The Dotonbori shopping district feels like the beating heart of Osaka and is the epicenter of one of the best food cultures in Japan. Chances are you’ll spend a large portion of your time in Osaka exploring this central area, gawking at its blaring neon lights, characterful 3D restaurant signs and unique food choices.
Hundreds of restaurants are packed into Dotonbori’s busy main street—so much so that the choice can be overwhelming for new visitors, and it’s easy to fall into expensive tourist traps. But it is possible to eat cheaply in the area if you know where to look.
Here are five spots where you can try some of the region’s most famous dishes on a budget.
1. Takoyaki: Honke Otako Dotonbori
Takoyaki (fried octopus balls) are possibly the most famous of Osaka’s many signature dishes. Dotonbori hosts dozens, perhaps hundreds, of stalls for the snack—often distinguished by their giant 3D octopus signs.
Honke Otako Dotonbori is the oldest and perhaps best-known takoyaki shop in Dotonbori, and undercuts the majority of its competition—with the standard six balls, smothered in toppings, coming in at a mere ¥500. It gets extra points for the ample seating in its back room—if you’re okay with the barebones but atmospheric surroundings—and its wider menu offering a range of dishes for larger meals. That said, you could happily exist just on takoyaki for a day if you wanted to—the balls are a filling, flavorful snack, and add more weight to the Osaka philosophy that everything is better when fried.
2. Okonomiyaki: Takohachi Dotonbori
Takohachi Dotonbori, right opposite Honke Otako, prides itself on offering as many Osaka specialties as possible and is one of the best places in Dotonbori to get inexpensive okonomiyaki—a very popular dish combining pan-fried batter, cabbage and a choice of toppings, like meat, cheese and vegetables (making it a good option for vegetarians). Basic options start at around ¥1,000, but we recommend piling on the toppings for as much extra flavor as possible
Notably, Takohachi’s tables have built-in teppan iron griddles. The okonomiyaki is placed on the tappan to heat it up, and diners then slice up the dish with a spatula, transfer the pieces to their plates, and eat from there. Other restaurants provide the okonomiyaki on a portable teppan—which, while not affecting the taste much, is a less authentic experience.
Note that you might have to queue for a short time at Takohachi during busy periods—so it can be better to go earlier in the day.
3. Ramen: Kinryu Ramen Midosuji
Distinguished by its large 3D dragon signs, the well-known tonkotsu (pork broth ramen) chain Kinryu Ramen has two shops in Dotonbori. The first, midway down the main street, can get very busy, with long queues of people waiting to sit on its Japanese-style tables in full view of the area’s main sights. But only a couple of minutes down the road, at the end of the street, is the quieter Midosuji branch, offering the same cheap-but-delicious ramen.
Kinryu Ramen Midosuji attracts tourists with its street food setup, with patrons standing to eat at the bar in full view of the kitchen while being serenaded by the noise of the crowd—making it one of the best places to absorb Dotonbori’s unbeatable atmosphere. But don’t let the spartan furnishings fool you—the ramen dishes’ light but flavourful tastes far outstrip their low costs.
You might consider it a downside that there are only two options on the meal-ticket menu—standard tonkotsu for ¥800 or chashumen (braised pork), which comes with copious pork belly slices, for ¥1100—but that’s usually a good sign when it comes to street food.
4. Yakisoba: Creo-ru JUNK
Continuing Osaka’s penchant for fried food, stir-fried yakisoba noodles are a common sight among Dotonbori’s restaurants. Streetfood-stand Creo-ru JUNK (a spinoff of the wider Creo-ru chain) is a good place to try out the dish if you’re on a tight budget and a tight schedule, being one of the only places on the street to offer it in takeaway boxes, and in satisfyingly chunky portions to boot.
Options start at ¥650, but as with okonomiyaki it’s certainly worth spending a little extra for your favorite toppings. A notable specialism of the stand is its range of spicy toppings for those who want to try Japanese food with an extra kick.
Creo-ru JUNK also sells four takoyaki balls for ¥380, rather than the standard five balls found in most other shops, additionally making it one of the cheapest options for trying out the famed snack if you’d prefer a smaller portion.
5. Wagyu: Wanomiya Kobe Beef
Okay, maybe “cheap” is the wrong word for Wanomiya Kobe Beef—some of its offerings cost over ¥10,000, in fact. But it might be the most inexpensive way to try this world-famous wagyu (Japanese cattle beef) in Osaka.
Kobe wagyu is noted for its tenderness and its high percentage of saturated fat. Osaka’s close proximity to Kobe city makes it something of a second home for the highly-prized meat. As such, there are plenty of expensive steakhouses offering Kobe Beef in Dotonbori.
But while Wanomiya does have a restaurant portion of its shop, most people are drawn to the cheaper street food stall outside. If you’re on a budget, you can try one piece of Kobe Beef sushi for as little as ¥500, or save money on the more expensive options and get three different varieties for ¥2,000. Rice bowls and small steaks also start at ¥2,000. Whatever you choose, it’s the easiest way to experience Kobe Beef in Dotonbori and find out for yourself what all the fuss is about.
What is your go-to place for the best Osaka dishes on a budget? Let us know in the comments!