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A bowl of ramen topped with beef and an egg from Marufuku Ramen Marufuku/Facebook

Where to Eat and Drink in San Francisco’s Historic Japantown

The best spots in the neighborhood for ramen, hard-to-find Japanese sweets, and surprisingly affordable omakase

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With a history that goes back well over 100 years, San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood has been a regional hub for the Bay Area’s Japanese American community — a place to buy hard-to-find imported foodstuffs, eat a celebratory meal, or just soak in the atmosphere of the Peace Plaza, with its iconic towering pagoda. In recent years though, the neighborhood has seen a steady shift: The food has gotten a lot better and more interesting.

These days, Japantown is home to some of the city’s best ramen, a wide array of hard-to-find Japanese sweets and regional specialties, and, yes, some pretty great (and surprisingly affordable) sushi. Many of the restaurants and food stalls are concentrated in the sprawling Japan Center complex, which evokes some of the same bustle and sensory overload that you might find in Tokyo’s underground malls. You could spend an entire day within its confines without coming close to exhausting the delicious options at your disposal.

Here, then, are 18 of the best neighborhood’s best spots for Japanese food, with a few stellar non-Japanese options mixed in for good measure.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Miyako Old Fashion Ice Cream

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1470 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 931-5260

This quaint little ice cream shop — SF’s only Black-owned ice cream shop — feels like an anachronism, with its display of old-fashioned candy and cigarettes for sale amid the tubs of vanilla and Rocky Road. While the ice cream might not be the trendiest in town, it is very good, a decent chunk of it sourced from Mitchell’s, another San Francisco institution, making this the ideal spot to enjoy a scoop of Asian-inspired ube or avocado ice cream while strolling Japantown.

2. Pa'ina Restaurant & Lounge

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1865 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 829-2642
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With a lengthy menu of Asian fusion and Hawaiian cuisine, Pa’ina is the neighborhood’s best option for island eats, from loco moco to poke bowls to spam musubi — as well as an extensive list of cocktails, most of which are available in large-format “scorpion bowls” for sharing. Daily specials — Sunday Funday, Taco Tuesday, Wingsday; and Oyster Thursday — round out this fun spot’s offerings.

3. Matcha Cafe Maiko

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1581 Webster St #175
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 757-0919
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The name of this newish Japan Center cafe speaks for itself. Maiko serves everything matcha — hot and cold beverages of all stripes, with or without a layer of foamy, tangy cheese or other flavored creams, and smooth, creamy soft-serve ice cream, which you can get on a cone or as part of a matcha “float.” Lines out the door are typical here, but fear not: The staff keeps things moving quickly.

Soft-serve ice cream at Match Cafe Maiko Japan Center Malls

4. Sophie's Crepes

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1581 Webster St #275
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 929-7732

Another Japan Center sweets stand that consistently draws long lines (especially on weekends, when the mall floods with kids and teens) Sophie’s Crepes is, of course, best known for its crepes — but not the tender, delicate, butter-soaked French variety. Instead, Sophie’s specializes in the Japanese style, which means the crepes are, for starters, humongous, griddled until they’re crispy on the outside, and then rolled up into a cone to be filled with the sweet or savory toppings of your choice — ham and cheese, perhaps, or ice cream and red bean paste.

5. Tenroku Sushi

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1825 Post St #215
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 673-1328

As a general rule, you don’t go to a conveyor belt sushi joint if you’re looking for the most pristine, highest-quality nigiri — the city has plenty of upscale omakase options if that’s what you’re after. But for a quick, fun, low-entry-barrier sushi experience where both the quality and variety of the raw fish is also actually pretty darn good, Tenroku is a Japantown classic in its own right. Kids, in particular, love snagging maki and nigiri off the conveyor belt and competing to see who has the highest stack of plates at the end.

6. Marufuku Ramen

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1581 Webster St #235
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 872-9786
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Arriving in SF around the same time as a wave international chains, local ramen outfit Marufuku draws lines that rival any Tokyo import’s quite simply because the noodles and broth are about as good as any in town. Rich, fatty broths — both tonkotsu and chicken-based paitan — are the main draw here, but the soups are balanced and not overly heavy, and the thin, Hakata-style noodles are eminently slurpable.

7. On the Bridge

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1581 Webster St #206
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 922-7765

Located on the walkway that connects the two halves of the Japan Center Mall, this charming, manga-lined spot is also a bridge between cultures and cuisines, as one of San Francisco’s only restaurants that specialize in yoshoku, or Western-style Japanese, dishes like hayashi rice and hamburger steak. This is punk icon Patti Smith’s favorite restaurant in San Francisco; work your way through the extensive menu of fish roe-topped Japanese-style pasta dishes, and it might become one of your favorites too.

