Fondly known as the ‘kitchen of Japan’ the Kansai region has an abundance of dining options offering everything from traditional kaiseki course meals to the more home-style cooking of okonomiyaki, sukiyaki, and takoyaki. I have always felt more in-tuned with Osakans, who strongly embraces “kuidaore,” which translates literally to “eat till you drop.” It’s no joke either; the locals spend all their money on food and drink! This has made Osaka into a metropolis where the variety of restaurants, and other various eating and drinking establishments is astounding. Even if you’re a budget traveler, you can still eat till you drop and not break the bank. There’s an abundance of street food, cheap eats, and so much else on offer, you just have to know where to look. So journey with me through the wonderful world of Osaka food – I’ll introduce you to the city’s top specialties and, most importantly, where you can find them.
1. Endo Sushi
Located inside the Osaka Central Fish Market, Endo Sushi is a small, humble, tiny eatery that sits no more than 15 people at a time. One of their most popular sets, ‘Maze’, consists of five different kinds of sushi served one after another, allowing you to sample a variety of sushi made with seasonal fish. The service is excellent and they offer an English menu, making it an ideal place for tourists to experience authentic sushi. If you’re a big fan of fatty tuna, this is the place for you to go ham!
2. Hontozushi Kaiba
The fashionable district of Kitahorie is a fascinating area, and after visiting all the designer stores, galleries and piano bars that line the streets, stop by Hontozushi Kaiba for some delicious sushi. They are located in the basement of the Meiji Fukoku Life building, five minutes away from Yotsubashi station. The restaurant is small and casual, but the food is sumptuous and their prices are reasonable in comparison to other similar establishments. If you don’t speak Japanese, try ordering the ‘omakase course’ of either 10 or 16 pieces of sushi, chosen by the chef.
Hontozushi Kaiba, 1-15-22, Kitahorie, Nishi-ku, Osaka, Japan, +81 6 6532 2918
3. Mizuno Okonomiyaki
Mizuno is a family-owned okonomiyaki establishment with constant lines of customers queueing out the door. The menu boasts an abundance of options for toppings, fillings, and sauces – you can even add yakisoba noodles! For new visitors, the amount of options can be quite intimidating, so I suggest you go with the most popular items. After you’re seated, the chef brings over the raw batter so diners can watch them being cooked in front of you. Last time I was here they don’t allow videos anymore, but you can still take pictures!
Mizuno is a much-loved okonomiyaki restaurant that has “kept it in the family” for 65 years. At Mizuno, all the ingredients are locally sourced. Customers line up for the famous yam flour okonomiyaki with roast pork and scallops. For around ¥1,000 you can get a large pancake topped with grilled onions, cheese and shrimp. #hungrynycjapan #okonomiyaki #hungrynycosaka
1-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Japan, +81 662 126 360
4. Teppanyaki Kiryu
Located on the 19th floor of the Gran Via Hotel Umeda, Teppanyaki Kiryu offers you the finest Japanese beef and fresh seafood. Teppanyaki is derived from the word teppan, which means iron girdle, and yaki, which means to grill. This creates an entire cuisine based on grilling various meats and vegetables on an iron girdle. The hotel’s restaurant offers a truly luxurious experience, they will seat you around a large iron girdle and you can watch the chef prepare your food with elegant execution and impeccable presentation.
Hotel GranVia, 3-1-1 Umeda Kita-ku Osaka , Japan +81 6-6344-1235 (19F)
5. Nakai Yakitori
Just a minute away from Osaka station, this yakitori restaurant is known for using the best local chicken that’s incredibly fresh and grilled on high-quality charcoal. They’re also well-known for their Belgian beers, which they use in their sauce to give extra flavor to the yakitori. I also highly recommend their yakitori ramen!
1F Umeda Asahi Building, 1-5-6 Shibata, Kita-ku Osama, Japan +81 665 555 47
6. Umeda Hagakure Udon
Surrounded by tiny local restaurants, Umeda Hagakure prepares one of the best udon dishes in Osaka. The owner of this small restaurant, with just a dozen seats at the counter, prepares all the dishes himself and even makes his own udon noodles. The restaurant is especially busy between noon and 1pm as office workers flood the place to enjoy their noodles. The chef’s specialty is udon noodles accompanied by finely grated radish with green onions and lime. Don’t forget to order a side of the soft-boiled egg and chikuwa (fish paste) tempura!
