If your dreams often take place in Shinagawa ramen joints, elbows down on a tiny counter, noodles slurped alongside drunk companions seated under the low clouds coming off vats of tonkotsu broth, then you'll be overjoyed to know that Ramen Yokocho - billed as the largest ramen festival in the U.S. - is returning to Los Angeles. Specifically, Sat. March 29 and Sun., March 30, at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.
The ramen shops coming to this next festival include, from Los Angeles, Jidaiya, Men Oh Tokushima, Daikokuya, Fujin, Hayatemaru and Shin-Sen-Gumi; Hiromaru and Monta from Las Vegas; Shalala from San Jose; Tajima from San Diego; and, all the way from Japan, Tatsunoya, Horaiya, Mattou Seimen and Tsujita Tokyo. If that last one sounds really familiar (see: ramen dreams), that's because you've probably spent many an hour in line outside the Tsujita on Sawtelle, the L.A. outpost of the Tokyo shop. And of course, many minutes inside, consuming excellent ramen and tsukemen.
So now's your chance to get all of this, for $8 a bowl, under the looming San Gabriel Mountains and our permanent sunny skies. Because although slurping hot soup might indeed be more fun in the Tokyo wintertime, all weather is ramen weather at this point.
If you were at the previous Ramen Yokocho festival, held last September in Torrance, you might recall some issues with lines and crowds and an early closing (which can happen when 20,000 people decide to eat ramen at more or less the same time). This is perhaps why this time around the festival is being held in an Arcadia venue better known for its horse-racing than its food festivals (although maybe not so much now, between this and the 626 Night Market).
The event will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days; on Saturday, there will also be things to do other than noodle-eating, namely Japan Family Day and the Tokyo City Cup. Entry to the festival is $5, although those under 17 get in free. (Another reason to hang out with your favorite pre-teen or teenager!)
See also: L.A. Ramen Yokocho Fest 2013 slideshow
Parking will run you $4 and, again, each bowl of ramen will cost you $8. Is that a lot for repeating bowls of ramen? I suppose it all depends on your priorities. Way cheaper than a flight to Narita and the trek to Yokohama's ramen museum.
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If you're reading this now and planning ahead, there's also the option of volunteering at the event. Get a free ramen lunch and parking - plus a certificate for school credit. Imagine. School credit for eating ramen. (Or you could always intern for this newspaper, which sometimes amounts to the same thing.)
See also: 10 Best Ramen Shops in Los Angeles