On Saturday morning in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance, more than five thousand ramen lovers convened at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center, a scattering of low-flung buildings in the city's civic center, for the first annual Ramen Yokocho Fest. Expecting only about a thousand people at a time, over 2,000 people had already arrived by noon, resulting in hours-long lines that snaked in every direction. Headlining the festival was Fukushima-based Ramen Bannai, which made a special Kitakata-style that uses hand-crumpled noodles and toro chashu. There were vendors from across L.A., one from Hawaii, and another from Vegas, resulting in a variety of regional styles and expressions.
Lines stretched for as little as a few minutes to up to an hour for most stalls. Festival goers shucked out $8 for half-sized bowls of noodles, many groups of attendees dividing and conquering, then reconvening to slurp up their collections.
There were some compelling out-of-town ramen-yas that served at the festival, including Gomaichi from Honolulu, which served a refreshing cold tan tan men; Monta Ramen from Las Vegas, which served a pork-and-chicken broth ramen; Orenchi from Santa Clara, which touts the "No. 1 Average Daily Customers in the U.S.," (the meaning of which is uncertain); Shalala from Mountain View, serving a miso ramen; and of course Ramen Bannai, which was the talk of the fest.
Local shops served some unique preparations, such as Tsujita's cold Tokyo ramen with dried sardine broth, West Los Angeles' Hayatemaru's shellfish ramen, and Daikokuya's bonito-miso ramen. Gardena's Iroha served their standard black mapo ramen while Silverlake Ramen served a standard tonkotsu. Finally, Jidaiya (Torrance) and Ikemen (Hollywood) shamelessly made ramen burger knockoffs. Ikemen's version was nearly identical to Keizo Shimamoto's original while Jidaiya based theirs on thick chashu slices.
By 5 p.m., coordinators closed the lines and ended the event for the day because stalls were selling out. The madness of the event continued on to Sunday, where hours-long waits continued according to Twitter. Check out the scene at Ramen Yokocho Fest:
· All Ramen Coverage on Eater [-E-]