One negative thing about being from a small town is that your restaurant options are very limited. There are not a lot of exotic options out there. It’s mainly burgers, fried food, and cheap knock-offs of ethnic fare. One of the reasons I was most excited about moving to the big city of San Diego was to broaden my culinary horizons with Ian as my spirit guide. Growing up, I never got to experience good, authentic Asian food. I was quickly overwhelmed by the choices here. Top of the list that I wanted to try was ramen, especially after our otherworldly ramen experience in Kauai! Up until 2016, I had only had instant ramen! Lucky for us, there is a baller ramen joint right up the street from us called Underbelly!
Underbelly has to be one of the hippest spots in North Park (in our opinion). It’s got a prime location on the corner of 30th and Upas. It is mainly open air seating with these spectacular fire pit tables. Perfect for a brisk San Diego night. The food is stellar and fun, and of course they have a local beer selection. We recommend you start your meal with one of the buns – the bun is soft, spongy, and unique. The Nashville hot chicken one is the best. The fried chicken thigh is perfectly spiced, tender, and crunchy. It is then topped with slaw and pickles. Soul food meets Asian food. The pork belly bun is also a winner if you are looking for a fattier option. Topped with hoisin, cucumbers, pickled mustard seed, and scallion oil. It is rich and perfectly balanced.
Let’s talk about the main event. THE RAMEN BOWLS! We both always get the Belly of the Beast bowl. I get the original Tonkotsu broth- a creamy, simmered pork bone broth. It is decadent, porky, and salty. It is everything I have always missed it a soup bowl. Ian likes to get it with the Thai Curry broth. It’s slightly spicy, well-rounded, and slightly peanutty, with that touch of coconut and floral spices associated with Thai Curry. The Belly of the Beast really is the pièce de résistance of Underbelly in our opinion. The starchy noodles are topped with beef short rib, oxtail dumplings, a soft boiled egg, sprouts, seaweed, scallions, and sesame seeds. The kickers in this dish are the oxtail dumplings and the soft boiled egg. The oxtail dumplings are opulent. They melt in your mouth like little parcels filled with meat butter. You barely have to chew. You just pop them in your mouth and enjoy your little piece of food heaven. Ian always says he is going to order extra, but he always chickens out! I always save my soft boiled egg for last because it is the cherry on top of this brothy sundae. The yolk is slightly runny and gooey. I have no idea what they do to it, but it is slightly sweet and savory at the same time. I want a bowl full of just those, and then I will eat them like a baboon. Enjoy that imagery, folks.
Underbelly is one of the places we always take guests when they visit. It was one of the first places we ate as a couple here, and it is one of our most frequent haunts. So go, grab a beer, and slurp down a bowl of delicious ramen at one of the best spots in town!