We spent a fortnight in Japan’s kitchen to prepare the ultimate Osaka food guide with our favorite Osaka street food and some not-to-miss Osaka restaurants. 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 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.
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.
Discover the best food to eat in Japan.
Many people visit Japan to see the temples, the geishas and the castles. While we 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 seem to never end and dimly lit, restaurant filled alleys.
Click here to book a 4-hour Downtown Osaka and Local Food Walk Tour where you can see sites and taste local Osaka Japan food favorites.
With such an intense culinary culture, Osaka is a city with a wide variety of eating options ranging from Japanese street food on Dontonbori Street to fine dining at Kappa restaurants. Some Osaka restaurants serve beef from nearby Kobe while other Osaka menus feature typical Japanese favorites like sushi, ramen and udon.
Discover 40 of the best noodle dishes in the world.
Many of these restaurants are lit with big neon signs. Others are Osaka hidden gems, hiding in plain sight. They’re all the reason that ‘Japan’s Kitchen’ is one of the best food cities in the world.
The challenge isn’t finding things to eat in Osaka but rather deciding where to eat in Osaka with so many great choices. This is why we traversed the city with an Osaka map to create a comprehensive Osaka eating guide with our favorite Osaka foods and drinks.
So, without further ado, here are our contenders for the best eats in Osaka…
Table of Contents
- Osaka Food Guide
- Things To Do in Osaka
Osaka Food Guide
Are you wondering what to eat in Osaka? We tackled the tasty challenge of creating our Osaka Japan dining guide through a combination of advance research of how Osaka eats 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 an Osaka guide that is perfect for visitors and also has a surprise or two for residents, even those with an Osaka food blog.
Osaka Street Food
Osaka is infamous for its snack food. Streets like Dontonbori and Ota-Road are teeming with vendors selling a myriad of fried treats, and some of the best restaurants in Osaka Japan are actually street food vendors.
While “researching” the best food in Osaka, 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.
If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Osaka that won’t break the bank, we recommend starting on the street. Not only is Osaka street food tasty, but it’s also some of the best cheap food in Osaka.
Osaka first hit our radar as the home of takoyaki. For the unfamiliar, tayokai are 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 street 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.
Watch our Osaka Street Food Video to see us eat takoyaki and okonomiyaki at Osaka’s Kuromon Ichibi Market.
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 pancake, okonomiyaki is an ideal late-night snack after an evening at the bars.
Okonomiyaki is the perfect snack after a night of drinking. Luckily, Osaka seems to have okonomiyaki stands on practically every corner.
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.
If you’re looking for fun food to eat in Osaka, start with taiyaki.
Trust the Japanese to combine two great snack foods into an even greater snack food. The folks at Kogasin 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.
Before it permanently closed for business, Kogasin served a tasty bacon and egg flavor that exploded with yolk on the first bite – state of the art Osaka snack food at its best.
Watch our Okonomiyaki Taiyaki Video to see us eat this local Osaka food.
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. In case yo’re wondering, we liked it just as much the second time.
Book a Small Group Kuromon Market Food Walking Tour in Osaka. This tour will take a half-day and includes samples throughout Kuromon Market and on Dontonbori Street.
Tamago Katsu Sando
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 or favorite Osaka foodie, the inside of the tamago katsu sando at Kitashinchi Sand mystified us with its lushly scrambled egg center surrounded by a crispy crust. As we bit into the savory tamago sandwich, we marveled at how the tiny Osaka restaurant could create such an oozy center while achieving a deliciously crispy golden brown crust.
Hananoki is located at 1-21-33 Nipponbashi Chuo-ku Osaka, Japan.
Kogasin was located at 1 Chome-18-13 Tenjinbashi, Kita Ward, Osaka, Japan. It is now permanently closed.
Kitashinchi Sand 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.
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, though our favorite Osaka sushi spots were at markets.
Maguroya Kurogin at the Kuromon Ichiba, a central market for Osaka shopping, 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 enough to get a seat 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 our video, this is two-bite sushi even though somehow Daryl managed to fit the luscious eel rice combo in his mouth in one big bite.
Watch our Osaka Sushi Video to see us eat sushi some of the best sushi in Osaka at Maguroya Kurogin and Maruyoshi.
Kuromon Market is located at 2 Chome-3-2 Nipponbashi, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0073, Japan.
Kizu-Ichiba fish market 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 for this Japanese food staple, and you’ll likely get five different answers. As for us, we have three different answers for a question about the best ramen in Osaka, so we’ve included all three in this Osaka restaurant guide.
Read our Osaka ramen guide.
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.
Discover more of the best soups in the world.
Sometimes you just need to 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 (see below) guiding us on a two-block walk on a brisk Osaka evening to Ryukishin. Once there, we noticed the line snaking from the ramen counter’s front door – always a good sign.
Ryukishin tonkotsu ramen is as good one would expect from a highly acclaimed ramen shop, but we STRONGLY recommend the spicy chili potage ramen – it’s #3 on the shop’s ticket machine. This ramen reminded us of chicken pot pie in its consistency but with a chili-inflected, spicy twist. If you’re hungry in Namba area, go here first!.
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 at 3-1-17 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 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 ou the door and down the sidewalk.
The price for a bowl of udon seemed high at around $15 US at the time of our visit, but not really considering that the bowl is big enough to share and is loaded with tempura and perfect strands of udon. Though the staff didn’t speak any English during our meal, service was both 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 Osaka dining story when it comes to meat. Yakiniku 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 Korean cities like Seoul and Busan.
Food is not cheap at an Osaka steakhouse, but Yakiniku is an essential way to eat in Osaka. It’s also a fun way to dine with friends on a Saturday night, which is what we did at a restaurant called Tsuruichi.
Like many types of produce in Japan, lettuce is oddly expensive. Be careful – plates with a few pieces of lettuce cost the equivalent of $6 USD each during our dinner. 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? 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.
Katsu is available all over the city. However, most kushikatsu shops are in the Shinsekai neighborhood near the Spa World onsen.
Discover more of the best fried chicken in the world.
We were surprised to find a thriving Osaka bar scene and even more surprised to find third wave coffee shops. The following are our favorite spots to drink in Osaka.
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 delicacies like canned scallops. It’s a fun stop during a night out in Osaka, though we recommend sticking with beer. You can eat great Osaka must eat food like ramen and sushi later.
Craft Beer in Osaka
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. Expect great Japanese pub grub (think raw duck tataki and fried camembert cheese) in addition to well-crafted beer, a true win-win situation, when you visit this Osaka pub.
Beer Belly is located at 1 Chome-1-31 Tosabori, Nishi Ward, Osaka, Japan.
Osaka Coffee Houses
One of our first priorities whenever we arrive in a city is to 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 workspaces and ways to connect with the community.
We discovered Brooklyn Roasting Company on our first full day in Osaka – we liked it so much that 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 above.)
Brooklyn Roasting Company has multiple locations. We frequented the original Namba location at 1 Chome-1-21 Shikitsuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0012, 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.
Things To Do in Osaka
Wondering what to do in Osaka? We won’t judge you is you spend your entire Osaka trip eating. If you want to do more, consider the following Osaka activities:
Get a discounted quote for travel insurance to protect your trip from things like injuries, theft and cancelations. We never travel without protection!
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: November 18, 2016