Gifuya Ramen - P!ss Alley, Shinjuku
Gifuya (岐阜屋) is a cheap, quick ramen stop in Shinjuku's Shoben-yokochō (P!ss Alley) or Omoide Yokocho (Memory Alley). This is one of the larger establishments in the alley, as it's huge counter runs through the first floor of the building and out to the alley on the other side, seating at least 50 customers.
Their menu is simple: mostly beer and ramen, with a few odds and ends like fried rice and yakisoba. Our choice was simple, yakisoba and ramen, both for about 700 Yen. The food was ready quickly, and we really enjoyed the flavors. A perfect late night snack stop, except for the cockroaches.
Shoben-yokochō (P!ss Alley) or Omoide Yokocho (Memory Alley) offers some of the best street food in Tokyo. Though covering a very small area, they somehow packed about 40 restaurants into this alley, plus another 10 or so on the parallel alley to the east.
This alley earned its name appropriately, as it was originally a narrow alley with numerous restaurants, but no restrooms, so people had to do their business where they could. The area was established following World War II, and soon earned a reputation for its street food. Unfortunately, the original alley burned to the ground in 1999, and the city rebuilt the small alley of restaurants, coining it with a new moniker, Memory Lane. The look and feel of the place is similar to the original, but now it is cleaner, and it has public restrooms, so the urine smell is gone.
The restaurants are so tiny here, you may have trouble squeezing by other patrons to get to a stool at the bar. There is a variety of food, but the common theme is fast and relatively cheap. You can find anything from standard yakitori, to stews, and even oddities like pig testicles and horse ***.
Haikara-tei is a simple, family oriented yakiniku restaurant with good, reasonable priced food and fast service. Twice I have been here with a young baby in tow, and they were happy to see the child, and we were in and out so fast the child didn't cause a fuss.
They have a good variety of meats including, according to the menu "chicken things." They have about 15 kinds of meat, vegetables, kimchis and sauces that are all good and simple.
Ginza 9 - Basement: Serendipity at Ginza's Fringe
The basement corridor at Ginza 9 is home to a number of 'hole in the wall' restaurants, most likely for lunching and shoppers and office workers. Each establishment has plastic food (or photos) of the meals available.
Pick the one which takes your fancy - prices are similar. Behind the noren curtains, each is very small, perhaps 4 tables of four only, with a small kitchen at the rear. The food will be good, and it will be cheap. We were fortunate enough to be assisted with our order by other customers - so we were able to take advantage of the fabulous complimentary pickles at the counter.
Favorite Dish: The food was very good, be it a simple sashimi and fish, tasty pork belly, or chicken done a variety of ways (croquettes or yakitori style). The miso soup was also particularly fine.Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
Table of Roh Korean Restaurant - Tachikawa
Table of Roh (ノさんの食卓) is a nice Korean restaurant located a few short blocks north of Tachikawa Station in western Tokyo. A group of four stopped here for dinner one rainy night and enjoyed some great, traditional samgyeopsal (Korean bacon) with kimchi, lettuce, garlic, and other basic sides. We also shared a few bottles of tasty Jinro soju.
Our great meal for four ran about 10,000 Yen.
Table of Roh also has a small shop selling Korean goods like Hite beer, Cass beer, red pepper paste, and much more.
Taishu Sakaba (cheap bar) Okamoto - Asakusa
Taishu Sakaba is, by definition, a cheap bar, and this one, called Okamoto in Asakusa is a fair example. The restaurant is actually rather large, with both indoor and outdoor seating, including both Western and Japanese-style seating.
The restaurant is located on Hoppy Street, on the west side of Senso-ji Temple. A bit off the beaten path for many tourists, it is known locally as either Hoppy Street (due to the sales of Hoppy drink) or Motsuni Street (for the area's famous pig intestine stew). Here there are a few dozen small izakaya, most with street-side, open-air seating.
We stopped at Taishu Sakabafor lunch while visiting the temples and shops of Asakusa. We had a few beers, some sake, and three meals for about 4,000 Yen. My meal was a tasty kimchi noodle dish, while my dining companions had fried chicken, and pork. All of our meals were served on cheap cafeteria trays, with sides of rice, miso soup, and some slimy vegetables.
Bikkuri Donkey - Hamburg Steak Restaurant
Bikkuri Donkey is a small chain of "hamburg steak" restaurants that got its start in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. In America, when you see a hamburger on a menu, you can be sure it comes on a bun, usually with some cheese and vegetables, and most often with a side of fries.
