The largest Ramen show in the U.S., this time at Santa Anita.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This event is over, but since I’m 99.99% sure it’s coming back, this review is for the next go around, and to let you know what you missed.
Truth be told, I was prepared to completely slam this event.
No, seriously. It took me forever to find the place (see the Safety Tip below). Once I did find the place (in the infield of the Santa Anita racetrack), there were lines EVERYWHERE. And if you came to the Festival, wit the express mission of trying out one of the many, many Ramen Houses visiting from Japan, you were in for a looooong wait.
Okay, so when you arrive at this version of the festival, you’ve got to navigate through several layers of Santa Anita to arrive at your destination. You go through and Park…like you would any Race Track visit, that’s $4. Then you need to get admission into the Park Itself, that’s another $5. Then, you wander about aimlessly, looking for Ramen Yokocho itself.
No easy feet with there being no signage telling you where to go, and no indication of where the actual Festival is going on.
And yes, I checked the Website once again. No indication there either.
So, I got lucky and followed a mass of people moving toward the main building who all looked to be generally disinterested in betting. They went under the building past an underground eatery-slash-betting hall, and up into the sunshine of the infield.
Once there, I saw Ramen. Lots and lots of Ramen.
I also saw what looked to be the entire population of Los Angeles, stuffed into one end of that Infield.
And it was hot. Did I mention it was hot as all get out?
No shade. No (obvious) seating. I am getting all messed up. I am ten shades of ready to hit my keyboard, and tear this festival a new–
What was that?
Sorry, I’m talking to a few of my compatriots in the Mattou Seimen line, and…what was that again?
Yeah, they’re telling me the Torrance one (held in September) was way worse.
Well, I guess I’ll shut up my [BLEEP] then.
Okay, fine. I take it all back. Compared to what I heard about the Torrance Festival this one is paradise.
Rules are pretty simple. This is a non-cash Festival.
Non-Cash. What do I mean by that? Well, you don’t trade in Cash or Credit Cards, you trade in Tickets. As arrive, and before you jump into one of the mammoth Ramen House lines, you’ve got to get yourself some tickets. In this case, $8 for Red (Ramen) and $2 for Yellow (drinks/desserts). There was one establishment selling Gyoza and Beef Bowls that deal only in cash, but if you wanted Ramen at Ramen Yokocho, you had to get Tickets. Fortunately, they were easy to get, having some of the shortest lines in the Festival.
Once you had your Tickets all you had to do was get your food, which was going to require a lot of patience, as everyone there had the same strategy I did, hit the Ramen Houses from abroad. Go visit the local joints on our own time. Simple.
WHAT (DID) I GET?: Well, the monster of all monster lines was for a place called Tatsunoya, from Japan. The line was so big, I had to take two photos of the line just to show you how big it was.
Worse, the line got longer as the day when on. By the time I went home, the line had stretched down into the tunnel.
Oddly enough, I had settled on a place before I even got there, Mattou Seimen, with it’s Black Mapo Ramen. Miso with a touch of Szechuan in it. What I had was pretty damn good. Does it make me want to fly out to Tokyo and have a bowl of the full-on real deal?
Yeah, a little bit. A couple days out I’m still thinking about the taste of that Ramen.
Mind you, I know everyone here thought they could get massive amounts of tickets and think they could try every Ramen House at the Festival, but mind you…there are limits to what the human body can intake. I’m guessing most people hit their Ramen limit at about two bowls, three bowls tops even though those bowls were a touch smaller that you’d get at a sit-down Ramen House. So mind you limits, and plan accordingly.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: The following safety tips are really for the event planners, but…truth be told you can benefit from them as well.
One, when I was out the the parking lot, for a couple of minutes there, I really wondered if I was in the right place. I mean seriously. No signage, no nothing. I walked in, and paid my admission to Santa Anita, and still wondered where the party was. It was only through following the crowd that I wound up in the infield, and at the festival.
Two, because we were in the infield, we were in the hottest part of Santa Anita. Now, I understand. It was an active race day. It was Tokyo Family Day, and the primary business of Santa Anita is the race track. So, there were limits on where they could place the festival. But like it was said, it was hot from the get go.
Three, seating. I wanted to say there wasn’t a lot of it, but that’s not true. When you walked the grounds, there wasn’t a lot in the way of picnic benches or tables to sit down and have your Ramen. But there was the Infield grass, where…if you were smart enough to bring a lawn chair, you could get comfortable.
I wasn’t smart enough to bring a Lawn chair.
There also a number of benches you could have a seat at. They were spaced around the infield, and there were plenty of the,. The only problem was you had to cut through the lines to get there, and doing that with a piping hot bowl of freshly made Ramen could be a bit tricky.
Four, remember. You are a human being. There is only so much Ramen you can have. I’m betting between, drinks and other stuff, the most you’re going to do is two bowls. There are not sampler sizes available at the festival, though Lord knows there should have been.
PARKING: Not bad of course. Santa Anita Park has a ridiculously big Parking Lot, so…getting a space is not a problem. How far is that space from the door, and can you remember where you car is afterward, that’s going to be your problem.
Before you get out of your car, make sure you orient yourself as to your environment. See what part of the Santa Mall you’re closest to. Use the Auto Park or G-Park Apps on your iPhone.
Ramen Yokocho Festival 2014
285 W Huntington Dr.
Arcadia, CA 91007
Ramen price: $8/Bowl (flat)
Santa Anita Park Admission
Entry fee: $5.00 Parking :$4.00
Under 17 years “FREE ADMISSION”
March 29th and 30th: 11am-6pm.