Osaka Food Guide – What To Eat In Osaka Japan
Osaka Food Guide
Every time we visit Osaka we stay longer than our last visit. It’s all because of the food. As much as people like to eat in Japan, people LOVE to eat in Osaka. It’s one of the best foodie cities in the country, and that is saying a lot. In this Osaka food guide, we share our tips on what to eat in Osaka and where to find these famous must-eat Osaka dishes. After several trips to Osaka since our first trip 10 years ago, we are thrilled to share our eating tips.
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Why Osaka Is One Of Our Favorite Places To Eat In Japan
We’ve always compared Tokyo and Osaka to New York and Chicago. Tokyo and New York are the business centers of the countries. Osaka and Chicago are the foodie cities. The real cities. The cities where people like to work hard and play hard. This means food and drink.
Each time we travel to Osaka, our list of Osaka must eat dishes grows by leaps and bounds. And, it’s important to know that as much as I include some recommendations on where to eat in Osaka, my list is by no means exhaustive.
Osaka is a big city. Not as big as Tokyo, but still pretty big. This means that wherever you stay in Osaka, chances are that you can find each and every one of these must-try foods in Osaka within a 20-minute walk of your hotel or Airbnb. And, these dishes, are almost guaranteed to be great.
Sure, there are some touristy restaurants in Osaka, but it’s still a city where the locals eat. That means it’s a perfect destination for hard-core food and drink travelers. Those people who are willing to explore beyond Tokyo and Kyoto in search of great Japanese food.
Osaka Food Blog Pro Tip
In this guide, I include 20+ dishes to eat in Osaka. Some of these are Osaka specialties and others are common across the country. Even typical Japanese dishes may be different in each city or region. Although it’s possible you will visit the city as part of a larger Japan itinerary, I will assume Osaka is the only city you will be visiting. That’s why I am including so many dishes to eat in Osaka.
Where And What To Eat In Osaka
When it comes to where to eat in Osaka the simple answer is everywhere. I am always amazed during our first few days in the city just how much food there is to eat. I read before arriving this time that Manhattan has about 10,000 restaurants. Osaka has 30,000 places serving food. It’s kind of insane.
If you stay close to Namba or Umeda station, it’s possible to eat everything on this list within 10 blocks of your hotel. I am not kidding. Look for picture menus or English language menus and dive right in. Also look for restaurant signage that says 2F or 3F, which means it’s on the second or third floor. That’s the amazing thing. So many of the restaurants in Osaka are not even on street level!
One of the things I love about eating in Osaka is that the food is often prepared in front of you. The best seats in the house are often at the counter, where you can watch and learn. Just prepare for your clothes to take home the smell of whatever you eat. It’s just the cost of eating great food in Osaka.
If you need help planning your trip to Japan, check out our sample itineraries:
Osaka Food Tour
Overwhelmed by the options of what to eat and where to eat in this famous food city? Why not book an Osaka Food Tour. In this guide, we share our tips on the Best Food Tours And Cooking Classes to help you make the most of the city called Japan’s Kitchen.
Osaka Food Blog Pro Tip
Be aware of the “cover charge” in Osaka’s restaurants and bars. It’s not charged everywhere. It is completely up to the discretion of the bar or restaurant owner. It can range from ¥200-300 per person. Technically the charge is for a small snack that is placed in front of you, but you really can’t say no. We found no rhyme or reason as to which Osaka restaurants charged it. We found the cover charge at craft beer bars, standing bars, izakaya, and fancier sushi restaurants. They will often have a sign, have it listed on their menu, or offer you a separate piece of paper that lets you know ahead of time.
Osaka Cuisine And The Use Of Dashi
One of the interesting things about Osaka cuisine is the attachment to dashi. Dashi is a base flavor, which is common in many of the region’s dishes. Made from bonito (dried tuna flakes) and a type of seaweed, it can be rather fishy. The best versions, though, are a lot more subtle. It can be found in udon and oden, discussed below.
We learned about dashi in the Osaka cooking class we took during our visit a few years ago. Since that time, I’ve tried to pay attention to some of the underlying flavors of many of these dishes – often a result of dashi being used as the base. For example, you can eat dashi curry or oden made in dashi soup. It’s just something to know when learning about Osakan traditional foods. You might see the word a lot and be curious about what it is.
20+ Must-Try Foods In Osaka
Here’s our list of all the tasty foods to eat in Osaka, as well as some recommendations on where to eat them.
