One of the main highlights in Nagoya has to be the amazingly diverse range of food here. For tourists, it’s hardly ever talked about, but for people in Japan, I would say that it’s a very foodie city where sampling the food is probably one of the main things to do. There are so many must eat foods in Nagoya that you probably won’t be able to find in other parts of Japan, which makes it really exciting for food lovers. I wouldn’t say there’s one Nagoya food street either, it’s kind of like the different neighbourhoods have their own different styles – which just makes it even more interesting. Even though I’m from Ohio, I’ve had a lot of time to get to know the delicious cuisine in this city and thanks to my Japanese husband, I’ve basically had a local guide to help me try all of the good food in Nagoya - you should get one too (it might not be my husband though!). I’m going to be sharing some of my amazing food experiences with you and telling what to eat in Nagoya, and at which little hidden restaurant or bar you’ll be able to find it.
Misokatsu - Misokatsu Yabaton
Katsu is a dish you can get pretty much anywhere in Japan, but in Nagoya we put our own little spin on it. Instead of using yellow or white katsu, Nagoya actually uses a special kind of red miso. This is a much stronger taste than the other ones, but it goes really well with meats such as the katsu. This really is one of the must eat foods in Nagoya that you won’t be able to find in any other city in the world. There’s a whole bunch of Misokatsu Restaurants in Nagoya that you should try, but Misokatsu Yabaton tops them all. This is easily the most famous place in Nagoya for misokatsu, and if I’m honest the popularity is very justified – it’s amazing. The sauce gets poured onto your food right in front of your eyes and it looks oh so delicious. These places are all over the city, just look out for the big red pig with the chef’s outfit on and you’re there.
Spicy chicken wings – Yamachan
It’s always good to know what to eat in Nagoya when you’re out for a drink, and the number one has to spicy chicken wings. There really is no better pairing than an ice-cold beer with this famous local food – you take a bite, your mouth is on fire, you drink your beer. You take another bite, drink more beer and repeat! The best restaurants in Nagoya to get this is definitely the Yamacham izakaya chain, a place where all of the locals come when they want to let off some steam after work. It’s essentially a classic Japanese izakaya which serves up a whole menu of delicious treats, with the chicken wings of course being the star of the show. You can find a Yamachan all over the world, but the ones here in Nagoya are a must visit for any traveller who wants to experience their crazy informal atmosphere.
Golden Ice Cream – Nagoya Castle
One thing I find about Japanese food is that it’s always so visually appealing. To find the best-looking food in Nagoya, you should head over to Nagoya Castle where you can buy what’s known as golden ice cream. It’s actually just vanilla ice cream with an edible gold coating, but as you can imagine, it's super shiny and sparkly and makes for amazing pictures. It’s a little expensive at about nine-hundred yen, but it’s definitely worth it if you ask me - even if you just get it for your Instagram. Believe me when I say that people do this, especially in Japan! When you’re done taking photos, the ice cream actually tastes really good too which is a great bonus (this might sound strange if you’re from the West, but the Instagram food trend is big in Japan!). Then, to top it all off you can enjoy it all by sitting in the garden area outside one of the most beautiful buildings in this area of Japan.
Sushi – Sushiro
This is a total classic when it comes to Japanese food. Right on your way to Atsuta Shrine is an amazing little restaurant called Sushiro and it’s pretty quickly becoming one of my personal favourite places to eat in Nagoya. I think the whole experience of stacking your plates ten or even twenty high so that you can pay for them at the end is just so exciting. When most people come to Japan and have sushi, they want to have the full experience with the conveyor belt and priced bowls too, which is exactly what you get at Sushiro. Each bowl only costs about one hundred Yen, which is only around one dollar so they’re super cheap too if you’re on a budget. The only downside is that once you start taking bowls of the conveyor belt, you might not be able to stop!
Ebi Fry - Sakae
Picture Six: 田中 駿二, Wikipedia
For a true taste of Nagoya, you definitely need to try the ebi fry. All it is a deep-fried shrimp, but it’s the size of them that I can just never believe. They’re honestly about the size of my forearm! This is super, super famous and I’d say it’s probably what Nagoya has become known for across Japan. If you’re looking for where to eat in Nagoya that’s going to give you the most authentic experience, then you should go to the traditional downtown area of Sakae - it’s one of our best neighbourhoods for food and entertainment. This is the crazy entertainment area of the city, so there’s pretty much an endless supply of places to get great food from. The ebi fry is so popular it will be in most places in this part of the city, especially during lunch time because it’s generally seen to be more of a daytime thing.
Flat Udon – Inuyama Castle
You might know what Udon noodles are, but Nagoya is special and actually has its own flat version of them. A lot of Japanese people will tell you that this is definitely one of the must eat foods in Nagoya, although for a non-Japanese person like myself, it kind of just tastes the same as regular Udon. As I’ve said before though, Japanese food is so often about the visual element as much as the taste. I’ve been to two places for this food in Nagoya; number one was the beautiful Inuyama Castle. It’s a really special experience to be able to sit outside of a building that was built nearly five-hundred years ago, whilst enjoying one of the city’s most famous foods. The second place I’d recommend is the Atsuta Shrine, which is in a bit more of a central location so you can fit it into any daily itinerary. It probably has less of a queue to get in as well, so you won’t have to wait to get your hands on a tasty bowl of flat Nagoya Udon.
Shaved ice - Suzume Odori
Here in Nagoya we have little hole-in-the-wall dessert places where you can get traditional Japanese confectionery. My favourite one is Suzume Odori in the traditional Sakae part of downtown. This is probably my favourite place on this entire Nagoya food guide, and it’s purely down to the fact that it’s over one hundred and fifty years old. They have spent years perfecting their craft for making amazing Japanese desserts, and you can really tell. The shaved ice from here is so good - you’ll be coming back multiple times on your trip, I promise. Another great thing about it is that it’s such a hidden gem, so you won’t have to battle the tourists just to get it. Even a lot of Japanese people don’t even know it’s here which is actually kind of sad. Oh well, more shaved iced for us!
Yakiniku and yakitori – Kadoya
Most people in Nagoya like to do something called yaki, which literally translates to fried meat. You can find these all over the city at the side of the roads or in restaurants, although the restaurants can be super small and confined. The two usual types to go for is either yakiniku (fried beef) or yakitori (fried chicken), but it’s the yakiniku that seems to be more popular here. To find where to eat in Nagoya that’s got great yakiniku and yakitori, you should go to a little place in the Ossu area called Kadoya. It’s actually more known for its chicken in here, but I have to say the yakiniku is really good too. Again, this is a super authentic place where hardly any tourists seem to venture.
Hitsumabushi - Atsuta Haroiken jingu
Hitsumabushi is one of the most unique dishes we have here and it’s definitely one of the must eat foods in Nagoya. I don’t know if fried eel sounds overly appealing to you, but I have to say it’s really good, and that’s coming from an American. The eels are prepared in a very special way which involves slitting the eel open and cooking the whole thing intact. It is then severed simply on top of a bed of sticky rice. The best hitsumabushi Nagoya has to offer can be found inside Atsuta Haroiken jingu, which is just outside of the Atsuta Shrine. I’m not sure how true this is, but apparently at one point this was the only place in Nagoya where you could get Hitsumabushi. Sit inside this beautiful, authentic Japanese space with the plain white walls and mats to sit on the floor with you tasty fried eels. That’s about as truly Nagoya as it gets.
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