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Must Eat Foods in Kyoto & Where To Eat Them

By Saki Iwata A Kyoto local and university student who returned to Japan after living abroad for a few years to re-immerse in her own culture.
06 February 2020
Must Eat Foods in Kyoto & Where To Eat Them

Edited by Elodi Troskie

Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, is where modern life meets traditional Japanese culture. Kyoto’s food culture favours simple home style cooking where vegetables are often the main ingredient. Here perhaps more than any other city, you’ll see that there is much more to Japanese food than ramen and sushi! If you’re planning a visit to the land of cherry blossoms and you’re wondering what to eat and where to eat in Kyoto, this food guide will tell you all you need to know about the best of Kyoto’s culinary scene!


Modern style ramen at Ramen Muraji

Modern style ramen at Ramen Muraji

Photo credit: insidekyoto


Ramen Muraji, located in Gion, is a small restaurant serving amazing chicken based ramen. If you’re visiting Japan, ramen is probably one of the first local dishes you’d want to try out! Ramen is, after all, one of the foods Kyoto is known for. I’d definitely recommend this restaurant – it’s affordable, service is quick and the staff is friendly and helpful. Ramen Muraji uses a modern kind of noodle in their soup, giving an interesting twist to this classic Japanese dish. Although it’s located in the popular neighbour of Gion, Ramen Muraji is quite the hidden gem since it’s not easy to find it. Tucked away in a tiny street, you can easily miss the entrance. There is no English sign, but if you look out for the white curtains covering the entrance, you really can’t miss it. Ramen Muraji is open from 11:30 every day.

Tsukemen at Tsurukame

Tsukemen at Tsurukame

Photo credit: asianbeat.com


Tsukemen is a specific type of ramen where noodles are first separately dipped in soup or broth before being eaten. The best place to eat tsukemen in Kyoto is at a small shop located in a narrow alley just off the souvenir shopping street, Teramachi, close to Kawaramachi Station. This restaurant is really small and can only seat about 10 people at a time. You might encounter quite a line if you go during peak hours, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Because it’s so small, you’ll have an intimate, local Japanese cuisine experience with great, flavoursome food made with quality ingredients. Like Ramen Muraji, Tsurukame is less known among tourists because it’s slightly hidden away, meaning the general lack of foreigners just adds to the local experience!

 Tempura at Tenichi

 Tempura at Tenichi

Photo credit: tenichi official site


Located in the same area as Tsurukame is another one of my favourite places to eat in Kyoto, Tenichi. This restaurant is known for its amazing tempura, a well-known and must eat Japanese dish referring to deep fried seafood or vegetables. What makes this place so great is that your food is prepared in front of you and the chefs explain the process as they go along. Not only is it an interesting experience but you’re also assured of the fresh quality of the food served to you. You can find Tenichi on the top floor of the Isetan department store right next to the station, making it easily accessible and convenient if you just got off the train and want to grab something to eat. The restaurant is open from 11:00 until 22:00 every day.

Tendon at Tendon Makino

Tendon at Tendon Makino

Photo credit: thetravellingsquid.com


Tendon is a traditional Japanese dish consisting of tempura served on a bowl of rice and topped with sweet soy sauce. Tendon Makino is a really good restaurant to try this dish at very affordable prices. Like Tenichi, your food is cooked right in front of you to add to the cultural experience. This is a popular lunch spot among locals, so I’d advise you to place your order and then run a few errands or do some shopping before coming back to collect your food to avoid waiting in long lines. Tendon Makino is located in the Teramachi Shopping Arcade on Shijo Street, so it’s surrounded by many other shops. The restaurant is open from 11:00 until 21:30 every day.