Sushi, Sashimi, And Conveyor Belt Sushi
Everyone who loves sushi expects to eat some of the best sushi of their lives in Japan. And they should. Sushi is, of course, an important food to eat in Osaka. Because we’ve been traveling to Osaka for years, this was the first city where we ate conveyor belt sushi. I know this is a common sight in cities from Bangkok to Bologna. But, for us, ten years ago, it was quite a sight to see.
Eating Conveyor Belt Sushi In Osaka
There are a few different ways to eat sushi in Osaka. First, try one of the many conveyor belt sushi restaurants, called kaiten-sushi. This can be a great value, but it can also be a great way to enjoy a little snack during a day sightseeing in Osaka.
After you sit down, pull the plates of the sushi that look good to you. Each plate is priced by color and the color coding is normally clearly marked so you know how much you are spending.
Feel free to ask for a menu as well, to order more fresh sushi or something that is not included in the conveyor belt offerings. Just stack your plates as you eat. That’s how they tally the bill. Normally we end up walking away spending only about $10 per person.
How To Eat Sushi In Osaka
Or, sit down for a proper sushi feast. It’s even better when you order a sushi assortment and allow the chef to choose what’s best for you. This is called Omakase, essentially chef’s choice.
There’s also no need to break the bank on sushi in Osaka. We love Sushi Hayata, near the Hommachi subway station and just behind the St. Regis Osaka. It was about a block away from an apartment we rented in Osaka during one of our many visits. Walking inside, it seems pricey, but they offer great deals. This is particularly true during lunch.
Another way to eat sushi in Osaka is to look for box sushi, called hako-sushi. These can be found at some of the local food markets, including the food courts at the department stores.
Where To Eat Sushi In Osaka
Sushi Hayata: For us, this is the best sushi in Osaka at a reasonable price. Slightly higher end, but not outrageous. It’s a good feel, with only three tables and about eight seats at the bar. They have an English menu and offer omikase sets ranging from ¥1200-2000. They are closed Saturday and Sunday. Because it is small, get there early, when they open, or perhaps stop in to make a reservation for the following night.
As much as there are a handful of dishes, like sushi and ramen, which are known throughout Japan, there are a few dishes that are specialties of Osaka and should be eaten there. Okonomiyaki is one such dish.
Okonomiyaki is a thick Japanese pancake and is a specialty of the Kansai region that includes Osaka. It’s one of the “konamon” dishes, or dishes based on flour. It’s most readily found near Dotonbori, Osaka’s food street. The pancake batter is mixed with cabbage, tempura bits, and pickled ginger, and cooked on a flat top grill. It is served with okonomiyaki sauce, which is a sweet brown sauce, mayonnaise, dried green seaweed, and dried bonito, or dried tuna flakes.
We’ve eaten okonomiyaki many times over the years, and to be honest, it’s not my favorite. When I can, I try to control how much bonito is added. Or, when I can ask for it to be removed, I enjoy it more. There’s something about the dried tuna flakes that makes it a little too fishy for me. Despite my personal opinions, it is one of the top Osaka famous foods and it is a must-eat for sure!
Yaki-Soba or Modern Okonomiyaki
Yaki-soba is a noodle that is fried on the same flat-top grill as okonomiyaki. Some restaurants put the two together to make a modern style okonomiyaki, which is also popular in Hiroshima. In this case, there are noodles on the bottom and okonomiyaki on the top. I will admit that this is a great dish for the end of the night to soak up the evening’s sake.
I admit, I kind of feel the same way about takoyaki as I do about okonomiyaki. Regardless of my personal opinions, though, takoyaki is one of the top Osaka food specialties. Takoyaki are fried octopus balls. It’s easy to find them in Dotonburi.
This dish is made with a batter similar to the okonomiyaki, but a lot smaller. The batter is placed into a specially-shaped takoyaki pan to make the balls. The pan almost looks like a small cupcake pan, where the batter is ladled in. Pieces of octopus are then placed inside the batter and a pointy metal stick is used to turn the balls to ensure they are cooked on all sides. There is so much takoyaki served in Osaka I started to wonder how there is any more octopus left in the sea!
When I first learned about Japanese cuisine, I quickly learned the word “ramen” but didn’t fully know what that meant. Now, between eating ramen in Japan, and eating loads of authentic ramen while living in Asia, I feel like I have a better understanding. The thing about ramen, though, is that the Japanese people take their ramen seriously. And, it’s way more than the cheap, instant noodle a lot of people associate with ramen when eating in the US or the UK.
At its most basic, ramen is a bowl of noodles in broth. There is so much more to it than that, though. For many Japanese people, they have their local ramen shop, which they swear by, and they visit regularly.
