Last Updated on March 24, 2023
Dōtonbori is one of Osaka’s premier tourist destinations, boasting numerous large, flashy billboards, a bustling nightlife, and some of the best food in Japan. The street on the south side of the Dōtonbori Canal is home to a bevy of restaurants with huge signs that depict what they serve. This gives Dōtonbori its eccentric and energetic vibe. There are countless amazing restaurants to try on the strip. However, here’s a selection of 8 amazing street foods to try in Dōtonbori.
Ramen is one of the most iconic Japanese foods. Moreover, it would be almost impossible to spend time in Dōtonbori and not have a steaming hot bowl of ramen. The most famous shop there, Kinryu Ramen, has three locations in the area. And they are all easily recognized by their gigantic three-dimensional dragons that hang over the entrances. The lines during the day are usually long, and you order by purchasing a ticket from a vending machine. They are open 24 hours, making them the perfect late night spot to hit after a night at the clubs and bars.
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Probably the most famous dumpling in Japanese cuisine, gyoza are a staple of Japanese street food and Dōtonbori cuisine. On the strip, you won’t be able to miss the massive gyoza shaped billboard. Walk in, and you will find a gyoza bar that serves up a plate of five pan-fried or steamed gyoza filled with minced pork, cabbage, and a ton of garlic. Dip them into a little hot oil and soy sauce and enjoy! Gyoza, much like ramen, are a perfect late night snack and go great with an ice-cold beer.
Takoyaki is one of the most famous Japanese street foods. It consists of a ball of batter filled with scallions, fish roe, and octopus. It’s a savory and slightly sweet explosion of flavor when you bite into one. But, be careful, because the center gets insanely hot! Waiting for your takoyaki to cool down is probably one of the greatest struggles, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Takoyaki is everywhere in Dōtonbori, whether it be on restaurant menus or at the multiple takoyaki-dedicated spots with octopus-shaped billboards. Some places top their takoyaki with bonito flakes that squirm and move from the heat. That way, it creates the illusion that your food is alive.
TAKEAWAY: Fugu is the Japanese word for pufferfish. While is served most commonly as sashimi, it is sometimes served as a hot pot dish too. While these fish are cute to look at and a very popular food, fugu must be very carefully prepared because its organs contain lethally poisonous tetrodotoxin. Japan takes this hazard very seriously. As a result, chefs must undergo three years of training before being certified to serve it. The chefs use a special knife called a fugu hiki that must be kept separate from the rest of knives.
The most notable fugu serving restaurant is Zubora-ya, and it is hard to miss thanks to the large pufferfish lantern that hangs above its door. The fish itself is very light and has a subtle, delicate flavor. It can be fried or cooked in soup to add or enhance the flavor. Fugu is a legendary bucket list kind of experience, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is a food reserved for the bravest and most adventurous foodies only.
The Japanese love their seafood and king crab is no exception. King crab meat is very light and uniquely sweet, meaning that butter is not a necessity. The moving crab billboard at Kani Doraku is one of the most iconic images associated with Dōtonbori and Osaka overall. Among the numerous crustacean-based dishes you can have there, the simplest is the best: fresh grilled crab legs. Crab legs aren’t the easiest thing to eat, but it’s worth the work to get to that juicy meat inside. The biggest criticism that can be made about Kani Doraku is that their prices are pretty high for what you get. Nevertheless, it’s still something that you shouldn’t miss out on trying.
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While it is obviously better to have Kobe beef in Kobe, it’s still tender and delicious in Dōtonbori. Kobe beef is the pinnacle of meats and is unparalleled by any other type of beef in terms of flavor, fat content, and tenderness. You can find this mouth-watering steak all over Japan in varying qualities and price ranges.
In Dōtonbori, a small steak will cost around ¥2000 ($20) and while it may not be the top of the line Kobe beef, its still Kobe beef and better than most steaks that can be found in the U.S. for that price. Those willing to dole out more cash can get a higher-grade steak and, honestly, it’s worth it. Hariju is Dōtonbori’s most notable beef serving restaurant, featuring a shabu-shabu and sukiyaki course menu. For the more adventurous eater, Kobe beef can be eaten as sushi or sashimi at various food stands on the streets.
Conveyor Belt Sushi
Venture into the conveyor belt sushi restaurant on the Dōtonbori strip, and you’re in for a fun and delicious sushi experience! Grab as many plates as you want as they meander along and enjoy complimentary green tea that is self-poured from a faucet on the table. The plates are color coded for price, and your bill is calculated using the stack left behind at the end. Nonetheless, if the sushi you want isn’t coming around or keeps getting snatched up before it gets to you, you can order directly from the waiter or chef. Conveyor belt sushi restaurants are typically a pretty good bang for your buck. Moreover, they usually feature some rare and exotic options like baby sardines and even whale.
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What eating experience is complete without dessert? Nestled into an alcove on the Dōtonbori strip is a truck that serves melonpan ice cream sandwiches. Melonpan bread is a Japanese sweet bun that is covered with a thin layer of crisp cookie dough. It gets its name from its resemblance to the rockmelon (cantaloupe). If a sweet bun with cookie dough doesn’t sound amazing enough already, they cut it open and scoop on a heaping amount of ice cream inside. The fresh, hot bread and the cold ice-cream make a wonderful pair. Then, as the bun soaks up the melting ice cream and you experience a sweetness overload. Words cannot accurately describe how good melonpan is; you just have to try it yourself.
One day in this street is definitely not enough time to enjoy all of the amazing foods that it has to offer. These are just some of the amazing street foods to try in Dōtonbori. However, there are probably many more obscure foods, restaurants and hidden gems that only the locals know about. With all the restaurants, bright lights, boat rides, and nightclubs, it is very easy to lose yourself in Dōtonbori. To help you choose what to do and where to go, check the official website of The Shopping District of Dōtonbori. And remember, if you are traveling to Osaka, Dōtonbori is an essential destination.