Very rarely does an Udon stand out so well that standing in the line itself is an iconic part of the experience. Marukame Udon is by far the most popular noodle shop in Waikiki, with a line snaking into the streets, and crowning it the best udon in Waikiki is obvious from popularity alone. Thankfully, there is a rope to organize the flow of people coming in and out. The shop itself is like a kitchen conga-line, moving quickly, with an attendant for each step of the stations. But before you get there, you have to make it inside.
If the line extends to the first bend, the wait shouldn’t be too bad at all- 10-15 minutes, each person in line taking about 2 minutes to speed through the line to the end. Should the line wrap back to the door, you’re looking at an easy 20-30 minute wait. Standing in the streets at night, while not too appealing, is somewhat mitigated by the glow of the well lit kitchen inside and the comfort of people all around. Before you get inside, you get to see the menu. While I personally have stuck to the basic udon as of yet, the other offerings are known to be local favorites, particularly the niku udon (beef).
Upon entering, the first step is asking you about your choice in udon. Right in front of you, you see the fresh noodles being made and placed directly into your bowl, as fresh as it gets. There’s many places that aren’t above serving packaged udon- for fresh udon at an entry of $5, you cant beat the prices to begin with.
After that, its a self serve plethora of tempura and katsu (fried) dishes- fried chicken, pumpkin tempura, ika (squid) tempura, vegetable ball and shrimp tempura are some of the options. The chicken is a standout, crunchy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. The dishes are constantly being refreshed with new items. After that, there are options for some musubi’s: spam musubi, inari and various rice balls. They are decent, and make great, fresh, affordable on the go snacks for those who have other places to visit.
After paying an usually low price- usually around $10-$12 each for the large udon, chicken and some tempura, your off to the dining hall of sorts. Packed and busy, i’ve thankfully never felt like I was rubbing shoulders with the person next to me or bumping into them, and have always found a seat.
As long as you aren’t above taking your own dishes, serving your own water, and dealing with an energetic and busy environment, Marukame Udon is an amazing choice for a great price, and quite possibly the best deal for a meal in Waikiki.