 Melonpan ice cream at Melonpan Ice

 Melonpan ice cream at Melonpan Ice

Melonpan is a delicious ice cream sandwich dessert that’s unique to Japan and very popular in Kyoto. The freshly baked warm melonpan bread that is then filled with ice cream makes for quite an interesting treat since it’s both hot and cold at the same time! The name does not refer to the taste but comes from the distinctive exterior of the bread that is used. Visit Melonpan Ice in the Shinkyogoku shopping street for the best melonpan aisu in Kyoto. This shop is famous for being the second best of its kind in the entire world. This is quite a small place and the menu doesn’t offer a very wide variety of ice cream flavours, but it’s got everything you need! Opening hours are from 07:00 until 19:00.

Okonomiyaki at Donguri

Okonomiyaki at Donguri

Photo credit: donguri official site


Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake filled with a variety of ingredients to your liking. The best place to try this street food dish in Kyoto is at Donguri, a restaurant known for its amazing okonomiyaki. Apart from the popular okonomiyaki, you can also have other Japanese grilled dishes here. Donguri uses locally sourced ingredients only. What makes this place stand out from the rest is that it serves typical Kyoto street food but in the setting of a sit down restaurant, giving you the best of both worlds! Donguri is located in Shijo-Kawaramachi closeby the Kamo River. The restaurant is open from 17:00 until 01:00 every evening.  

Teppanyaki at Teppan Manryu

Teppanyaki at Teppan Manryu

Photo credit: theculturetrip.com


If you don’t know what to eat in Kyoto, teppanyaki is the answer. Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cooking where a variety of ingredients are cooked on an iron griddle, giving the food a smoky taste. Because you can add any ingredients you like, this is a dish with many variations to suit different tastes and dietary preferences. The best restaurant in Kyoto for teppanyaki is Teppan Manryu, located right next to the Kamo River in the Gion area. The food is prepared in an open kitchen and the ingredients used are fresh and of high quality. If you’d like, you can even grill your own teppanyaki! The chef, who is originally from Fusumaya, brings an interesting modern twist to this traditional Japanese dish by implementing his own ideas inspired by cultures and cuisines all over the world. This is a really popular restaurant so I’d advise you to make a reservation before going. Opening hours are from 17:00 until 22:00.

Takoyaki at the Nishiki Market

Takoyaki at the Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market, also known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, is the best street food market in Kyoto. This is the one stop place to go to if you want to try all the local foods Kyoto is known for. With more than a hundred small shops and restaurants in this shopping streets, you can only imagine the energetic atmosphere in this area. A must try food is takoyaki, or octopus balls, made of a wheat flour batter, filled with diced octopus and other ingredients like tempura, ginger and green onion, and then cooked in a moulded pan. The balls are finished off with a special sauce and green seaweed. Nishiki Market is a 5-minute walk from Shijo Station on the Karasuma Subway Line. Different shops have different opening hours, but most places are open from 09:00 until 18:00.

 Bubble tea at… any place

 Bubble tea at… any place

Although bubble tea originated in China, it is a popular drink that has been adopted into Japanese cuisine. Bubble tea is a flavoured milk tea beverage topped with popping boba, grass jelly or tapioca balls. There’s nothing as refreshing as an ice cold bubble tea when you’re exploring the streets of Kyoto in summer. You won’t struggle to find good bubble tea in Kyoto since it’s easily available all over the city. A few recommendations for some of the best bubble tea in Kyoto are Pearl Lady Cha Bar in Kawaramachi, Dragon Crepe & Deli in Kuzetakadachō and Ippodo Tea in Teramachi.

Shaved ice at Tasuki

Shaved ice at Tasuki

Photo credit: tasuki.pass-the-baton.com


Tasuki is a cafe and bar situated right next to the Kamo Rover, about a 5-minute walk from Gion-shijo station. Tasuki is very well known for their artisanal shaved iced in seasonal flavours that changes up every month. You’ll almost always find a line at Tasuki, but it’s definitely worth the short wait. A special matcha tea, unique to Kyoto, is used for the syrup that tops the shaved ice, making for an interesting play between sweet and bitter. Tasuki also serves other Japanese desserts like grilled rice balls as well as a range of tea-based cocktails. Tasuki is open from 11:00 until 20:00 every day.