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Food & Drink

The best way to warm up in the frigid Outer Richmond? This hard-to-find noodle soup

Rice noodle soups from the Chinese region of Yunnan are the speciality at this fun little spot.

Oodle introduces Yunaan bridge noodles to the Outer Richmond. Little Pot Rice Noodles has a mildly spicy, chili oil-slicked broth and a bridge of ingredients to cook up.
Little Pot Rice Noodles is one of Oodle’s Yunnan specialities. Add a side of smashed hot-and-sour cucumbers with peanuts. | Source: Sara Deseran/The Standard

The city is expensive, but your next meal doesn’t have to be. For The $25 Diner, our new weekly column, we hunt down the best restaurants where you can dine like royalty for $25 bucks per person (or even less).

If presentation is everything, then tiny little bowls of ingredients—a sweet little single shrimp, a bit of yuba, a few slices of ham, an itsy-bitsy raw quail egg, 10 peanuts, and a couple tablespoons of corn kernels, all placed on a mini wooden “bridge”—are a stroke of presentation genius. Or, at the least, an irresistibly cute idea for Instagram. On instinct, my hand reached for my phone.

At Oodle, a newcomer in the Outer Richmond, the aforementioned bridge is dropped at your table with directions to add the ingredients into the restaurant’s signature “Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle” soup ($16.95), which comes with your choice of pork belly, beef or shrimp. The black cauldron, full of hot chicken-and-pork bone broth, functions almost like a personalized hot pot—though one serving is truly enough for two. 

The Crossing Bridge soup is a specialty of Yunnan, located in Southwest China, which is known for its rice noodles. Only a handful of restaurants in SF serve it (and certainly none as adorable). Another regional specialty Oodle offers, which also comes with the bridge o’ ingredients, is called Little Pot Rice Noodles ($17.50). Their “chef’s take” has a savory patty of ground pork floating inside a mildly spicy, chili oil-slicked broth.

These soups are the show stoppers, but I wanted to hoard the appetizer of rice rolls ($7.95) filled with ground pork and wiggly wood ear mushrooms, all wrapped in an addictive, sticky-chewy rice paper. The little guys, served with lime and fish sauce for dipping, reminded me of the banh cuon, also filled with ground pork and wood ear mushrooms, at SF’s excellent Vietnamese restaurant Bodega. However, when I inquired about the coincidence, I was told there was zero comparison. (I’m no Chinese culinary scholar, but it’s worth noting that Yunnan borders Vietnam.)

This image shows a bowl of food containing crispy fried strips, sliced cucumber, julienned ham, tomatoes, and cilantro, topped with sesame seeds.
A refreshing bowl of Cold Rice Noodles with shrimp, shredded ham, cucumber, crushed peanuts, cilantro, tomato and chili oil. | Source: Sara Deseran/The Standard

For something refreshing, get the Cold Rice Noodles ($16.50) served dry with fried, breaded shrimp, shredded ham, cucumber, crushed peanuts, cilantro and chili oil. The noodles come with a slightly sweet sauce to pour over, but when I asked what was in it, the owner just smiled coyly and said it was a secret. Add to that a side of the hot-and-sour cucumbers ($6.75) spiked with peanuts.

The cheery little restaurant, decked out with plastic ivy leaves trailing over wooden rafters and a small open kitchen, has clearly caught on since the first time I visited last fall, right after they’d opened. On a Tuesday evening just a couple of weeks ago, though, the tiny restaurant was packed with groups, all happily slurping up noodles and snapping pics of that bridge. Because truly, who could resist?

The Standard suggests: 

💰Cold Rice Noodles $16.50
💰Yunnan-style Rice Rolls $7.95
Total $24.45
📍Oodle Yunnan Rice Noodle, 3420 Balboa St., Outer Richmond