We ate our way through the Japan’s kitchen to prepare the ultimate Osaka food guide. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!
After eating our way through Southeast Asia for three months, we ended our recent Asia sojourn with a bang by spending 12 days in Osaka. We had high hopes for the city affectionately known as Japan’s kitchen, and we were only disappointed when it was time for us to leave for the next leg of our journey to taste the world.
Let’s just get it out in the open – we love Osaka. To outsiders of Japan, Osaka lives in the shadow of Megacity Tokyo and historic Kyoto. The food options in these cities are great – some of the best in the world. But Osakans take their food love to an even higher level of obsession with the concept of “kuidaore” where people literally eat until they drop. Yes, food is that important in Osaka and it shouts to be eaten from every street corner vendor and hidden noodle shop.
Many people visit Japan to see the temples, the geishas and the castles. While we do enjoy those sites, we love day-to-day modern Japanese culture even more. From the giant railway complexes littered with 10 story department stores to the tiny ramen shops that are tucked away deep in the drab basements of those very same train stations, modern Japan is a feast that never lets up. Osaka is everything we love about Japan – wonderful people who literally walk you to their favorite restaurant around the block, long shopping streets that never seem to end and dimly lit, restaurant filled alleys.
With such an intense culinary culture, Osaka is a city with a wide variety of eating options ranging from street food on Dontonbori Street to fine dining at Kappa restaurants. Some eateries serve beef from nearby Kobe while others feature typical Japanese favorites like sushi, ramen and udon. The challenge in Osaka isn’t finding good food but rather deciding where to eat with so many great choices. This is why we have created an Osaka food guide with our favorite Osaka foods. So, without further ado…
2foodtrippers Osaka Food Guide
We tackled the tasty challenge of creating our Osaka food guide through advance research and on-the- ground reconnaissance where we scoured the internet, talked to locals (through the extraordinary power of Google Translate) and followed our noses. 36 meals and many snacks later, we are proud to present our Osaka food guide that is perfect for visitors and also has a surprise or two for residents.
Osaka is infamous for its snack food. Streets like Dontonbori and Ota-Road are teeming with vendors selling a myriad of fried treats. While “researching” our Osaka food guide, we found many favorites plus some new treats like the Pombashi rice dog, a hot dog encased in a fried Japanese rice batter. We also discovered that the Japanese love to reinvent treats with fried batter as witnessed by the strange batter fried heads (pictured above).
Osaka first hit our radar as the home of takoyaki, little dough balls stuffed with octopus and topped with savory sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed and katsuobushi flakes. We love popping the steaming hot dumplings into our mouths for the quintessential Osaka snack food experience. We couldn’t find a way to eat them without scorching our tongues, but that approach seems to be the only way to truly enjoy the gooey, rich flavored yet chewy snack.
A close contender to takoyaki for snack food king of Osaka, okonomiyaki is a savory pancake with cabbage, meat and savory toppings. More like a pizza than a panckake, okonomiyaki is an ideal late night snack after an evening at the bars. There seems to be an okonomiyaki stand on every corner, and, after a healthy amount of drinks, we could think of no better late night snack.
Fish-shaped and stuffed with fillings like red bean paste and custard, taiyaki are tasty little cakes that are perfect snacks for Osaka residents on the go. The sweet, red bean filling is tasty, but we found the crunchy tail to be the best part.
Trust the Japanese to combine two great snack foods into an even greater snack food. The folks at Kogasin have created the Okonomiyaki Taiyaki to create a fish-shaped sandwich with cabbage and meat in the middle. Or, as we like to call them – crazy fun pancakes. If you go to Kogasin, do not miss the tasty bacon and egg flavor that explodes with yolk on the first bite. This is state of the art Osaka snack food at its best.
On the odd occasion when we eat lollipops in the USA, we choose among flavors like cherry and lemon. In Osaka, however, our lollipop of choice is glazed baby octopus stuffed with quail eggs. We first tried this eclectic version of meat-on-a-stick at the Kuromon Market, and then we tried it again the following week at the same spot. (We liked it just as much the second time.)
