Survival Guide: Ramen Fest SF 2014

Almost every love song I know I want to use to profess my undying love for ramen. Most recently Disclosure’s Latch featuring Sam Smith has been playing on repeat in my head. When I hear that San Francisco is hosting their first Ramen Fest SF from the numerous foodies on my Facebook feed, my mind instantly goes into a fantasy sequence where I will serenade these sweet lines to a Ramen Burger as I gently unwrap it and savor it’s flavors.

I feel we’re close enough
I wanna lock in your love
I think we’re close enough
Could I lock in your love, baby?

Now I got you in my space
I won’t let go of you (never)
Got you shackled in my embrace
I’m latching on to you (never)

Earlier this week I was working on my game plan in my head while having lunch at Santouka to temporarily quell the passions of my desire. I will get there early. I will acquire the ramen burger, and if there is time I will sample other ramen stalls. MUWAHAHAHA, I cheer triumphantly to myself with world domination in mind similar to The Brain from “Pinky and The Brain”.

Cut to Saturday morning. Reality hits with a pang of disappointment and jealousy as I’m turning onto Post Street. My lover Ramen gets around. It’s a mob scene packed with youths that partake in these types of activities for sport, with their infinite time and parents’ pocketbooks.

I luck out on the parking front and get a space right on Post and Laguna that has no set time limit. Load up the meter for 4 hours. Then I turn the street and it’s MADNESS. Karen and Joshua help me find the line for Ramen Burger and we wait. Joshua had laughed at me earlier in the week when I had said I would get there by 9am to get in line. Alas I snoozed my alarm twice this morning and actually woke up at 9am. Damn you Mr. Sandman!

When I get to hour 2.5 and discover there are separate lines for ordering and picking up, I nearly lose my shit. But damn it if I already waited 2.5 hours already. I continue on.

Getting my hands on the delicious ramen burger took three hours of waiting. That’s right three. During that time AT&T died on me being over-saturated by the crowds, took some selfies, my friends gave up and went to eat at the food trucks, I commiserated with some college kids in line, my friends got a good buzz for $10 dollars in the unlimited sake tasting area for an hour (on Post and Webster), and they brought me back food to eat in line so I wasn’t starving.

Boredom leads to selfies.

Boredom leads to selfies. Me & Joshua – AHS forever friends.

By the time I got my burger, the undying love I “thought” I had for Ramen was worn thin. I no longer want to latch onto you. I want to store you in my belly (after taking an Instagram, obviously), get a beverage with friends and go home and take a long nap. Being annoyed by crowds for three hours and in the ever changing climate of SF is exhausting.

Overall verdict? The burger was tasty. Was it 3 hours good? No, definitely not. But now it’s off the bucket list and I can honestly say I will never do that again.

After experiencing it for the first time, here are the tips and tricks that will get you that much quicker to the ramen and maybe even let you still be in love with it. The goal of these tips are to maximize sampling of different kinds of ramen.

Pro-tips (If they don’t change the rules for tomorrow):

  • Ramen Fest San Francisco officially opens at 11am. Get there early! I cannot stress this enough. 9am is not too early. Bring a snack, bring a book, if you want to try these ramen shops, just do it.
  • Go in a group that does not mind waiting.
  • Bring water, snacks, layer your clothing and don’t forget the conformable shoes.
  • Bring a battery pack if you want to charge your phone and will be not near a plugin location.
  • You need a ticket to get a ramen item. All tickets for all ramen stalls are exactly the same. So pick the shortest line you can and buy a ton of tickets, there wasn’t a limit of tickets you could get when I went.
  • For every ramen booth there are 2 lines: Order and Pick Up. Order is where you buy the tickets for $8 a piece, and pick up is where you get to grab your ramen.
    If you’ve bought 10 tickets from one Order window, you can now go to any pick up window and pick up a bowl of ramen.
  • Split up! Have one friend get all the tickets and have the other friends spread out in every pick up line. The orderer will distribute the tickets to the people in the pick up lines and you’ll all get to try every kind of noodle there faster.
  • If you’re splitting up, AT&T might die on you so pair up in groups with T-mobile or Verizon to be able to find each other again, otherwise things might get difficult.
  • Bought extra tickets? Sell them off. The lines are so long I’m sure people would be willing to purchase them off you to save some time in the order line.

Good luck ramen lovers!

Finally, I’ll leave you with this clever caption for my Ramen Burger photo that Stephen left for me (sung in the style of Latch):

Now I’ve got you in my face
I’ll post this pic of you (clever)
I’ll start digesting at my own pace
I won’t rush pooping you (never)

EDIT: Sunday they did end up changing the format, no more tickets and no more dual lines. But friends confirmed that the divide and conquer splitting up technique still ended up working.

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