In Japan, hamburgers, or "hambaagu," are much different. They are served most often without a bun, and the taste is more like Salisbury steak. These meat patties can be served with sauces, with rice, under an egg, or even in soups.
Bikkuri Donkey is one of many Japanese hamburg steak restaurants around Tokyo. This one is more fun than most Japanese family restaurants, because it has a unique rustic American atmosphere. We arrived early, while the restaurant was not yet busy, so we were quickly seated. We chuckled a bit about the odd decor, which seems to be a random mix of various American regions and time periods. The waitress brought the wooden menu board, which opened like old fashioned window shutters, and we quickly scanned the menu and ordered.
I had a hamburger patty in an udon soup, with some rib meat, an egg, and radish. Laura had a simpler, healthier option with a meat patty, rice, and salad. The food was good, fast, and pretty inexpensive, at less than 1000 Yen per person.
On another visit, three of us had the Korean style bibimbap burger, with pickled radishes, hot sauce, bean sprouts, seaweed and more that is mixed into a salad.
I was a bit surprised to see they had some unique beers here. Bikkuri Donkey has its own craft beer called Donkey Organic Beer, which is brewed by the Otaru Beer Brewery in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan, the same area as the origin of the restaurant chain. They also offer a fruity raspberry beer called Donkey Framboise Red. The Donkey Organic is a Pilsener-style beer, that pours clear and golden with a thick, foamy head. The taste is malty and hoppy, but light. Unique beer, better than the chain, but not fantastic.
Umayaki Moguri Tengenji - Hiroo Station Area
Umayaki Moguri Tengenji is a pork yakiniku restaurant that specializes in Kagoshima Prefecture's Watanabe Berkshire "black pig" and Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture's "platinum pig." We stopped here one rainy night, and were warmly welcomed to a small booth with a rectangular gas grill on the table top. We had fresh vegetables and four kinds of meat, along with several glasses of Korean makkoli rice wine for about 115,000 Yen, not bad for a great meal.
For our meats, we had a mix of short ribs, tenderloin, and bacon. Unfortunately, they were out of some of the best cuts of meat. They also offer a variety of internal organ meats.
Maguro Ichiba, Moritown, Tachikawa
Maguro Ichiba translates to "tuna market" in English. This inexpensive restaurant features raw fish donburi (or "bowls"). The menu is small, with just 10 dishes or so, and the prices low, at well under 1000 Yen per meal. Most meals are closer to 600 Yen ($6 US).
I visited Maguro Ichiba in the MoriTown shopping complex in Akishima, Tokyo, and I had the tuna bowl, with tea for 680 Yen. The bowl came with five or six nice pieces of deep red tuna, on a large bed of rice seasoned with small pieces of salty nori (dried seaweed).
Cheap, quick, tasty, and easy. Great for budget travelers or families!
Kushiage Shinsekai - Tachikawa Paradise Alley
Kushiage (串揚げ), also known as Kushikatsu (串カツ), is a Japanese-style of deep-fried meat, seafood or vegetable on a small bamboo stick, dipped in panko and deep fried. In Japanese, kushi (串) refers to items strung together on skewers, while age (揚げ) means deep fried and katsu means cutlet of meat. Kushiage may be served plain or with a variety of sauces such as tonkatsu. This style of cooking is said to have originated in Osaka.
Kushiage Shinsekai is one of the best places we've found in Paradise Alley, an area of 15 small restaurants in Tachikawa's Paradise Yokocho, an area designed to resemble the rebuilding era of Japan, just after World War II. We sat at the 10-seat counter and looked, confusingly, at the menu that was written in all Japanese. We really only wanted a few drinks, but the lady behind the counter either said the food was good or that we HAD TO order food to sit at the counter; I'm not sure which. Nonetheless, we decided to order a few items on the menu, most of which cost from 100 Yen to 300 Yen.
We each had a beer, and we shared 6 different pieces of delicious kushiage, to include fried quail eggs, beef belly, shrimp, and tomatoes. Each of the elements was fresh, crispy, and delicious.
Hamazushi - Akashima Station
Hamazushi (はま寿司) is a large chain of conveyor belt sushi restaurants located throughout the country. The chain was established in 2002, and is owned by the same company that oversees the fantastic CoCo's Curry and the Sukiya and Nakau beef bowl restaurants.
