The Best Cheap Eats in Osaka, Japan
The best grub in Osaka that won’t leave your wallet hurting
As some people say, Tokyo is the brain of Japan, Kyoto the soul, and Osaka the stomach. Indeed, food is central to people’s lives in Osaka. As food expert Matt Goulding writes, “A well-worn Japanese proverb has it that Tokyoites spend all their money on footwear, Kyotoites on kimonos and formal attire. But Osakans save their funds for food and drink.”
This love affair with food is obvious in the mouth-watering sights and smells which pervade the city. Indeed, just upon a quick jaunt, you can easily find specialities like okonomiyaki (a pancake-esque treat stuffed with meat and veggies), takoyaki (an octopus fritter), and kushikatsu (kebabs of fried flora and fauna) anywhere you go.
But all this delicious food will definitely leave your wallet a bit lighter (and your weight a bit heavier!). So, if you want the lowdown on all the best cheap eats in Osaka, we’ve got you covered! From typical price points to the best street stalls, here is your ultimate guide to wallet-friendly food in your new favorite Japanese city!
Why is Osaka such a good city for cheap eats?
Like many things, Osaka’s culinary prevalence comes down to its history. A port city, Osaka, due to its proximity to plains, mountains, and the sea, was able to have access to a wide variety of crops and ingredients before you could overnight frozen fish from Tunisia.
Plus, it was located on the Kitamae-bune Sea Route, which was a huge trade route in 17th and 18th century Japan. Because of this, tons of delicious ingredients were coming through Osaka every day, creating a unique culinary culture.
This culinary culture survives today. The city’s unofficial motto is kuidaore, which translates to “eating oneself into gluttony”. So if that sounds appealing to you (and trust us, it is) Osaka is the place to go!
How much will an affordable meal run you for in Osaka?
Osaka is not a cheap city, especially considering that Japan in general is one of the most expensive countries to live in.
Cheap restaurants tend to be between ￥500 and ￥1000 (around $5-10), and include delicious foods like noodles, curry, and more. For lunch, you can often find awesome set menus (called teishoku) priced at around ￥1000.
Mid-Range restaurants will run you between ￥1000 and ￥3000 (around $10-30), and fancier restaurants will definitely cost much more (Jiro’s famous 20-course omakase currently goes for about ￥40,000, or $376).
We consider the definition of cheap eats as anything up to ￥1000, as that is how much a set lunch usually costs at a cheap restaurant. However, we include prices for restaurants as low as ￥500.
Famous Osaka cheap eats and the best affordable places to sample them
Deep-fried veggies and meat on a stick, Kushikatsu -- and its rich and scrumptious taste -- is not to be missed. There are many famous places to get Kushikatsu, but the most famous place (and perhaps the most delicious) is Daruma.
However, make sure you are ready to wait in line before you go -- this place is always packed with people waiting to taste the best kushikatsu of their lives! Prices are about the equivalent of 10 USD.
Yep, this one doesn’t need any explaining. If you are in Osaka, you can’t miss the city’s amazing fresh sushi.
Our recommendation: check out Endo, a little hole in the wall that has become quite popular among tourists and locals alike.
Here, you can find the finest five-piece Omakase for only ￥1150, with pieces including Anago (sea water eel), Uni (sea urchin), toro (fatty tuna) and Kani (crab). Plus, there is an English menu, so no worries about accidentally ordering something you don’t like.
Looking for something a little more filling? Check out Isono Ryoutarou, a popular kaitenzushi restaurant (conveyor belt sushi). You can get 2 pieces for ￥100, or on a weekday, 8 pieces and a mini-udon for only ￥380. Plus, there is something so fun about just watching the conveyor belt go round and round.
This savory pancake is a famous speciality of Osaka, and definitely not to be missed. There are many okonomiyaki joints around the city, but below are a few you should be sure to visit!
Check out Fukutaro, a popular small restaurant in the heart of Namba which uses its own famous (and secret) sauce. There may be a line, but you can watch the chefs cook while you are waiting, making this dinner and a show! A pork pancake will run you about ￥1000. Chibo is another popular spot in downtown Namba, with delicious okonomiyaki.
Another great restaurant is Kiji Sky, a family-friendly okonomiyaki restaurant. There is no website, but it is located in the basement of the Umeda Sky Building, so just put that into your Google Maps if you are looking for the place.
Stewed beef sinew, this dish is rich in flavor without being overpowering due to the fact that in addition to miso and soy sauce, it is stewed in sugar and sweet sake. Check out Akagakiya for some incredible Doteyaki at really cheap prices (generally less than $5).
If you go to any supermarket, too, they’ll have doteyaki for incredibly cheap prices, if you want to DIY.
According to the 5Meanders, Takoyaki, a fried octopus dish that has been around since 1935, is “synonymous with Osaka.” This typical street food, sold in portions of 6, 8, or 12 on the street, is a perfect snack on a busy day. Anywhere on the streets in Dotonbori, a hip street in the heart of Namba, will serve delicious takoyaki. Just wander the street and try a few at every place! Pro-tip: Look for the places where you can see the chefs frying the batter and putting octopus into the center, ensuring its freshness.
However, if you don’t want to commit to 12 pieces, check out Wanaka, which has a 3 piece sampler sandwiched between wafer crackers.
Soba, udon, ramen -- Osaka is your place for all noodly things.
Many noodle restaurants are tachikui, which means you stand while you are eating. For a great tachikui soba and udon joint, check out Nishiya Soba (and order the shouga tempura, whose fried pieces are absolutely delicious).
For kitsune udon, or a style of udon noodles with a piece of fried tofu on top, head to Usanamitei Matsubay. A steaming bowl will cost you around $10.
The most beloved ramen joint in the heart of the city is Kinryu Ramen. We recommend you get there early to avoid the crowds! A bowl will run you about $10 or less.
This is just the beginning of all the delicious food you can eat in Osaka. Indeed, just wandering around the streets we guarantee you will find some of the most mouth-watering meals and snacks of your life. But with this list in hand, you won’t miss out on some of Osaka’s most renowned specialties.
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