The Ramen Yokocho Association was proud to present Ramen Street—AKA the first ramen festival in San Francisco—this past July 19-20 weekend as it coincided with the annual J-Pop Summit Festival. Featuring eight varieties of ramen, the Ramen Yokocho Association turned Japantown San Francisco into a human traffic jam as foodies and J-Pop Summit Festival attendees alike braved long lines, typical San Franciscan weather, an $8/serving price tag, and each other for a chance to taste something beyond instant ramen.
Showing off how ramen could be prepared and served, the Ramen Yokocho Association gathered six ramen shops from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and even Japan Japantown San Francisco for this ramen festival. Each offering from the restaurants found a niche among its foodie fans such as the tonkotsu ramen that features a milky rich broth that feels like a warm hug in a bowl; a spicy miso ramen with a peppery heat that dances on your tongue; or a juicy burger sandwiched between two pillows of ramen noodles for a mouthfeel that's completely different. For those who wanted a little music with their ramen, the J-Pop Summit Festival featured plenty of live J-Pop performances at the Peace Plaza.
The sheer numbers of attendees for the Ramen Yokocho Association's event proved to be a challenge for organizers and attendees alike. The lines of people waiting to purchase their ramen stretched like long noodles that got tangled together as this visual metaphor fell apart until the staff found ways to separate attendees into the shops that they wanted to try out. Separating by ramen shop meant that attendees had to be pretty sure of their intended order. Or at the very least, they had to come up with some strategic teamwork among friends to divide and conquer in order to try out the varieties of ramen available.
Some people could not bear the long lines, which lasted up to four hours. They instead chose to eat the local ramen served at the various restaurants within the Japantown San Francisco mall, which had a wait time of up to two hours as other people who were discouraged by the long lines decided to do the same thing. But at least eating inside the Japantown San Francisco mall provided an escape from the music of the J-Pop Summit Festival if J-Pop wasn't your thing.
For Bay Area ramen fans who couldn't make it to Ramen Street and the J-Pop Summit Festival in Japantown San Francisco or did make it but couldn't bear the long line, the Ramen Yokocho Association is holding another ramen festival in San Jose during the first two weekends in October (10/3-5 and 10/10-12) after its stint in Little Tokyo. The ramen festival's name and location in San Jose will be determined; but chances are it'll be located in Japantown.