I often start my travel research with food/restaurant research. Eating is such a big part of travel and exploration so I hate wasting any meal. I refuse to have a full meal without at least checking ratings...I've had way too many poor experienced in the past with tourist traps and I've learned my lesson. Another great way to find great places to eat is to ask the locals or pay attention to spots that have long lines during lunch time.
Since we didn't have enough time to try ALL the restaurants we had on our list, I decided to share my custom map that I created for my trip. I flagged restaurants and attractions that I wanted to try and used it whenever we needed to get somewhere or grab an unplanned snack or meal. This helps you save a lot of time by checking off everything on your list in one area without wasting too much time on your phone browsing and looking up places to go.
Here are some places that we really enjoyed!
Torikizuku - Yakitori
Yakitori is basically anything grilled on a stick. We arrived in Tokyo in the evening so we decided to check out Torikizuku first. There are many locations so just search for one near you. You use screens to place your order - I admit this part was challenging. The English translations were not accurate so just order based on the pictures (pictures saved us 90% of the time when ordering in Japan).
There are vending machines literally EVERYWHERE. Thousands of options so don't overlook them as you are exploring the city. Some of my favorites include the Häagen-Dazs ice cream sandwiches, Royal milk tea, and mango juice.
7-11 saved us while in Tokyo. Breakfast doesn't seem to be a big thing in Japan - at least the type of breakfast I'm used to. You either go to a coffee shop and order a pastry or have traditional Japanese breakfast...which is basically just like lunch but with some eggs. ORRR you can go to 7-11 and get some warm or cold sandwiches. There were tons of options so each day we would trying something new. 7-11 is not like the same in the US - in Tokyo it is almost like a mini supermarket. You can also find an ATM and toiletries. I kid you not there was a 7-11 on every other block.
I already mentioned this in my Things To Do in Tokyo blog post, but the Fish Market is so spectacular that it deserves a second shout out. Don't hesitate to try new things. Just walk through the stalls and taste different things you have never seen in your life. The sushi restaurants all look amazing, just pick one and enjoy the freshest seafood ever.
Santa Monica Crepes
These stands honestly looked like tourist traps but they were EVERYWHERE in Shibuya and Harajuku, so we decided to give them a try. I was impressed - it was delicious! They have so many flavors it took me forever to pick.
You must eat ramen several times when in Tokyo. There are different types of broth, noodles and toppings. Since we can't have pork, we were constantly on the hunt for vegetarian and chicken broth ramen. Afuri was my favorite - generous portion, scrumptious broth, reasonable price and great service.
Fluffy Pancakes - A Happy Pancake
We had heard of the famous fluffy Japanese pancakes, so we had to try them. Every top rated spot is PACKED and people literally get in line before the stores open - so expect the same. We went to the Happy Pancake which is in the nicer part of town. We were able to put our names on a wait list and enjoy the nearby neighborhood. Depending on when you arrive, it can take time until your pancakes are prepared. The pancakes were delicious but for me it was a dessert, not breakfast. Very decadent!
After several days of Japanese breakfasts, super sweet pastries and cold 7-11 egg sandwiches I needed my classic western breakfast fix. Eggcellent was perfect. They had western classic but with a Japanese twist. Pricey but worth it. You can't miss the egg tart - it was AMAZING!
This place was so much fun. Conveyor belt sushi is a great affordable way to enjoy different types of sushi. My brother loves raw sushi and I'm more of a sushi-roll girl. This place had everything - including funky sushi options to try for fun. They have English settings too!
So many options - it was hard to choose. Teppanyaki (benihana style) restaurants are a can't miss in Tokyo. We opted for one that served Wagyu - delicious! Make sure you are hungry because the menus are long.
Japan has some of the most amazing restaurants in the world. We knew we had to try at least one Michelin Star restaurant. We also wanted to try a tempura restaurant - and it had to be traditional, so this place with the perfect spot that hit all three. This is a tiny restaurant with no windows - I am not kidding when I say tiny. We made reservations a few weeks before we arrived in Tokyo. You can also ask your hotel to help you make reservations.
The shrimp tempura was my favorite - it was incredibly satisfying with the perfectly cooked rice. The other tempura seafood was interesting...not my favorite but it was a lovely experience. I highly recommend - just be open minded and try everything.
This was one of my favorite meals. Everything was cooked to perfect. I salivate every time I think about this place. The restaurant is owned by two young men who had worked in restaurants in the US. You cannot miss this place.
Yakiniku (grill your own meat)
Another category with SO many amazing options. Wherever you go, make sure you try as many cuts as possible - you won't regret it. If you are worried about grilling your own meat, don't be. Your servers will teach you how to do it and will even do it for you if they feel like you are struggling too much.