Normally, a bowl of ramen includes alkaline noodles, which help the noodles to keep their consistency in warm broth. The real flavor, though, comes from the broth.
An Osaka menu might include different varieties of ramen, and those varieties might be particular to Osaka versus other regions within Japan. For example, shoyu is a soy-based broth. Tonkotsu is made with pork bones and marrow. The ramen can be topped with slow-cooked pork, garlic, scallions, and other toppings. Regardless of the variety, definitely have at least one bowl of ramen in Osaka.
For us, we only had a couple bowls during our most recent visit to Osaka. That’s because, after Osaka, we took a trip to Wakayama and to Sapporo, both cities that are known for their ramen! Still, if you only visit Osaka during your trip to Japan, it’s a must-eat food in Osaka.
Where To Eat The Best Ramen In Osaka
We liked Kinguemon just off Dotonbori. It’s on a small pedestrian road that could be considered the unofficial ramen street of Osaka. There are a variety of places for ramen on this small stretch of roadway.
Be prepared to order ramen from a vending machine at the front of the restaurant. Place a ¥1000 note in the machine and press the number based on the English picture menu above. Take the receipt inside to receive your bowl of steaming ramen.
We’ve also eaten great counter style ramen at Tsurmaru Ramen near the Hommachi metro stop on the covered shopping street. It’s filled with office workers for lunch during the day.
This Osaka eating experience is one of the main reasons why I love eating in Osaka. Fried stuff on a stick. It doesn’t get much better than that. For Eric, a day is not a day in Osaka without eating fried stuff on a stick. It’s one of the best Osaka snacks.
Cooks in Osaka will take almost anything, put it on a stick, bread it, and deep fry it. Some of the interesting things they deep fry are sausages, peppers, pickled ginger, rice cakes, and cheese. Seriously, who finds anything wrong with this?
This type of eating is what is known as kushiage. Order plate of fried stuff and dip it into the sauce on the counter, which is similar to a ponzo sauce. The one rule: No double-dipping! For people our age, we call this our George Costanza rule.
Where To Eat Kushikatsu In Osaka
This is another dish that is not hard to find. Just look for pictures of fried foods on a stick. Sometimes you will see the famous Japanese plastic display food with one stick deep-fried and the other not fried so you can see what’s inside.
Our favorite place to eat kushikatsu in Osaka is at Daruma, also known as Angry Chef. Apparently he is angry because of double dipping. They have a few locations within Osaka.
Japanese BBQ – Yakiniku And Horumon
As much as we love fried food in Osaka, one of the top Osaka things to eat involves grilling meats rather than deep-frying. Did you know that Kobe is less than an hour from Osaka and can be visited during a day trip? That means some of the beef in Osaka is incredibly tender and tasty!
Yakiniku is a style of grilling beef. More specifically it means you grill your meat at your own table. It’s kind of like Korean BBQ. When visiting a yakiniku restaurant, you are normally given a menu of meats. That alone makes it drool-worthy. The meat is sliced into small pieces and grilled over charcoal right in front of you.
Whereas yakiniku normally involves hand-choosing fabulous cuts of meat, there is another version that might not be as easy to swallow for food travelers. Horumon is a meat BBQ that involves all sorts of meat, and all cuts, including the nasty bits. But, it can offer a grilling experience at a lower price.
Yakitori is a subset of the grilled meat craze. These are grilled chicken skewers that include small pieces of chicken. They generally include all of the parts of the chicken. Some of the more popular types of yakitori include momo (thigh meat), tsukune (meat balls), and torikawa (crispy chicken skin).
Look for yakitori at Japanese bars and at izakaya. Order a couple at a time as they are made to order and normally come in an order of one or two skewers (two skewers is normally the default). You can eat them directly off the skewer with your hands or use chopsticks to remove the pieces. Each skewer generally costs between ¥150-400 depending on the type of meat.
The Japanese love their meat and have multiple ways to cook it. Another of the things to eat in Osaka is teppanyaki, which many people in the US associate with the Japanese chain restaurant Benihana.
Teppanyaki is a way to cook food that involves a flat iron grill. Teppan translates to iron plate and yaki means grilled. There is one thing that Benihana gets right, though. There is still some artistry to how many of the chefs cook the food. They may not be flipping a shrimp into their pocket, but many teppanyaki restaurants are open kitchen so you can see the food being prepared. Just don’t expect to find the name Benihana in Japan – it’s a company that originated in Florida.
