20 seat ramen joint. What sets Men Oh apart is their signature Tokushima soup base, which is a combination of the shoyu (soy sauce) soup base and the rich Tonkotsu (pork bone) broth. The result is a sweet soy flavor that cuts through the hearty richness of the pork bone soup, and it guarantees that you’ll make it to the bottom of your bowl because of its addictiveness.
Protip: They have two types of noodles here, thin straight and curly noodles. The Tokushima noodles come with the thin straight ramen but you might prefer the curly noodles, which you can ask for. You can also ask for them to not put the fat in the broth, which makes the soup a little more drinkable. Parking is $2 with validation during lunch and $3 during dinner.
2. Hakata Shinsengumi Ramen
You might still have to wait a while for a table if you come to Shinsengumi at peak hours, but the wait at Shinsengumi nowhere near as bad as Daikokuya. This place offers the most customizable ramen, where you can adjust the flavor profile of the soup base, the degree to which your ramen is cooked, as well as the toppings that you would like. The spicy miso ball is always a popular addition here.
Protip: There’s actually lot parking in the back (most people think it’s for Office Depot), but Shinsengumi will validate and it’s free parking! You can actually park in this lot for Men Oh (or any other place in Little Tokyo) as well, and you can just buy a Yoghurtland gift card afterwards to validate your parking, or you could be a good student and buy a pencil from Office Depot for validation.
3. Marugame Monzo
For a slightly less guilt-inducing meal, Monzo offers hand-made udon that is almost guaranteed to make you forget about your ramen cravings. Although there has been much hype generated about their modern udon dishes such as the Miso Carbonara Udon or the Mentai Butter Udon, their traditional hot udon with dashi-based broth (traditional Japanese stock made with kelp and bonito) is just as unforgettable and comforting.
The Beef Tataki is also another outstanding appetizer that virtually melts in your mouth. Monzo may be Daikokuya’s little brother in terms of popularity, but definitely not in taste.
But if you can’t decide between these places, or you want to try them all, consider the Ramen Yokocho Festival on March 29th and 30th where you can try all the aforementioned vendors (except for Monzo) and more.
Men Oh Tokushima Ramen
456 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Hakata Shinsengumi Ramen
132 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013
329 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012