8. Oma San Francisco Station

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1737 Post St #337
San Francisco, CA 94115

One of the wonders of Tokyo is that world-class sushi might be found tucked away inside a busy subway station. Located out in the open in a hallway in the Japan Center Mall, this casual eight-seat sushi counter — a kiosk, basically — brings a bit of that kind of casually outstanding omakase experience to San Francisco; reservations for a full 12-course meal experience (with 24 items) are currently going for $165 per person.

Japan Center Malls

9. Crown & Crumpet Tea Salon

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1746 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 771-4252
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Located on the first floor of the New People entertainment complex, this delightfully colorful little tea room will satisfy all your crustless finger sandwich and warm scone cravings. The nice thing about Crown & Crumpet is that it’s utterly kid friendly (with a private room upstairs for birthday parties and such), but also plays to a slightly artsier, more fashionable crowd than your standard afternoon tea destination — which is to say, the people watching is superb.

10. Takoyaki Yama-chan

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1737 Post St STE395
San Francisco, CA 94115

The closest thing the Japan Center mall has to a genuine street food experience, this Osaka-style takoyaki stand sells a solid version of the doughy octopus balls — a classic Japanese street snack. Ask the staff to grill your order fresh. The takoyaki’s crisp edges only last a little while, and they’re worth the extra wait.

Japan Center Malls

11. Mochill Mochidonut

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1737 Post St STE395
San Francisco, CA 94115

Fans of chewy, colorful, adorably photogenic Japanese mochi doughnuts finally have a local source. This little kiosk, which shares a space with the takoyaki stand next door, is known for putting wild toppings (e.g. Fruity Pebbles cereal) on its doughnuts, which feature the same easy-to-pull-apart “pon de ring” shape pioneered by Japan’s wildly popular Mister Donut chain.

Japan Center Malls

12. Benkyodo Co

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1747 Buchanan St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 922-1244
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Benkyodo, the 115-year-old mochi shop known for making arguably the best mochi in the state, sells different handmade types each day in flavors like blueberry, mango, red bean, age (fried mochi with sugar and red bean), and even a pancake-covered variety. Get here while you can, as Benkyodo’s owners have said they plan to retire at the end of 2021, and will sell (or close) the shop.

13. Hinodeya Ramen Bar

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1737 Buchanan St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 757-0552
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In a tonkotsu-heavy city, Hinodeya is the rare ramen shop that specializes in lighter, clearer broths, including one of the better bowls of vegan ramen in town. The dashi-based house ramen is a testament to the subtle pleasures of ocean-based umami, and seafood lovers shouldn’t hesitate to get the clam ramen if it’s available. Also a must-order: excellent fried oysters from Hiroshima.

14. Super Mira

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1790 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 921-6529
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This tidy, well-stocked grocery store is probably best known for being the home of the Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop bakery and its iconic coffee crunch cake. But it’s also got the best bento box and prepared foods selection of any of the city’s Japanese markets, and, during lunch hours, it serves hot meals and even has a small dining area where customers can sit and enjoy their katsudon, curry plate, or udon.

15. Sasa

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22 Peace Plaza suite 530
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 683-9674
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A relatively new addition to Japan Center’s bevy of sushi spots, this sleek, modern restaurant offers a little bit of everything — multiple tiers of omakase, all of them quite reasonably priced (especially the $55 chef omakase); a selection of kaiseki-style dishes; and, for those who feel like splurging, the option to order an uni flight or a toro flight. Probably the most popular items are the “mystery boxes”: either six or nine mini chirashi bowls of the chef’s choosing, served in a highly Instagram-friendly partitioned wooden box.

16. An Japanese Restaurant

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22 Peace Plz #510
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 292-4886
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There are plenty of higher-end sushi restaurants in the city, but for nigiri lovers looking for a full omakase experience without having to drop well over a hundred bucks a person, An is one of your better bets: Nightly omakase options start at $65 and cap out at $92 — though, of course, hungrier and less budget-conscious diners can supplement as needed.

17. Nari

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1625 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 868-6274
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Japantown isn’t all Japanese restaurants these days; in fact, its buzziest recent addition is this Thai fine dining destination attached to the Hotel Kabuki — the sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Kin Khao. Set in a grand, expansive dining room, Nari checks a lot of boxes: It boasts pretty, elegant plating, big flavors (get the squid and pork jowl dish), and lovely cocktails.

18. Daeho Kalbijjim & Beef Soup

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1620 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 563-1388

At this Korean hot spot, the wait for a table during peak dinner hours can stretch as long as two hours, and almost every dish on the menu features some kind of preparation of beef — kalbitang (or beef rib soup); beef bibimbap; and seolleongtang, the cloudy-white ox bone soup with its noted hangover-curing properties. But Daeho’s real claim to fame is its kalbijjim, the slow-braised, spicy-sweet, fall-off-the-bone beef short rib stew. It’s well worth the wait.

