marugame udon

fast food for a perfect world

Fast food by (my) definition should fulfill three qualifiers: cheap, easy to order, and of course, fast. By this definition, Marugame is basically my McDonald’s.

The concept is simple, yet genius: made to order udon noodles with an la carte tempura bar. You move through like you would a dining hall. Grab a tray and select your noodle base. Add a soft boiled egg (trust me). Once they give you your noodle, be sure to grab a plate before making your way through the tempura bar to your heart’s desire. At the end, there’s musubi (rice balls) and drinks. Then you pay. And then load up on the toppings. Even with a line, from your initial order to your first bite shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes. You’ll probably finish eating before people are even seated at Tsujita. And your meal will definitely put any fast food combo to shame.

Marugame has been the light that guided me through many hangry moments. The udon + tempura concept is a staple at every Taiwanese food court and is an easy, satisfying meal. In Sawtelle, when patience runs low, it’s a reliable fall back.

Note: This is not to be confused with Marugame Monzo in Little Tokyo, which, although they too specialize in udon, is by no definition fast food, considering the wait times they garner.

the details

In LA, they have 4 locations, one on Sawtelle, one in the Beverly Center, one in Glendale Galleria, and one downtown at The Bloc. 
There are also locations in SF, Hawaii and Texas.

Internationally, they have locations in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Russia, Australia and the UK.
YelpLA: Sawtelle | Beverly Grove | Glendale | DTLA
HoursVaries by location but generally open at 11am and close at 9 or 10pm
Price$ – base noodles start at $5, and a la carte tempura are around $1-3 (US prices), cheaper in Asia (generally starting at $2-3)
Aestheticsimple, japanese food court vibes, but like a little more artisanal 

good to know

Go here for: a fast, delicious and reliable lunch or casual dinner that doesn’t break the bank

Order this: beef udon with an added egg, the vegetable kakiage (read: giant fried ball of veg), and tempura chicken breast (it’s absurdly good white meat)

Amount of time to spend: literally you could realistically be in and out within 20 minutes it’s amazing

When to come: literally whenever possible (even when it’s busy, the line moves fast!), but it’s extra fun at random hours of the afternoon, or for a late dinner

Parking (LA): well, for Sawtelle, it’s always terrible (hence the come at random hours tip). The other ones are all in malls so there are parking lots, but you should confirm on the latest validation situation through respective mall websites. 

Other things to note:

  • Their noodles all come in a regular and large size, so it’s adjustable based on your hunger level.
  • The scallions, tempura flakes, shichimi, tempura sauce, etc is all self-serve.
  • Be sure to return your tray after you finish eating (told you it’s à la dining hall).
  • They also have many locations in Japan and Taiwan, as well as in Hawaii.

Last visited: September 2021

Last updated: September 2021

if you're in LA