Considering all the snack food we ate in Osaka, we never expected one of our favorites to be a breaded egg sandwich. Yes, a breaded egg sandwich. Boxed like a gift for your significant other, the inside of the tamago katusando at Kitashin Chisando mystified us with its lushly scrambled egg center surrounded by a crispy crust. As we bit into the savory sandwich, we marveled at how the tiny restaurant could create such an oozy center while achieving a crispy golden brown and delicious crust.
Hananoki is located at 1-21-33 Nipponbashi Chuo-ku Osaka, Japan.
Kogasin in located at 1 Chome-18-13 Tenjinbashi, Kita Ward, Osaka, Japan.
Kitashin Chisando is located at 530-0002 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Sonezakishinchi, 1 Chome−1−2−11, アレーナ 堂島, Osaka, Japan.
Naruto Taiyaki is located at 5-7-1 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan.
Pombashi Rice Dogs is located on Oto-Road in Osaka, Japan.
We adored the sushi in Tokyo during our first trip to Japan, and we were pleased to find that the sushi in Osaka is just as good. In some ways, it’s actually better. You see, Osaka sushi is less expensive and more accessible compared to sushi sold in the bigger city to the east. We ate lots of sushi in Osaka, even some served on a conveyor belt, and our favorite Osaka sushi spots were at markets.
Maguroya Kurogin at the central Kurogin market sells some of the world’s freshest tuna. You can witness the fish being sliced all day and served in luscious pink blocks or chirashi style topped with popping good salmon eggs over rice. If you’re lucky and sit at the stand’s small counter, you may even be offered free slices of otoro. Do not turn this offer down.
We first encountered Kizu-Ichiba fish market just south of Namba through a wrong turn while walking to our favorite coffee shop. Once there, it only seemed logical that a down to earth sushi counter like Maruyoshi would sit at the market’s entrance. This is the kind of shop where market employees sit, cigarettes dangling from their mouths, as they enjoy some of the freshest, most affordable sushi in town. Do not miss the gargantuan eel nigiri. Maruyoshi’s fatty, savory eel will make you think twice about what your favorite fish may be on a sushi plate. As we say in the video below, this is two bite sushi even though somehow Daryl seemed to fit the luscious eel rice combo in his mouth in one big bite.
Watch our video to see us eat sushi at both Maguroya Kurogin and Maruyoshi.
Maguroya Kurogin is located at 2-11-1 Nippombashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0073, Osaka, Japan.
Maruyoshi is located at the Kizu-Ichiba fish market in Osaka, Japan.
Ramen in Osaka is like Po Boys in New Orleans. Ask five locals for their favorite spots, and you’ll likely get five different answers. As for us, we have three different answers.
Once you find 7.5 Hz under one of the many nondescript modern buildings in Umeda, you will be rewarded with takaida-kei ramen – thick, hearty, al dente noodles served in an addictively salty beef broth along with a soft-boiled egg topped with large scallions. Ramen at this quiet counter is serious business, and the energy packed noodles will satisfy your appetite for days.
We developed a love for Hakata Ippudo ramen from the moment we arrived in Osaka, and that love would not wane during the duration of our visit. Sure, Ippudo has locations throughout the world, but Osaka’s Ippudo stands out for its Shiromaru Classic with vermicelli-like al dente noodles served in a rich porky broth and the bolognese-like Karaka with ground pork in a broth so spicy that even Mindi was impressed.
Sometimes you just need ask a local for food advice in Japan. In our case, that question resulted in one of the friendly staffers from nearby Brooklyn Roasting Company guiding us on a two block walk on a brisk Osaka evening to Ryushkin. Once there, we noticed the line snaking from the ramen counter’s front door – always a good sign. Ryushkin’s tonkotsu ramen is as good one would expect from an highly acclaimed ramen shop, but we STRONGLY recommend the spicy chili potage ramen (it’s #3 on the shop’s ticket machine). This ramen was like chicken pot pie in its consistency but with a chili inflected, spicy twist. If you’re hungry in Namba area, go here first!
Watch our video to see us eat ramen in Osaka.
7.5 Hz is located at 1 Chome-2-2 Umeda, Kita-ku, Ōsaka, Japan.
Hakata Ippudo has locations around the world. We ate at the Namba location at3-1-17 Nanbanaka, Naniwa-ku, Osaka,, Japan.
Ryukishin is located at 2-10-25 Nanbanaka, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan.