Braised short rib stew at Daeho Luke Tsai

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1. Miyako Old Fashion Ice Cream

1470 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

This quaint little ice cream shop — SF’s only Black-owned ice cream shop — feels like an anachronism, with its display of old-fashioned candy and cigarettes for sale amid the tubs of vanilla and Rocky Road. While the ice cream might not be the trendiest in town, it is very good, a decent chunk of it sourced from Mitchell’s, another San Francisco institution, making this the ideal spot to enjoy a scoop of Asian-inspired ube or avocado ice cream while strolling Japantown.

1470 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115

2. Pa'ina Restaurant & Lounge

1865 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115

With a lengthy menu of Asian fusion and Hawaiian cuisine, Pa’ina is the neighborhood’s best option for island eats, from loco moco to poke bowls to spam musubi — as well as an extensive list of cocktails, most of which are available in large-format “scorpion bowls” for sharing. Daily specials — Sunday Funday, Taco Tuesday, Wingsday; and Oyster Thursday — round out this fun spot’s offerings.

1865 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115

3. Matcha Cafe Maiko

1581 Webster St #175, San Francisco, CA 94115
Soft-serve ice cream at Match Cafe Maiko Japan Center Malls

The name of this newish Japan Center cafe speaks for itself. Maiko serves everything matcha — hot and cold beverages of all stripes, with or without a layer of foamy, tangy cheese or other flavored creams, and smooth, creamy soft-serve ice cream, which you can get on a cone or as part of a matcha “float.” Lines out the door are typical here, but fear not: The staff keeps things moving quickly.

1581 Webster St #175
San Francisco, CA 94115

4. Sophie's Crepes

1581 Webster St #275, San Francisco, CA 94115

Another Japan Center sweets stand that consistently draws long lines (especially on weekends, when the mall floods with kids and teens) Sophie’s Crepes is, of course, best known for its crepes — but not the tender, delicate, butter-soaked French variety. Instead, Sophie’s specializes in the Japanese style, which means the crepes are, for starters, humongous, griddled until they’re crispy on the outside, and then rolled up into a cone to be filled with the sweet or savory toppings of your choice — ham and cheese, perhaps, or ice cream and red bean paste.

1581 Webster St #275
San Francisco, CA 94115

5. Tenroku Sushi

1825 Post St #215, San Francisco, CA 94115

As a general rule, you don’t go to a conveyor belt sushi joint if you’re looking for the most pristine, highest-quality nigiri — the city has plenty of upscale omakase options if that’s what you’re after. But for a quick, fun, low-entry-barrier sushi experience where both the quality and variety of the raw fish is also actually pretty darn good, Tenroku is a Japantown classic in its own right. Kids, in particular, love snagging maki and nigiri off the conveyor belt and competing to see who has the highest stack of plates at the end.

1825 Post St #215
San Francisco, CA 94115

6. Marufuku Ramen

1581 Webster St #235, San Francisco, CA 94115

Arriving in SF around the same time as a wave international chains, local ramen outfit Marufuku draws lines that rival any Tokyo import’s quite simply because the noodles and broth are about as good as any in town. Rich, fatty broths — both tonkotsu and chicken-based paitan — are the main draw here, but the soups are balanced and not overly heavy, and the thin, Hakata-style noodles are eminently slurpable.

1581 Webster St #235
San Francisco, CA 94115

7. On the Bridge

1581 Webster St #206, San Francisco, CA 94115

Located on the walkway that connects the two halves of the Japan Center Mall, this charming, manga-lined spot is also a bridge between cultures and cuisines, as one of San Francisco’s only restaurants that specialize in yoshoku, or Western-style Japanese, dishes like hayashi rice and hamburger steak. This is punk icon Patti Smith’s favorite restaurant in San Francisco; work your way through the extensive menu of fish roe-topped Japanese-style pasta dishes, and it might become one of your favorites too.

1581 Webster St #206
San Francisco, CA 94115

8. Oma San Francisco Station

1737 Post St #337, San Francisco, CA 94115
Japan Center Malls

One of the wonders of Tokyo is that world-class sushi might be found tucked away inside a busy subway station. Located out in the open in a hallway in the Japan Center Mall, this casual eight-seat sushi counter — a kiosk, basically — brings a bit of that kind of casually outstanding omakase experience to San Francisco; reservations for a full 12-course meal experience (with 24 items) are currently going for $165 per person.

