It’s been just under a week since coming back from the trip of a lifetime to Tokyo, Japan! First things first: it was a dream of a vacation. Despite how crazy it felt to travel during this season, I had the chance to spend a week there. It was enough time to know I want to return every year! I documented everything I ate on this trip and kept what I’m calling my “Tokyo Food Diary”, every food stop I’d visit again and recommend to friends while they’re planning for a trip in the future! Here’s a look into the top foods I ate, plus every delicious cup of coffee, snack, and dessert I had in between.
Tokyo Food Diary: Coffee Stops
The market for third-wave coffee in Japan is unlike anything I’ve seen before in the U.S. Almost every independent coffee shop roasted their own beans in-house and carried unique offerings. Because there were so many places to try, a point was made to visit a new coffee shop every day. I’m admittedly pretty picky about the coffee I drink, so rest-assured you’re getting the top picks here!
- Glitch Coffee – Enjoyed the most delicious brew of light roast coffee here. Take heart: you’re going to pay for it, but it’s worth it. Glitch is also a shared roaster, meaning fellow independent coffee shops in Japan come to roast their batches, then serve customers at their own shops.
- Onibus Coffee Nakameguro – Easily the most charming coffee shop I’ve ever seen. Made an exception to drink the creamiest latte here at 5 PM. No regrets.
- Turret Coffee Tsukiji – The sweetest service out of the trip. Drank another mmymmy latte before starting a rainy morning in Tsukiji and Ginza, and it was one of the most well-done lattes I’ve had!
- Koffee Mameya – For the most serious of coffee lovers. It’s tucked behind the busy streets of Harajuku, and it’s a trek getting up there. The baristas give you a grid of options based on your flavor and roasting preferences. Only standing service is available, but it encourages you to enjoy that coffee and chat with the baristas.
Tokyo Food Diary: Food
When it comes to travel planning, I prefer not to make a strict itinerary of can’t-miss places. Instead, I make a “travel wishlist” of experiences I want to try and foods I want to eat. For example, instead of writing a specific time and place to eat sushi, I list a few recommendations from friends and visit if I find myself in the area that day. I plan so much in my everyday life, I really don’t want or need the stress of being at a certain time and place when traveling unless absolutely necessary. This is vacation! For this trip, I put the following foods on my wishlist: ramen, tonkatsu (crispy-fried pork cutlets), gyoza (dumplings), yakitori (skewered meats on sticks) and a traditional Japanese breakfast to name just a few!
- Japanese Breakfast: Onsen Ryokan – A set menu of the chef’s choice. Fresh fish, pickles, soup, Japanese rolled omelette, and more were included on this day. It’s $18 USD and a bargain for the amount of food you get to try.
- Conveyor Belt Sushi: Katsumidori Seibu Shibuya – Order from your own personal screen and get it delivered via conveyor belt. You get a lot of value for your money here considering the quality of their fish!
- Tonkatsu: Tonkatsu Marugo – Hands-down my favorite meal on the trip. The tonkatsu was pleasantly light and crisp on the outside, but extremely juicy and tender on the inside – worth every dollar like the reviews say! Be sure to get there before opening. There will be a line!
- Gyoza: Ginza Tenryu – These dumplings are jumbo-size. Not exactly traditional, but novel and so much fun! Plus, they have extra-creamy soft serve for dessert after dinner.
- Ramen: Ichiran Ramen – A Japanese chain of absolutely-delicious ramen open 24-hours. Order from a vending machine, sit in your own stall, and alternate between slurping up noodles and spooning mouthfuls of rich broth. I wanted to eat here every day.
- Yakitori: Kushiwakamaru. The Stick Factory. – Lots of grilled meats and veggies on sticks in the charming Meguro neighborhood. Plus, they have refreshing lemon sours and hi-balls!
- Yokocho: Omoide Yokocho – A yokocho (the tiniest alleyway bars you’ll ever see with drinks and bar food) was high on my list, and Omoide Yokocho had a stall with a man grilling all kinds of meats. It was the most fun eating experience on the trip. I wish I remembered the name of the stall I visited, but many didn’t even have signs outside their stalls!
Tokyo Food Diary: Snacks
Between big meals on the trip, I was determined to try as many snacks as possible. The only way to truly do this was to take every chance to walk instead of take public transit to burn off some calories. That was a sacrifice I was willing to take to eat more!
- La Boulangerie Django – Get the croque monsieur or pain au chocolat. Honestly, everything at the bakery was so delicious, you probably can’t go wrong with anything. I made a point to visit them three mornings in a row. Plus, the service was very kind and patient!
- Calbee Chips – 7-Eleven did me no wrong this trip. Crossed by so many times each day in search of new and interesting snacks to enjoy after dinner before bed. The Calbee “Fried Chicken” flavor chips were easily my favorite spontaneous grab from the convenient store.
- Egg Salad Sandwich – Again with the 7-Eleven. You’re gonna laugh, but the egg salad sandwich was one of the most surprising, yummiest things I ate. I’m glad it was on my Tokyo “food wishlist” this trip.
- Yamachō – Literally a rolled omelet on a stick. You can get it sweet or savory, warm or cold. It was eggs on a stick. It was $1. I say it’s not worth going out of your way for, but if you’re in the Tsukiji area and the line isn’t long, it’s a fun little snack.
- 4/4 Seasons Coffee – Actually a coffee shop, but had the most delicious little egg & cheese toast here with coffee that rocked my world!
Tokyo: Dessert & Drinks
- Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory – They serve unique cheese-themed flavors of cookies, cakes, and soft serve! The milk & cheese soft serve swirl in a cheddar cone was a surprisingly yummy treat after a light sushi lunch.
- @home cafe: I can almost guarantee you’ll find better food elsewhere, but the experience was just so fun, it’s not to be missed!
- ZakuZaku – Think of this as a cream puff of sorts. It was the crispiest pastry with the creamiest vanilla custard cream made with milk from Hokkaido. This is the dessert I want to learn how to make to eat at home.
- The New York Bar at The Park Hyatt Hotel – The epitome of a swanky bar with the most spectacular view of Tokyo. Came at 5 PM to drink a lychee martini, eat bar snacks, and watch the sun set over the city. If you’re up for live jazz music, stay after 7 PM, but be warned: there’s a steep cover fee for non-overnight guests of the hotel.
- Tanagokoro Tea Room: A quiet and serene tea room set above the busy shopping streets of Ginza. It was the perfect way to rest my legs and try high-quality teas I wouldn’t normally enjoy at home.
- A Happy Pancake: The fluffiest, lightest pancakes you’ll probably ever eat in your life. They looked like pillows and came in sweet and savory options for brunch or an afternoon treat.
Tokyo, Japan was a truly magical place. I’m so glad I have my Tokyo Food Diary to take me back, but tell me: have you been to Japan? What restaurants or cafes should I go to next? Have you been to any of these places before? Let me know in the comments!