The Essential Guide To Dotonbori, Osaka’s Famous Foodie Strip
Devour a staggering smorgasbord of food stalls, restaurants and cheap eateries.
When it comes to food, the busy metropolis of Japan’s Osaka is brimming with street eats, sushi joints, Michelin-starred restaurants (90 in total), sizzling yakitori stands and hip hole-in-the-wall izakayas (gastropubs). It’s the place where takoyaki (fried octopus balls) and okoniyami (savoury omelette) were invented and kuiadore – basically, to stuff oneself to the point of ruin – was born.
It’s in Dotonbori that Osaka’s food scene is its busiest and brightest. Running parallel to the canal in Namba Station District, the late-night entertainment strip is a staggering smorgasbord of food stalls, restaurants and cheap eateries open ‘til late seven days a week. Come to Dotonbori at night when the neon billboards are lit up, and you’ll find the place buzzing with people as delicious smells fill the air. It’s a Dotonbori night market atmosphere every night.
Dotonbori Konamon Museum
Where: 1-6-12 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
You can find Osaka’s famous takoyaki (octopus-filled balls) on nearly every street corner. But, for snacking with a side of history, head to the fun Dotonbori Konamon Museum.
At this first Dotonbori food stop, takoyaki is paired with chilled champagne or wine. You can learn all about the roots of the konamon batter and make your own hot and creamy takoyaki with the help of an expert. For a unique souvenir, head to the third floor for a replica takoyaki-making session, the original wax technique used in the walls of fake food seen in every Dotonbori restaurant window.
The Dotonbori Konamon Museum is open between 11am and 10pm on weekdays, and between 10am and 10pm on weekends.
Where: 1-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Dotonbori’s family-run okonomiyaki restaurant Mizuno is so popular that the queue is regularly out the door. It’s also where the savoury pancake, a light and fluffy batter seasoned with dashi broth, is cooked before your eyes on a griddle plate set into the u-shaped counter.
Okonomiyaki means to “cook what you like, how you like it” and, at Mizuno, it’s Dotonbori food theatre at its best. That means bacon-like pork belly or seafood and vegetables drizzled with brown sauce and mayonnaise. For added oomph, ask for one with noodles.
Mizuno is open daily between 11am and 10pm.
Where: 1-6-4 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Kushikatsu (food skewered, dipped in panko batter and deep-fried) is another of Osaka’s specialty foods. Dotonbori’s Daruma Kushikatsu, open since 1929, is considered one of the best.
Everything on the menu is served katsu-style, from the meat and vegetables to the prawn and cheese. This is no soggy dagwood dog. Kushikatsu is food cooked al dente in a golden crust.
The small space on Dotonbori Street has only counter seating, so expect a queue. But the kashikatsu, some 40 options, is worth it, ensuring you observe the no-double dipping rule. Instead, use cabbage leaves to scoop the tonkatsu sauce.
Daruma Kushikatsu is open daily from 11:30am to 10:30pm.
Where: 1-4-17 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
The Imai Hoten Dotonbori, is famous for its udon, but if Dontonbori ramen is what you want, Kinguemon is the place you’re looking for. Kinguemon has won awards for serving up the best shoyu-based ramen in Osaka, making the tiny ramen bar is a must-visit.
The salty ramen goodness comes in three strengths: gold, red or black. There’s the standard Kin Shoyu Ramen, a golden ramen that’s light on soy. But, for those who like their ramen dark and strong, the signature Osaka Black, a punchy dark shoyu broth thick with curly noodles and topped with tender chasyu (BBQ pork) and shallots is the ticket.
The Kinguemon is open 11am to 8am on weekdays, and 11am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Order at this Dotonbori ramen joint via the ticket vending machine at the entrance.
Where: 1-6-13 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
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The self-proclaimed King of Gyoza is easy to spot – thanks to the gigantic tray of gyoza dumplings hanging from the awning out front of this Dotonbori restaurant. It’s also where the gyoza, a thin pastry plump with Japanese beef, is pan-fried until crisp and golden.
While the menu here extends to stir-fries and soups and there is restaurant seating inside, don’t go past the cheap and cheerful takeaway gyoza and beer set – a ‘six-pack’ of dumplings that comes with a plastic cup of beer.
Osaka Ohsho is open daily from 11pm to 6am.
Where: 1-6-8 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
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A giant mechanical crab jitters its legs on the shopfront of this iconic seven-storey Dotonbori restaurant celebrating everything crab. There is crab leg and crab sashimi, steamed crab, boiled crab, crab prepared in custard or soup, stir-fried or raw.
The crab du jour is Alaskan and Snow crab. Order one or the other or splurge on a set menu which has both, prepared in multiple ways. Bring an appetite and book online before you head to Dotonbori Street to avoid the queues.
Kani Douraku is open daily from 11am and 11pm.
Where: 1-6-0 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka
The sushi train was invented in Osaka (by Yoshiaki Shiraishi, an idea born from watching beer bottles on a conveyor belt in an Asahi brewery), and first introduced at a Genrokuzushi restaurant back in 1958. The sushi on the conveyor belt is pretty standard, but it’s the history that’s the real lure at this Dotonbori Street restaurant.
For something different or made fresh, order from the menu.
Genrokuzushi is open daily from 11am to 10:30pm.
Eat too much ramen to make it back to your room? Namba Dotonbori Hotel is a unique local hotel offering free ramen and draft beer to guests after 10:30pm, and also has a unique photo opportunity with their four cultural statues located at the entrance to the Dotonbori hotel.
(Lead image: Emmanuel Eragne / Flickr)