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Magnificent Obsession: The Other Noodle Soup

Marugame Udon earns its fan base.



Every year, it seems like we’ve surely already hit peak ramen in the Bay Area, and then, lo and behold, another crop of tonkotsu slingers joins the fray. What we don’t hear about nearly as much here in the United States is Japan’s other celebrated noodle soup—one with an even longer history and, if the recent lines at the Stonestown Galleria’s newly opened location of the popular cafeteria-style chain Marugame Udon are any indication, an equally dedicated fan base.

The line on a recent weeknight was fully an hour long, but once I finally made it to the front, the whole process was impressively streamlined: You grab a tray, choose from a selection of hot and cold udon preparations, and then add on as many rice balls and pieces of batter-fried tempura as you care to have on the side.

Inevitably, you’ll order too much.

It’s all admirably inexpensive, with the udon itself starting at just $4.50 a bowl. My favorite was the beef udon ($7.90/$8.90), which comes in a clear broth topped with a generous pile of gyudon-style beef (thin-sliced, fatty, and slightly sweet). Naturally, the best parts are the toothsome fresh noodles, which were the most compulsively slurpable I’ve had in some time— something about their thickness and their slippery texture.

For at least one night, no other noodle held sway over my heart.

3251 20th Ave. (Near Winston Dr.), 415-680-1280


Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco 

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