Udon are thick noodles made of wheat flour. They are thicker and more chewy than soba noodles. They can be prepared in both hot and cold varieties, so be prepared. Don’t assume they only come in a hot soup like ramen. Although udon can be considered more elegant than ramen, it can be served in some pretty casual eateries.
Zaru udon are cold noodles that are normally served on a bamboo mat. Dip the noodles into the dipping sauce before eating. In Osaka, it’s common to find Kake Udon, which are udon noodles served in a simple hot broth, and Tanuki Udon. Tanuki Udon can be served in a hot broth with tempura batter bits. Sometimes you can order your “toppings” separate. This can include tempura or raw egg. You can even find udon noodles served in a curry sauce.
Where To Eat The Best Udon In Osaka
The best udon we ate in Osaka is a little away from the main tourist areas. It’s worth it to make an udon pilgrimage though to this little place near the Sakuragawa subway stop, which is one stop west of Namba. In Google Maps it comes up as “やま一 Udon Noodle Restaurant” in Naniwa Ward (See the location here).
It’s a traditional place, with a simple menu translated into English. We had a giant bowl of hot ramen with shrimp tempura (udon tempura ebi just in case), which was served with a large, traditional wooden spoon. Each bowl was ¥850, which made it a steal!
Whereas udon noodles are white, wide, and soft, soba noodles are made with buckwheat. This gives them a characteristic dark grey color. They are more dry, thin, and somewhat delicate. They can be added to a soup, like udon.
While in Osaka, try eating them cold dipped is sauce. This is how traditionalists suggest eating soba. It enables you to taste the texture and freshness of the noodles more so than serving it submerged in a hot soup. Mori Soba are cold soba noodles served with a soy-based sauce.
Tempura And Tendon
Tempura has to be one of the best eats in Osaka. It follows along with the concept of how tasty fried foods are in Japan. Tempura includes lightly battered and deep-fried foods, normally seafood and vegetables. You might see tempura shrimp, called ebi, on top of some udon or soba noodle dishes. Some of our other tempura favorites include nasu (eggplant) and satsumaimo (sweet potato).
Look for tendon as well, which is crunchy tempura with a special sauce made with dashi. The dish is served over warm rice. There are shops that specialize in serving well-prepared tendon.
Oden is probably less well known than other Japanese foods to try in Osaka. Although not all that great looking, oden is a great food to eat if visiting Osaka in the winter. Oden includes pieces of vegetables and meats, simmered in a warm broth. Look for oden made with daikon, which is one of the most popular to try.
You can find oden at the Kuromon Market in Osaka. To eat it like a local, though, look for it at the convenience stores during the winter months. Look for the vegetables in broth near the counter.
Tonkatsu is a breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet. You can find katsu made of chicken, beef, or ham, but pork is our favorite. Look for tonkatsu served as part of a set meal, called a teishoku. The pork is normally served with rice, cabbage, pickles, and some miso soup.
Building off the tonkatsu, this is one of Eric’s absolute favorite dishes to eat in Osaka. A plate of rice is topped with Japanese curry and sliced tonkatsu on top. It’s more common to eat katsu curry with a spoon rather than chopsticks.
The curry normally includes vegetables like onions and carrots. Look for some pickled vegetables on the side that are used as a condiment. Some of the best food in Osaka can be found in the subway stations and this certainly is true for katsu curry.
That’s where we found Piccolo, a tiny curry stall in Namba station. They also have a location at Shin Osaka station. Just outside the Namba station is Oretachi No Curry Ya, where there are some women cooking up some mean curry. The location is small, often with a line outside. Order your curry from the English menu and the ticket machine just inside the door.
Dashimaki is a Japanese sweet omelet, which is either served whole, or sliced, or even as sushi in Osaka. Dashi is the base for miso soup and includes dried keep and sliced bonito, the fried fish flakes on top of both okonomiyaki and takoyaki. As much as I a not a fan of bonito, I love dashimaki because of its sweetness.
Good food in Osaka has to mean eating some gyoza. As much as gyoza are known internationally and are common across Japan, there’s something about the food and drink culture in Osaka that makes gyoza the perfect dish or snack.
Gyoza are dumplings that are filled with vegetables and ground meat. Look for them in Osaka where they are served in a sizzling skillet. Try yaki gyoza, which are pan fried, and sui gyoza, which are boiled and soft at the outside.
The best gyoza we found in Osaka was at Tenpei near Umeda station. They do fresh, hand made mini gyoza, pickles, and alcohol. That’s it. The gyoza are amazing. The only catch is each person is required to order a minimum of 20 gyoza. So, two orders of gyoza and two drinks totaled ¥4000. That’s not a cheap night out, but so worth it.