1737 Post St #337
San Francisco, CA 94115

9. Crown & Crumpet Tea Salon

1746 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115

Located on the first floor of the New People entertainment complex, this delightfully colorful little tea room will satisfy all your crustless finger sandwich and warm scone cravings. The nice thing about Crown & Crumpet is that it’s utterly kid friendly (with a private room upstairs for birthday parties and such), but also plays to a slightly artsier, more fashionable crowd than your standard afternoon tea destination — which is to say, the people watching is superb.

1746 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115

10. Takoyaki Yama-chan

1737 Post St STE395, San Francisco, CA 94115
Japan Center Malls

The closest thing the Japan Center mall has to a genuine street food experience, this Osaka-style takoyaki stand sells a solid version of the doughy octopus balls — a classic Japanese street snack. Ask the staff to grill your order fresh. The takoyaki’s crisp edges only last a little while, and they’re worth the extra wait.

1737 Post St STE395
San Francisco, CA 94115

11. Mochill Mochidonut

1737 Post St STE395, San Francisco, CA 94115
Japan Center Malls

Fans of chewy, colorful, adorably photogenic Japanese mochi doughnuts finally have a local source. This little kiosk, which shares a space with the takoyaki stand next door, is known for putting wild toppings (e.g. Fruity Pebbles cereal) on its doughnuts, which feature the same easy-to-pull-apart “pon de ring” shape pioneered by Japan’s wildly popular Mister Donut chain.

1737 Post St STE395
San Francisco, CA 94115

12. Benkyodo Co

1747 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA 94115

Benkyodo, the 115-year-old mochi shop known for making arguably the best mochi in the state, sells different handmade types each day in flavors like blueberry, mango, red bean, age (fried mochi with sugar and red bean), and even a pancake-covered variety. Get here while you can, as Benkyodo’s owners have said they plan to retire at the end of 2021, and will sell (or close) the shop.

1747 Buchanan St
San Francisco, CA 94115

13. Hinodeya Ramen Bar

1737 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA 94115

In a tonkotsu-heavy city, Hinodeya is the rare ramen shop that specializes in lighter, clearer broths, including one of the better bowls of vegan ramen in town. The dashi-based house ramen is a testament to the subtle pleasures of ocean-based umami, and seafood lovers shouldn’t hesitate to get the clam ramen if it’s available. Also a must-order: excellent fried oysters from Hiroshima.

1737 Buchanan St
San Francisco, CA 94115

14. Super Mira

1790 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94115

This tidy, well-stocked grocery store is probably best known for being the home of the Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop bakery and its iconic coffee crunch cake. But it’s also got the best bento box and prepared foods selection of any of the city’s Japanese markets, and, during lunch hours, it serves hot meals and even has a small dining area where customers can sit and enjoy their katsudon, curry plate, or udon.

1790 Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94115

15. Sasa

22 Peace Plaza suite 530, San Francisco, CA 94115

A relatively new addition to Japan Center’s bevy of sushi spots, this sleek, modern restaurant offers a little bit of everything — multiple tiers of omakase, all of them quite reasonably priced (especially the $55 chef omakase); a selection of kaiseki-style dishes; and, for those who feel like splurging, the option to order an uni flight or a toro flight. Probably the most popular items are the “mystery boxes”: either six or nine mini chirashi bowls of the chef’s choosing, served in a highly Instagram-friendly partitioned wooden box.

22 Peace Plaza suite 530
San Francisco, CA 94115

Related Maps

16. An Japanese Restaurant

22 Peace Plz #510, San Francisco, CA 94115

There are plenty of higher-end sushi restaurants in the city, but for nigiri lovers looking for a full omakase experience without having to drop well over a hundred bucks a person, An is one of your better bets: Nightly omakase options start at $65 and cap out at $92 — though, of course, hungrier and less budget-conscious diners can supplement as needed.

22 Peace Plz #510
San Francisco, CA 94115

17. Nari

1625 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115

Japantown isn’t all Japanese restaurants these days; in fact, its buzziest recent addition is this Thai fine dining destination attached to the Hotel Kabuki — the sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Kin Khao. Set in a grand, expansive dining room, Nari checks a lot of boxes: It boasts pretty, elegant plating, big flavors (get the squid and pork jowl dish), and lovely cocktails.

1625 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115

18. Daeho Kalbijjim & Beef Soup

1620 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115
Braised short rib stew at Daeho Luke Tsai

At this Korean hot spot, the wait for a table during peak dinner hours can stretch as long as two hours, and almost every dish on the menu features some kind of preparation of beef — kalbitang (or beef rib soup); beef bibimbap; and seolleongtang, the cloudy-white ox bone soup with its noted hangover-curing properties. But Daeho’s real claim to fame is its kalbijjim, the slow-braised, spicy-sweet, fall-off-the-bone beef short rib stew. It’s well worth the wait.

1620 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115

Related Maps