It’s a crisp and clear evening, perfect for a relaxed stroll around the neighborhood. There’s always something to see in Yerba Buena Gardens, from the waterfall cascading into the reflecting pool to the artists strewn about the lawn, completely immersed in their notebooks. But just as you cross the street to wander down Yerba Buena Lane, you encounter a peculiar scene that stops you in your tracks.
A crowd spills out the doors of an unassuming restaurant bearing the name Ippudo. The building’s façade is simple – almost minimalistic – with few clues of what lies inside. Your interest is further piqued as you notice more and more people joining the throng.
Unable to tear yourself away, perhaps from the urge to discover what these people know that you don’t, you join the cluster and wait with bated breath. Soon the glass doors open, and you’re rewarded with the first hint of what’s within. A savory, salty, even nutty scent seeps out onto the lane. It’s a crave-worthy smell that evokes a sense of comfort and reminds you of rainy days spent playing board games in the living room.
After a surprisingly short wait, you make it through the doors to see that the inside is almost as stark as the exterior, save a decorative metal tree that gently brushes the ceiling and the well-stocked shelves behind the bar.
Throughout the room, people are huddled over steaming bowls of soup, lifting noodles to their mouth with chopsticks. Ah, ramen! The dish is instantly recognizable, although it doesn’t resemble the stovetop noodles you devoured during childhood. Rather, this dish is loaded with cooked vegetables, tender pork loin, bold spices, and a delicate soft-boiled egg.
It’s how the dish was prepared over one hundred years ago, a server tells you. The broth simmers for at least 18 hours before being combined with house-made noodles and topped with your choice of garnishes. Even a century ago, ramen represented comfort, welcoming people home with its irresistible scent and soothing flavors.
Allowing a sense of ease to wash over you, it’s easy to understand the appeal of Ippudo. Its brilliance is in its simplicity, offering warmth, comfort, and a tenderness that’s almost exclusively found at your own home. A peaceful oasis only found on Yerba Buena Lane.