Hamazushi restaurants are large, inexpensive, and pretty good. We have a branch near our house that has seating for about 200 people, and there are often 25 or more additional customers waiting for a table or counter seating. Much of the sushi is 105 Yen a plate, but you can pay up to 500 Yen or so for better fish, like fatty tuna.
Pretty good sushi.
Tsukiji Kaisen Donburi - Tsukiji Outer Market
Tsukiji Kaisen Donburi, or Tsukiji Seafood Bowl (築地海鮮丼), is another of the hundreds of small and large sushi restaurants located in Tsukiji's outer market. This is one of the older, more run down restaurants, but it still has high-quality sashimi.
We arrived a day or two before New Years, and the market area was crowded, making it almost impossible to even walk, let long shop. We finally decided to escape the crowd down a narrow passage way on the north side of the market, and we stumbled upon a fresh fish restaurant up on the second floor. There were about 10 people in line ahead of us, but it was less crowded than most of the other restaurants in the area. While we waited, we scanned the menu, and the waitress even took our order before we sat at our table.
We were seated after about 20 minutes, and our food was ready minutes later. I had their chirashizushi, perhaps known as Kaisen Donburi here? The mix of fishes was excellent, and reasonably priced at around 1,500 Yen.
Bakery Cafe 426 Omotesando
Bakery Cafe 426 is a nice bakery in the heart of the Omotesando area of Tokyo. We stumbled in here one nice Saturday morning while strolling Harajuku and Omotesando shopping areas, and were happy to see lots of fresh pastries by the door. We picked up trays and chose a few of the items, which conveniently for us had English labels. We then wandered over to the counter to pay and order coffee.
Next we went upstairs, to the large, sunny second floor and got a table overlooking the main street though Omotesando. The waitress brought our food and drinks to our table, and we enjoyed a nice, quiet snack in a busy part of town.
Curry House CoCo - Shibuya
Japan's ubiquitous CoCo's Curry has a location just north of Shibuya Station, in a very lively shopping and nightlife neighborhood. We stopped here late one evening after drinking a few beers at the local pubs. Like other CoCo's Curry locations, the food is quick, tasty and cheap.
The British introduced Japan to curry in the late 1800s, when Britain still had a huge Indian empire, and curry has become one of Japan's favorite foods. In Japan, curry is usually called "curry-rice," and it can be served with grilled or fried chicken, beef or pork. Japanese curry is usually thicker and sweeter than Indian curry, making it a unique dish all its own.
Curry House CoCo is Japan's largest restaurant chain, and it features Japan's version of curry, served with rice and a variety of meats, in a casual fast food environment. Most of their dishes are versions of katsu curry, or curry with breaded meat, usually pork.
Curry House CoCo has about 1250 restaurants in Japan and 100 internationally, including branches in the US, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Jonetsu Horumon - P!ss Alley, Shinjuku
Jonetsu Horumon is a big, two story restaurant in Shinjuku's P!ss Alley, just north of the main JR station. The restaurant was packed, but we got the last table upstairs.
We started our meals with two of the big draft beers. How big? so big the server asked us to not order them, because we might not be able to finish them. We insisted, and it took them 10 minutes to find and fill the glasses. They were big, but not ungodly big, as the server implied.
Next we ordered the mixed meat plate, with six meas including beef ribs, intestines, sausages, livers, and other meats. I was happy to see the internal organs featured prominently on the menu since the restaurant's name, horumon, means internal organs. We also had kimchi and rice wit our meals. The meats were pretty good, though horumon is not always my favorite meat.
Kassen Ichiba - Ueno Ameyoko
Kassen Ichiba is a small izakaya located under the train tracks in Ameyoko Market area of Ueno. This small streetside shack specializes in fresh raw and cooked seafood from Tsukiji market. We stopped here with a visitor soon after arriving on the Kaisei Skyliner, and we had a nice snack.
We started with hot sake, then we had a few draft beers. We also had a few quick courses of grilled octopus, grilled salmon on a stick, and squid, if I remember correctly. The food was very good, but the portions small. Our bill was about 3,000 Yen ($30 US).
The little shop is busy with lots of locals enjoying fresh fish in a very casual spot. In the summer, many of the seats are in the street; in the winter, they pull tarps out over the street-side tables to keep customers warm and dry.
Good place for a drink and a few light snacks.
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