Yamo House Noodles. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken October, 2021.

Annika, 20-something, and Mark, 70-something, are out to find the Mission’s most noteworthy noodles.

Annika:

When you think Yamo, you think cheap, right? One of the last holes-in-the-wall where you don’t have to pay double for the downbeat décor.

But Yamo has a rep beyond its bottom line. A noodle friend gives Yamo high marks for its professional demeanor and culinary flair. 

Flair? 

Because threatening rain promised a long wet night, I got chicken to go along with the garlic noodles, and a side of pot stickers.

The pot stickers were a welcome surprise. According to the menu, the pocket is filled with a mash of pork, cabbage and carrots. Not that I would know without the text. Little light explosions of flavor, they set up the main dish, and expanded the overall goodness of my mood. 

A large heap of noodles made its presence known when the rains finally came. The noodles were firmly present, and soaked up the garlic well, but acted like pouty teenagers, falling limply from the fork. Maybe they were expecting to be slurped or picked up with chopsticks. 

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Though the noodles were noticeably noodly, the sauce left too much to the imagination. This was not a dynamic sauce, or an over-oily sauce, which you might expect, given its surroundings. More oil would have been welcome. It was a dry, restrained, sauce, maybe distracted by the rain, which lent an air of tedium to the eating.

Did the chicken improve matters? Yes. It was moist (not damp) and juicy. The chicken seemed more complemented by the sauce than by the noodles. And Yamo provided plenty, holding down the plate long after the saucy noodles showed they weren’t up for a rainy evening.  

Say what you will about the meal, money is the real deal at Yamo: pot stickers and garlic noodles with chicken, plastic utensils and too many napkins, all for $12.  

And, to reiterate, these were not pint-sized portions.

Take it away, Annika. Chow down.


Mark, Mark, Mark.

I hate to burn you, but you’re dead wrong. I also ordered a hot plate of Yamo’s noodles on a blustery night and, like the children depicted in Campbell noodle soup ads, these noodles melted away the cold. 

In fact, as soon as I stepped into Yamo I sensed an abundance of warmth. This was thanks to the old Asian woman manning the kitchen, who taciturnly stirred sizzling pans of steaming noodles, meats and curries. She reminded me of my own grandmothers, who dutifully express their love through food.  

But because the elderly cook wasn’t exactly a Chatty Cathy, that left all orders of business to the youthful cashier. She counted my change, took down a phone order, and served another customer’s food without batting an eye. 

She dished out so many one-word responses, interactions with diners began to sound like a chorus of Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.”

“Is it just you two working?” “Yes.”

“Do you take credit cards?” “No.”

The cashier met her customers eye to eye, so intently that I swear that a few straightened up. Her attitude encompassed a type of bluntness one reserves only for family. I walked out with noodles and a woman crush. 

As I braved the biting air on my trek home, a wave of nostalgia for Peninsula Chinese joints washed over me. Yamo exhibited all the signs of promising Asian food: slightly dingy facilities, brusque workers, cash-only, cheap. 

Back at home, I started with the samusas appetizer. They were so fresh, I nearly blistered my lips when I bit into one. Once past the crunchy fried shell, the potent curry and tender potatoes burst forth. Heavenly. 

Then I tried the Yamo Cold Noodles, which deserve the cold shoulder. Initially, the sweet-and-sour sauce entertained me as its red chili flakes built a spicy sensation over time. However, it wasn’t spicy enough; halfway through, it lost my attention. It wasn’t even cold, but lukewarm. I didn’t finish it. 

I quickly forgot, though, after I tried the ultimate comfort food: Yamo’s House Noodles. Now, to a degree, I agree with you, Mark. The house noodles — Yamo’s version of garlic noodles — lacked a snap compared to others we’ve eaten. But the rest of your review is a cold take. 

Contrary to your opinion, I found each noodle exquisitely coated in oil and swimming in fried brown garlic, resulting in delectable, flavorful bites. The pork was tender and well-seasoned — maybe a bit salty for the average eater, but exactly suited for my palate. The noodles were so hot, it fogged up my takeout box’s lid. The meal thawed my bones, and soothed my spirit. 

How could a simple plate evoke such coziness? Suddenly, I realized it’s not just Yamo’s food, but its whole establishment. Yamo offers the epitome of comfort food, because hole-in-the-walls like Yamo always feel like home — a place where you can finally escape the workday’s social etiquette, and slide on the sweats. 

Yamo is at 3406 18th St.

NoodleMania Scorecard

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= low price

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been." He has maintained our Covid tracker through most of the pandemic, taking some breaks with his search for the Mission's best fried-chicken sandwich and now its best noodles. When the Warriors make the playoffs, he writes up his take on the games.

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