10 Cool Spots for Winter-Warming Street Food in Tokyo
By Elsa Messi
Baby, it’s cold outside. Maybe all you want to do is curl up under the kotatsu (that table with an electric heater and a hanging quilt that retains heat) and the thought of leaving the house makes you sink even deeper under that warm, cozy blanket. But what if I told you that there was delicious, comforting, winter-warming food out there? That all you had to do was put on your coat and follow this list?
While eating food outside in the cold may sound plain wrong if you want to stay warm, it’s all about eating the right foods. No yakitori, no small bites, no cold dishes — you want hearty, hot, spicy, filling items that will leave you ready to return to a perfect state of hibernation. Here’s where to find some warming street food in the city.
1. Oden at Maruken Suisan
What can be more thawing than a piping hot bowl of oden? Maruken Suisan is a standing bar and kiosk five minutes from Akabane station’s north exit that dishes out top quality oden stews and cheap atsukan (hot sake). Just some of their oden staples include hanpen (a pounded fishcake) and various types of nerimono (fish paste); boiled eggs, deep fried tofu, seaweed, shrimp and potatoes. Overwhelmed with the options? Choose the osusume (recommended) set. You can either eat the oden standing up or sit at the long table at the front of the store. When you’ve nearly finished your sake, march to the counter and get your glass filled with the oden broth — a warm and fuzzy finish.
Address: 1−22−8 Kita-ku
2. Tacos at GoodHood Food
Katsuki and Satoshi, a Japanese-American duo, have brought delectable and authentic tacos to various spots in the city, including the hip Shimokitazawa Cage (see below). Everything is freshly prepared— including the tortillas. Signature dishes include a generously filled taco of pork al pastor (using a special chili pepper imported from Mexico to ensure the authenticity of the flavors) and grilled chicken. One bite of these spicy tacos is guaranteed to raise your internal heat in the crisp, cold air.
Address: Their Instagram page, @goodhoodfood, lets you know where they’ll be next.
3. Global dining at Otemachi Sankei Plaza
Walk straight from Otemachi subway station to Metro Square and you’ll find a good selection of rotating food trucks parked during the lunch hour on weekdays. Some are one-offs and others are regulars. On a recent visit, I saw (and ate) a range of worldwide cuisines from fragrant South Indian and slow-cooked Japanese curries to addictive Italian sourdough pizzas and soul food from Singapore.
Address: 1−7−2 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku
4. Pizza at Garage 50
This stationary Volkswagen in a converted garage can be found Tuesday to Sunday in Musashino. Their Roman stone-baked pizzas are thin, crispy and cost around ¥500. Flavors vary and include the traditional margherita, in addition to the less traditional (but equally good) options such as salmon and cream cheese. Check their Facebook page @Garage50 for opening hours.
Address: 1−23−5 Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho
5. Mexican at 440 Broadway
Located right outside National Azabu supermarket, just minutes from Hiroo station, is a small slice of Mexico right here in Tokyo. This one-man operation serves fried fish tacos with lashings of avocado and a tart salsa, marinated chicken with red kidney beans for that extra crunch or slow-roasted pulled pork. They also have a very meaty chicken burrito that explodes with lingering flavors reminiscent of the humble taquerias in Mexico City. Also great as a temporary hand warmer.
Address: 4-5-2 Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku
6. Craft beer and classy curly fries at Commune 246
This is a popular outdoor community space in Omotesando that is home to a plethora of beautifully decorated street food vans. Foodies will be spoilt for choice with the queue-worthy offerings at hand. Raising the flag for Germany is Schmatz with their chicken schnitzel burger comprised of a fried chicken topped with either camembert cheese and cranberry, chili or cheese and sandwiched between a sweet brioche bun. If that’s not your thing, you can gorge on extra thin spiraled fries from Brooklyn Ribbon Fries that can be sprinkled with sea salt and pepper, allspice, cinnamon sugar or an onion gratin soup powder. Or pick from a wide selection of hearty open hot dogs from Wired Cafe paired with one of their mean cups of coffee and you’re good to go.
Address: 3-13 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
7. Vietnamese at Shimokitazawa Cage
A three-year pop-up shop that is popular with locals and non-locals alike. One afternoon you might find a van selling books and warm lemonade next to Mobile Canteen’s truck that serves crunchy bánh mì (Vietnamese baguette sandwiches) loaded with homemade pâté, soy roasted chicken or lemongrass pork topped with plenty of cilantro and their house hot sauce. The cage might look like a prison from the outside but inside it has a buzzing atmosphere that will make you feel as free as a bird. The vendors are ever-changing, so do check out their Facebook Page @shimokitazawacage for upcoming trucks.
Address: Underneath the Inokashira train tracks 2-6 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku. Web: s-cage.com
8. Fresh greens at United Nations University
Although this farmers market across from Aoyama Gakuin is known more for its cornucopia of stalls that feature fresh vegetables and fruit, it also has plenty of food trucks popping in each weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pizzas, curries from all over Asia, chocolate — take your pick. My favorite has to be Pasadena Delicatessen that serves succulent, whole roast chickens (sometimes they’re stuffed with jambalaya rice) with meat that falls off the bone at the slightest touch.
Address: 5−53−70 Shibuya-ku, Jingumae
9. Van variety at Canteen Station
Featuring an ever-changing range of food trucks is Canteen Station, a stone’s throw from Kanda station on the Chuo, Keihin Tohoku and Yamanote lines. Luuvu Hoang, owner of +84 Banh Mi & Vietnam Coffee — the only permanent truck here — devised the concept. Vans rotate regularly but recent offerings have included Argentinian grilled meats, hot dogs, rice and chicken combo plates and beef tendon stews. Check out the @canteenstation Facebook page for updates on lineups (unless you like surprises).
Address: 3-7-4 Kanda Kajicho, Chiyoda-ku
10. Dessert at the Crêperie With No Name
This spot in Shimokitazawa is attached to the front of someone’s home. It tries to hide but what gives it away are the queues and the sweet, hypnotic smells of grilling pancakes. The front of the kiosk is pink and contains a multitude of vintage stuffed toys and Disney memorabilia, magazine cutouts of boy bands, a crumbled hand-written menu and a small, pink TV playing Disney classics. On the menu are crêpes bulging fillings like banana, New York-style cheesecake, hot cinnamon, chocolate and black sesame with ice cream.
Address: Google “2-28-6 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku” and look out for the lines of people to find it.
Did we miss anything? Got any recommendations for street food to warm up with around the city? Leave your comments below.