Osaka Dining Guide – Where To Eat In Osaka
There is certainly no shortage of places to eat in Osaka. Some blocks seem like wall-to-wall restaurants. There are few types of restaurants or eating places that are worth mentioning.
First, izakaya are like Japanese pubs. They are most known for serving beer or sake along with snack foods. They can be pretty small, sometimes only having a handful of stools. An izakaya is a popular stop for workers to hit on the way home.
Next, look for diner-style restaurants called shokudo. These can be kind of like cafeterias. Meals can sometimes be found for as little as $5. Expect to find katsu and tempura as well as other dishes. Also look for a chicken and egg rice bowl or mackerel at a Shokudo.
Osaka Station Food
Also check out all of the great Osaka station food. There are immense underground malls and shopping areas, particularly under Namba Station and Osaka-Umeda Station. Some of these walkways extend seemingly for miles.
They are filled with standing bars, izakaya, and other local restaurants. On a rainy day, or if traveling to Osaka in winter, you can eat and drink yourself silly without even going outside.
Street Food In Osaka
Japanese society was once a society that survived on street food. In recent decades, though, much of that eating was moved indoors. Still, there are a handful of places in the city where it is still possible to eat on the street. This is not the same was as it is possible in destinations like Thailand or Vietnam, but there is still some fun to be had searching for street food in Osaka.
The two main destinations for street food lovers are Kuromon Market and Dotonbori Food Street. We wrote an entire Dotonbori Food Guide, which lays out all of the tasty foods to eat in Dotnobori and where to find them.Check out our Dotonbori Food Guide - What To Eat On Dotonbori Food Street
Osaka Food Market – Kuromon Market
During our first trips to Osaka I loved exploring Kuromon Market. It’s located in Chuo Ward (just east of Namba Station, where we rented an apartment in Osaka a few years ago). We snacked on sashimi, tempura, freshly grilled Kobe beef, and other Osakan specialities right on the street.
While there, also visit Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shotengai, just a few blocks west on the way to Namba Station. It’s a shopping street known for kitchen goods. It’s a great place to pick up a food souvenir too.
Back at Kuromon, also look for little tiny red octopus on a stick, filled with a quail’s egg. Other specialities include grilled Kobe beef, sashimi and sushi, etc. but I felt that the prices were a little too high. More so than I remember from our last trip.
It is still worth it to visit, but it has become overrun with tourists. It was once where the locals shop, but now it is filled with travelers looking for souvenirs and unique Osaka street foods.
This Osaka food market is open six days a week, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. My recommendation is to go as early as possible to avoid crowds. I would avoid Saturday and Sunday too. But, if you are only in Osaka for the weekend, get there before 10 am.
The More “Local” Osaka Food Market
We took an Osakan food tour where the guide took us to a “real” local market. Near the Tsuruhashi metro stop there is a wholesale market that caters to the restaurants in Osaka. On the outer edges there is a retail market, with a handful of market bars and plenty of stalls selling amazing tuna sashimi for only ¥1000, much less than at Kuromon.
This area is also known as Little Korea within Osaka, so it’s also possible to see tons of freshly made kimchi and other fermented vegetables. It’s definitely worth a look. Try to get there before noon, when things are a little busier and more interesting.
FAQs - Where And What To Eat In Osaka
Yes! I always recommend taking a food tour on your first night in a city to get the most out of the experience. A good tour guide can make all sorts of recommendations on what to eat, where to eat, and eating etiquette in a new destination. In Osaka, we took a private Osaka food tour, which took us to one of the local markets, introduced us to dishes we were unfamiliar with, and ended with a private sake tasting experience. It was totally worth it. Learn more here.
If I had to sum up Osaka in one word it would be takoyaki!
The typical Osaka food prices are generally cheaper than in Tokyo or Kyoto. They can still run the gamut though for casual meals that could cost about $10-15 per person to fancy meals that can cost hundreds per person.
Yes, there are a handful of foods you can eat on the street, but, even a regular Osaka restaurant can offer great food, Osaka cheap eats, and sometimes eating while standing. Some of Osaka’s top food experiences involve the most casual of dining locations.
Go where the locals go. If there is a line, wait your turn. Head to Dotonburi if in doubt. It’s filled with local restaurants and street food.
Yes! If you don’t speak Japanese, you can still eat in Japanese! Did we understand everything at every Osaka Japanese restaurant? No, but between picture menus and Google Translate, we never ordered wrong.
There are loads of things to do in Osaka at night, which involve more than just eating and drinking. Check out our guide to Osaka at night here.