Yamato, a tiny udon shop located at the Kizu-Ichiba fish fish market, serves one thing and serves it well. We first noticed this tiny gem when we were eating sushi at Maruyoshi just next door. Actually, we couldn’t help but notice Yamato because the line outside was literally out the door and down the sidewalk. We understood the line when we went to Yamato for our very last Osaka meal (which we ate before flying to London via Helsinki – the restaurant opens at 5am.) The price for a bowl of udon seems high at around $15 US, but not really considering that it’s big enough to share and is loaded with tempura and perfect strands of udon. The staff doesn’t speak any English, but service is quick and friendly.
Yamato is located at the Kizu-Ichiba fish market in Osaka, Japan.
The word yakiniku literally translates to grilled meat, but that’s just part of the story. This is THE way to eat kobe beef in Osaka. A yakiniku dinner involves grilling meat on a tableside gridiron in a style more typical in Korea. It’s not cheap, but Yakiniku is an essential way to eat in Osaka. It’s also a fun way to dine with a bunch of friends on a Saturday night, which is what we did.
Tasting Tip: Like many types of produce in Japan, lettuce is oddly expensive. Be careful – our plates with a few pieces of lettuce cost the equivalent of $6 each. Ouch!
Tsuruichi is located at 3-3 Shimoajiharacho Tennoji-ku Osaka, Japan.
Why eat hamburgers in Osaka when you can eat katsu, deep fried chicken cutlet strips served over rice? Katsu is available all over the city; however, most kushikatsu shops are in the Shinsekai neighborhood near the Spa World onsen. If you love meat on a stick, then you’ll love kushikatsu which takes meat on a stick to the next level by frying it and serving it with a dipping sauce.
With all the savory food in the city, you might think that there’s no room for desserts. Au contraire, mon frere – desserts are easy to find at patisseries, coffee shops like the tony Coutume in the Umeda station and department stores food halls or depachika. With expertly crafted desserts made by world class pastry chefs, a visit to these shops are an essential part of the Osaka eating experience.
Coutume is located at on the lower level of the Umeda station in Osaka, Japan.
Cocktails, Beer and Japanese Oddities
It’s a known fact that the Japanese love kitsch. This love is visible in anime and manga art, at maid cafes and at Mr. Kanso, a chain of quirky bars that serve a variety of food from cans. Ironically, the beer is served from a tap. Go figure. We were intrigued by the concept but were less enamored by deliciacies like canned scallops. It’s a fun stop during a night out in Osaka, though we recommend sticking with beer.
Mr. Kanso has multiple locations in Japan.
Lager beer is cheap and plentiful in Osaka. Though it goes well with food like ramen and sushi, sometimes we want something more. Luckily, the Osaka craft beer scene is thriving at happening bars like Beer Belly and Garage 39. Both bars feature great Japanese pub grub (think raw duck tataki and fried camambert cheese) in addition to well crafted beer – a true win-win situation.
Beer Belly is located at 1 Chome-1-31 Tosabori, Nishi Ward, Osaka, Japan.
Garage 39 is located at 2 Chome-5-15 Awajimachi, Chuo Ward, 大阪市中央区 Osaka, Japan.
One of the first things we do when we arrive in a city is find a good coffee bar, preferably one of the third wave variety. These coffee bars not only serve as our sources of liquid energy but also as work spaces and ways to connect with the community. We discovered Brooklyn Roasting Company on our first full day in Osaka, and we returned most of the following 11 days of our visit. This coffee bar has it all – good coffee, solid pastries, plenty of electrical outlets and friendly people on both sides of the counter.
Interestingly, two of our favorite Osaka experiences happened at this coffee bar. The first was watching a young couple view our YouTube videos and laugh at all the right places. The second was when a friendly barista walked us to Ryukishin (see Ramen above.)
Brooklyn Roasting Company is located at 41-0041 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Japan.
Vending Machine Beverages
There’s no excuse for being thirsty in Osaka because practically every block has at least one vending machine, and 99% of the vending machines sell drinks like iced coffee, juice and soda. With so many vending machines selling the same products, the best vending machine is the closest vending machine.
Vending machines are located all over Osaka.
We thank the Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau for their research assistance during our visit to Osaka. All of our eating experiences were self funded.