We love noodles, and we love soup. And the two combined brings us fuzzy-weighted-blanket and Morgan-Freeman’s-voice levels of comfort. In fact, there’s nothing more soothing than diving into a steaming hot bowl of noodles and broth, especially when it’s cold out. From pho and ramen to bun bo hue, here are 13 of our favorite noodle soups in San Francisco.
Soup: Pho Ga
Sorry, Cupid’s Span, but the chicken pho from Lily, a new-ish Vietnamese restaurant in the Richmond, is San Francisco’s newest iconic work of art. The soup as beautiful as it is delicious, and decorated with thick-cut rice noodles, slices of white and red onion, and pieces of poached chicken breast. But what really steals the show is the confit chicken leg resting on top, which is so tender you can pull it apart with a single chopstick.
Soup: Spicy Kalbitang
Kalbijjim - the braised beef short rib stew that is doused in sauce and topped with white cheese - may get all the love (and local Instagram fame). But this beef-centric Korean restaurant in Japantown also makes a damn good kalbitang, which features thick chunks of tender beef. There’s a bit of customizing that goes into a kalbitang order, so get it with egg and, because this is a noodle soup guide, make sure to add the glass noodles. Either way, your order will be served with a side of rice and kimchi.
Soup: Khao Soi
The original Kin Khao closed last March after the shelter-in-place order took effect. So, in the early days of the pandemic, if you wanted a bowl of their khao soi - the Beyoncé of San Francisco dishes - you were sh*t out of luck. But things changed in September with the arrival of Kin Khao Dogpatch, a casual version of the Union Square original, with a pared-down menu. The khao soi still delivers on the salty, sweet, and spicy flavors and will send a laser beam-quick flash of euphoria to your brain. Kin Khao Dogpatch also has pantry items like coconut milk and fish sauce, and outdoor courtyard seating.
Hon's Wun-Tun House
Soup: BBQ Pork Wun Tun Noodle Soup
As the name suggests, this Chinatown spot specializes in wontons, which you can get in bulk to cook at home, or in a bunch of different noodle soups with other things like fish balls, curry beef brisket, or pig’s feet. But the BBQ pork wun tun noodle soup, with its long, springy noodles and fantastic shrimp and pork wontons, is our favorite - it’s simple, comforting, and the edible equivalent of being tucked into bed by a life-sized teddy bear. Be sure to add some of their chili oil on top for an extra kick.
Soup: Pho Bo Dac Biet
On grey, sun-less days, our first and most primal instinct is to make our way to Turtle Tower, one of our favorite pho spots in the city. Their simple combination beef pho is served Hanoi style (without bean sprouts and minimal garnishes), and comes with fat, chewy noodles, fragrant broth, and tripe and tender beef. Turtle Tower is currently open at all three of its locations (SoMa, Civic Center, and the Outer Richmond).
Soup: Hakata Tonkotsu
We drink Marufuku’s creamy, super-rich pork broth by the ladleful, especially when winter rolls around and we order their Hakata Tonkotsu ramen more frequently. The thick ramen noodles are topped with melt-in-your-mouth char siu, wood ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, and a soft-boiled egg, which all come together to make an A+ bowl of soup.
Soup: Chicken Noodle
Tanglad opened in the Castro last fall in the former Slurp Noodle Bar space. The Vietnamese restaurant offers a similar menu to its predecessor, including a variety of noodle soups, like bun rieu, pho, and beef meatball. If you want a lighter protein though, go with the chicken pho. This hot bowl of soup comes with a ton of vermicelli and chicken strips, and a super fragrant broth. Tanglad is open for takeout and also has outdoor dining with heat lamps.
PPQ Beef Noodle House Restaurant
Soup: Spicy Curry Chicken Vermicelli Soup
Not to be confused with PPQ Dungeness Island on Clement, this small Vietnamese spot in the Outer Sunset makes vermicelli bowls, rice plates, and garlic noodles. You should zero in on the #8: the curry chicken vermicelli soup. As much as we love noodles, we’re here for the aromatic broth that goes with it. It’s slightly sweet and a tad creamy, and the spice leaves a nice warming sensation on your lips. The tender chicken and big pile of rice noodles are an added benefit though.
Hinodeya Ramen Bar
Soup: Hinodeya Ramen
The Japantown ramen bar is one of our go-to spots whenever we want a big, warm bowl of ramen that’s delicious and comforting. You can choose from four different types of ramen (all made with savory, dashi broth), and two of which are completely vegan. The plant-based options are great, but we usually default to the house ramen, which comes with melty char siu, bamboo shoots, and a perfect soft-boiled egg.
Soup: Pho Dac Biet
This new-ish Vietnamese restaurant in the Richmond has vermicelli dishes, rice plates, and appetizers, but we usually come here for the pho. Their pho dac biet is brimming with thin noodles, rare steak, brisket, flank, tendon, and beef balls, making for a beefy, rich soup. While you’re there, order their excellent grilled pork spring rolls, too.
Soup: Shiromaru Classic
You can’t really miss when it comes to ordering from the menu at this international ramen chain - but go with the classic Shiromaru ramen or the Karaka, a spicier version of the original. Their slow-simmered char siu is more tender than this duck video, and we’re big fans of their silky, thin-cut noodles. They’re open for outdoor seating, but if you’re getting your ramen to go, you can ask for your noodles raw and finish at home.
Soup: Ong No Kaw Soi
Ordering the coconut chicken noodle soup from this Burmese restaurant in the Richmond when it’s cold out is second nature to us at this point. The creamy, yellow soup has tender pieces of chicken, cilantro, lemon, and crispy fried shallots on top, and is the soup-embodiment of self-care. Also, no trip to Mandalay is complete without an order of their nutty, earthy tea leaf salad.
Terra Cotta Warrior
Soup: Qishan Spicy & Sour Pork Noodle Soup
Terra Cotta Warrior’s hand-pulled, Shanxi-style noodle dishes are always a great idea - but when all you want to do is wrap yourself in a fuzzy bathrobe and sit in front of a space heater, focus on their Qishan pork noodle soup. It’s got chewy, perfectly-cooked noodles bathed in a deep-red sour and spicy broth and dots of green onions. When you add to that bathrobe-space heater combo, you’ve got yourself a perfect night.