7. Kuromonya Ramen
Kuromonya Ramen is possibly (imho) one of the best ramen places in the city. Their noodles, which are made to order, are cooked to the perfect texture, and served with flavorful ingredients such as pork slices, soft-boiled eggs, and generous amounts of spring onion. What makes their ramen truly remarkable is their broth, which they make in-house everyday. Their signature Kuromon ramen is a popular choice, as their broth is made with a secret recipe. This tiny local shop only has ten seats along a counter, and it is situated at the entrance of the Kuromon Market, it’s very easy to spot!
8. Hokkyokusei (北極星)
Founded in 1922, Hokkyokusei is reputed to be the founder of omu-rice in the Kansai region. Omu-rice, a Japanese-styled Western dish, is a rice-filled omelet covered by sauce and served with a variety of ingredients. Hokkyokusei keeps its omu-rice classic, it was this original form of omu-rice that captured the public’s tastebuds and popularized it all over Kansai, Japan, and the rest of the world.
2-7-27 Nishishinsaibashi Chuo-ku Osaka, +81-6-6211-7829
9. Rikuro Ojisan Cheesecake
Gintei is special because it offers Japanese cuisine that revolves around pork. You may be surprised by the variety of the dishes on the menu, from pork shabu shabu, to fried tonkatsu, to teppanyaki-grilled pork, the possibilities are endless. The classy décor in this underground restaurant enhances the exquisitely laid-out dishes, allowing you to enjoy your meal in a comfortable environment. Drinks such as beer and sake are also available, which pairs really well with the dishes.
Michelin starred restaurant Saeki is widely considered the number one sushi restaurant in Osaka. The restaurant boasts a luxurious and sophisticated atmosphere, with only 10 seats at the counter table where customers can watch their sushi being made in front of them. Head chef Saeki will explain the menu, the background of the ingredients, and their selection of plates available. Saeki’s true value can be determined from its perfect balance between rice and toppings. The rice shows superb softness and creates a nice harmony with fresh seasonal seafood.
12. Yamachan Takoyaki
Yamachan is one of the most popular takoyaki restaurants in Osaka, where the dish originated. What makes Yamachan’s takoyaki distinctive is the taste of the dough, which blends original chicken soup stock cooked with various fruits and vegetables, and Japanese style soup of kelp and bonito. Cooked on its special takoyaki pan at a very high temperature, the outside of the takoyaki ball is crisp but the inside remains nice and creamy. Although it is tasty without any sauce, you can also try it with their special soy sauce and ponzu.
13. Takama Soba
Michelin starred soba restaurant Takama offers a luxury experience with quality soba in a modern and chic interior. Takama’s Jyuwari soba is made only from buckwheat flour, without using any binding agent such as egg or grated yam. Its thin noodles have a rich flavor of buckwheat and it tastes good without sauce or salt. Their tempura is also exceptional – I highly recommend their Tenzarusoba, a cold soba meal with assorted tempura.
17. Gyukatsu Takeru
Another solid gyukatsu place in Dotonbori, Gyukatsu Takeru’s beef fillet has that wonderful crispy crust while the meat remains medium rare within. A mini teppan is given so that you can control your own beef doneness level. if you don’t want to wait an hour for Gyukatsu Motomura, come here instead!
18. Kuma No Yakitori
To be completely honest, I was hesitant to mention Kuma No Yakitori in this guide, mainly because the food was just OKAY, nothing really blew me away. However one particular dish went viral on my Instagram, which was the “elevated” Tamago Gohan. So come here if you want an instagrammable dish, if not, steer clear of this place. There’s plenty of restaurant serving better food.
19. Hopchou a la Creme
This hole-in-the-wall store was a great find! The choux pastry is not any ordinary pastry and is a nice crunchy sweet exterior that surrounds a nice creamy center. A great snack to get when shopping at Shinsaibashi!