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Best American-Style BBQ Restaurants in Japan

Don’t invite me to yakiniku and call it barbeque. We’re talking REAL BBQ.

By 4 min read

Like every red-blooded patriotic American, I covet three things in life: barbeque, backyards and root beer (I don’t drink).

Unless you move out to the inaka (countryside), owning a large private garden for cookouts and the occasional Slip ‘N Slide party in Japan isn’t happening. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on authentic American-style barbecue, though. There are more than a few great BBQ restaurants around Japan.

Is it real American BBQ, though?

I’m talking about real American BBQ. It feels like every time someone invites me to a “BBQ” in this country, I’m actually going to a grill out (i.e., yakiniku outdoors). Don’t hand me a shishkabob and call it BBQ, Kenji!

Call it semantics, but American BBQ has a distinct smoky taste. All good chefs have a particular method of cooking their meat, and you can’t forget the sauce. While not a necessity, it’s hard for me to imagine a BBQ place without having its own special homemade BBQ sauce.


Midtown BBQ

We’re gonna need a bigger plate.

Probably my favorite on this list, visiting Midtown BBQ feels like I’m back home with delicious teeth-killing sweet tea, friendly hospitality, and enormous plates of food. The owner actually grew up in Canada, but they tell me their familial roots lie in the South.

Midtown BBQ started as a small steak and smokehouse in Nagoya but has built a loyal following of BBQ lovers in Japan. Everything from their rubs to homemade BBQ is locally sourced. They don’t adhere to any particular regional recipe but use various influences.

If you can’t make the trip out to Nagoya, Midtown BBQ has another location in Yokohama.

Recommended menu item: The BBQ Trays are the most popular and let you try a variety of meats. The Wagyu brisket is Midtown BBQ's pride and joy and considered the item that made them famous.
Average price: ¥1500–4000 per person
Hours: Sunday to Thursday - 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday - 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.
〒450-0002 Aichi, Nagoya, Nakamura Ward, Meieki, 5 Chome−24−3 Midtown BBQ - Map
Official website: www.midtown-bbq.com

Yokohama Location

Hours: Monday - Closed, Tuesday to Friday - 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday - 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
〒231-0015 Kanagawa, Yokohama, Naka Ward, Onoecho, 1 Chome−8 - Map


Chop Hits BBQ

That’s brisk-et, baby!

Chop Hits is Osaka’s own little piece of Texas. The story is that the owner visited the South and was instantly smitten with BBQ and southern hospitality. When they came back to Japan, they noticed there were too few places to get their fix. After a few more visits to Austin, Texas to become a pitmaster, they opened their own restaurant in Shinmachi, Osaka.

The menu is short and sweet—beef brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs, and smoked chicken. Their BBQ is Texas-style, which means it cooked “low and slow.” It gives the meat a tender, juicy, deep smokey flavor. Order up some ribs, coleslaw, cornbread, and a cold glass of lemonade, and call it a day because I’m done.

Recommended menu item: Go all out and get the Chop Set which includes a little bit of everything.
Average price: ¥1000–¥3500 per person
Hours: Monday - Closed, Thursday - 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday - 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
〒550-0013 Osaka, Nishi Ward, Shinmachi, 2 Chome−12−12, Shinmachi Building, 1F ナカモリ - Map
Official Website: www.chophitsbbq.com


Baird Taproom Bashamichi

Good luck with picking a favorite.

Established by Americans living in Japan that yearned for southern meals on the regular, Bashamichi Taproom was the country’s first American-style smoked BBQ joint. This one is another low and slow Texas-style joint, which is also where their pitmasters learned their craft.

Bashamichi Taproom is also part of a broader concept—craft brewing. The Baird Brewing Company has been in business for more than twenty years and opened the Bashamichi Taproom in part to pair their beer and BBQ together.

Baird Taproom Bashamichi uses a wood fire grill for all its meats.
Recommended menu item: Brisket, pork ribs, or mac & cheese
Average Price: ¥2000–¥4000 per person
Hours: Tuesday - Closed, Monday and Wednesday to Friday - 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays - 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
5 Chome-63-1 Sumiyoshicho, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 231-0013 - Map


Soul Food House

I want my baby back, baby back, baby back ribs.

During my first couple of years in Japan, adjusting to food was rough. I missed southern cuisine. Over time, I learned to cook a lot of southern comforts, but it would never be the same as a home-style country kitchen. That all changed when I watched Ugly Delicious on Netflix, which featured Soul Food House, Tokyo’s own southern-style restaurant.

Soul Food House has everything a southern heart could want—cornbread, biscuits and gravy, fried catfish, chicken and waffles, and, of course, BBQ. They don’t have the most extensive BBQ menu( mostly sliders and ribs) but it’s more than enough to get your fix.

Recommended menu item: The pork sliders with East Carolina-style BBQ sauce, or chicken and waffles.
Average Price: ¥1500–¥3000 per person
Hours: Monday and Tuesday - Closed, Wednesday to Friday - 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday - 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday - 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
〒106-0045 Tokyo, Minato City, Azabujuban, 2 Chome−8−10 Patio6F - Map
Official Website: soulfoodhouse.com


Welcome to Smokehouse.

Smokehouse opened in Tokyo around 2011 when microbrews were growing in popularity. At the time, the owners had the only microbrewery in Tokyo and realized the capital was missing the perfect pairing for microbrews and craft liquors—BBQ. Thus, Tokyo’s first and arguably best American-style BBQ restaurant was born.

The menu includes everything you would expect for great BBQ: Angus sausage, pulled pork, Kansas-city style ribs, and sides such as cornbread and smoked pickles. Smokehouse is particularly recommended if you’re a fan of craft beers and American spirits. They even offer a beer pairing chart.

Recommended menu item: If you're looking for a brisket with bold flavor, Smokehouse offers an espresso rubbed USDA beef brisket, slow-cooked for 10 hours.
Average Price: ¥1000–¥3000 per person
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
5 Chome-17-13 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001 - Map
Official Website: www.tysons.jp/smokehouse

Little Texas

If you miss wearing cowboy hats and listen to music about your ex-wife who took your truck and dog, Little Texas is for you. If I’m honest, the menu itself is nothing to write home about. It’s a hodgepodge of simple BBQ, Tex-Mex, and food I can only shrug for such as meatball spaghetti and “cowboy pizza” (whatever that even means).

Nevertheless, Little Texas is one of just a few country dance halls in Japan. Everyone is dressed up like a cowboy from their head to their snakeskin boots. They even have weekly live country music and bluegrass shows. Chow down on steak, tip your 10-gallon hat, spin your belt buckle and dance your achy breaky heart away.

Recommended menu item: Whatever gives you the energy to make you a honky-tonk man.
Average Price: ¥800–¥2200 per person
Hours: Sunday - Closed, Monday to Friday - 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., Saturday - 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
1 Chome-1-5-19 Meguro, Meguro City, Tokyo 153-0063 - Map
Know any more American-style BBQ restaurants in Japan that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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