Osaka has more than earned its nickname “tenka no daidokoro”, which means the “nation’s kitchen”. For years travellers have been flocking to Osaka to indulge in the city’s famous street food and other culinary delights.
Osaka has not only created some of the country’s most iconic foods; it has also mastered them. Dishes such as ikayaki, kushitatsu and takyoyaki can all be enjoyed during your Osaka holiday (don’t worry we’ll explain what all those mean below).
Our friends at Klook have gone above and beyond in the name of food to bring you the best traditional dishes and dining districts in Osaka. With more than 400 million visitors to HotelsCombined each year, we’ve also hand-picked the best hotels around town that bring their A-game to the Osaka dining scene.
12 Must-Eat Japanese Dishes in Osaka
1. Char-Grilled Seafood
Dotonburi is a renowned dining and entertaining district in Osaka, home to numerous restaurants, bars and cafes that are neatly lined along a canal. There are plenty of smells to tempt you in this part of town, but you’d be amiss not following your nose to one of the char-grilled seafood stalls. From scallops to octopus, the seafood is grilled with butter and soy sauce, soaking up tremendous flavour from its own juices.
Address: Multiple locations in Dotonburi
2. Takoyaki (Battered Octopus)
Another treasured Japanese snack, takoyaki is comprised of battered wheat flour balls filled with octopus, pickled ginger, green onions and tempura. The balls are then coated with soy sauce and mayonnaise. This Japanese speciality was created in Osaka by a local street vendor and requires a special takoyaki pan. If you want to try takoyaki, head to Wanaka, where you can order a dish based on your flavour preferences.
Address: 11-19 Nanbasennichimae Chuo-ku, Osaka
3. Okonomiyaki (Savoury Pancake)
If you like savoury crepes or pancakes, chances are you’ll find okonomiyaki appealing. This Japanese pancake is quite hearty, made from flour, grated yam, water, eggs and shredded cabbage. Most okonomiyaki restaurants add other ingredients as well, such as pork belly, octopus, vegetables, squid or green onions. One of the most popular places to eat okonomiyaki is Mizuno, located on Osaka’s Dotonbori food trail.
Address: 4-15 Dotonbori Chuo-ku, Osaka
4. World’s Second Best Freshly Baked Melon-Pan Ice Cream
It seems strange to label your product as the “second best”, but to the diners who frequent this beloved Osaka establishment, these melon-pan ice creams are number one. What exactly is a melon pan? It’s a crumbly bun made fresh on site every day, essentially a Japanese take on the ice cream sandwich. The final step is adding ice cream of your choosing, from vanilla to green tea and the ultimate sundae.
Address: 1-1-53 Hirosaka, Kanazawa 920-0962, Ishikawa Prefecture
5. Kushikatsu (Deep-Fried Meat)
Another Japanese dish that originated in Osaka, kushikatsu is typically deep-fried meat and vegetables on a skewer. It’s a very simple meal, but can be varied in multiple ways. Shrimp, oyster, octopus, pork, chicken, beef and cuttlefish are often interchanged as the filling. Vegetables range from onion, pumpkin, broccoli, sweet potato, bell pepper and eggplant. It’s customary to dip your kushikatsu in the sauce before eating at Osaka restaurants like the historic Yakko in Shinsekai.
Address: 2-3-10 Ebisu Higashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka City
6. Ikayaki (Grilled Squid)
Ikayaki is a traditional fast food meal in Japan and is essentially baked or grilled squid with soy sauce. Depending on where you eat and what serving size you choose, you might be given a whole squid (minus the entrails of course), body rings or tentacles. It’s a very cheap meal and one of Japan’s best seafood dishes. Local ikayaki hotspot, Hanshin Meibutsu, is said to sell more than 10,000 ikayaki each day.
Address: 13-13 Umeda Kita-ku, Osaka
7. Luke’s Lobster
Luke’s Lobster proves that when it comes to lobster rolls, the key is to keep it simple. You won’t find excessive ingredients that distract from the fresh lobster taste. Instead, these rolls are perfectly crafted to bring out the lobster flavour alongside a warm and buttery bun. Luke’s Lobster started in America and has become one of Japan’s most popular cheap eats, also serving crab and shrimp rolls.
Address: 1-3-21 Shinsaibashisuji, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0085, Osaka Prefecture
8. Endo Sushi
Endo Sushi prides itself on a particular dining concept patrons have come to love. The term “sushi omakase” means you let the chef decide your meal for you, typically encompassing a number of plates. This award-winning Osaka sushi restaurant, located in the Osaka Central Fish Market, has mastered sushi omakase, thanks to its expert chefs and fresh ingredients. All the usual sides are available, including soy sauce, which you can paint onto your sushi using a brush.
Address: 1-1-86 Noda Fukushima-ku Osaka City
9. Sukiya Beef Bowls
Visiting Osaka on a budget? Prepare to get well acquainted with the scrumptious beef bowls at Sukiya. This restaurant is packed full of value and delicious meals and is very convenient with 18 locations around Osaka, including Osaka International Airport. The basic beef bowl, known locally as “gyudon”, is a good starting point, but we recommend adding extras such as kimchi, cheese, cod caviar, raw egg and tofu.
Address: Here are all the Osaka locations
10. Matcha Snacks at Osaka Jou Honzen
One of the most popular holiday snaps in Osaka is a photo of matcha soft serve in front of the historic Osaka Castle. Matcha is the local term for “green tea”, and Osaka Jou Honzen is one of the best places to try this Japanese delicacy. Located on the castle grounds, Osaka Jou Honzen serves up a range of matcha snacks including floats, buns and the classic ice cream waffle cone.
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002, Japan
11. Calbee Hokkaido Honey Butter Chips
Calbee was first established in 1949 and quickly dominated Japan’s snack food market, before opening a second chain called Calbee Plus. This is where you can find one of Japan’s greatest snacks, the Hokkaido honey butter chips. These deep-fried potato chips are freshly prepared and served warm. Snack kings and queens can add on ice cream or try the local speciality, Jagarico (potato chip sticks).
Address: Shinsaibashi 161, 1-6-1, Shinsaibashisuji, Osakashi Chuo-ku, Osaka
12. Torikara Stick
There’s a consensus around Osaka that no place does the torikara stick better than Kin-no-torikara. This food stall in Shinsaibashi is tucked in among shops and restaurants, standing out with its bright yellow signage and aroma of fried chicken breast. That’s essentially what a torikara stick is: fried chicken breast breaded and skewered. You can also add spices and toppings, such as sweet chilli, honey mustard and lemon.
Address: 1-5-12 Nmba Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka
Top 5 Osaka Dining Areas
Head to Dotonbori and you’ll be joining the hundreds of tourists who flock to this iconic Osaka neighbourhood every day. Most of them come for the shopping and entertainment, but they stay once they realise how much incredible food is on offer under all that neon lighting. A feast awaits along the canal, from classic sushi and izakaya restaurants to takoyaki stalls and ramen shops. Stay close to Dotonbori at the four-star Cross Hotel Osaka, which serves fresh Japanese food made by expert chefs right in front of you.
2. Food Halls
Department stores are scattered around Osaka, the best ones featuring food halls with a range of cuisines from around the world in addition to home-grown delights. JR Osaka has the Isetan food hall, which features an impressive collection of French pastries and fresh, locally-sourced seafood. You can also visit the fascinating food stands at Hanshin’s food hall, home to arguably the best ikayaki store in the city. Hotel Hanshin is located nearby and features the Japanese restaurant Hanaza, which dishes up sumptuous seasonal fare for lunch and dinner.
You may experience a strange feeling of familiarity while walking along the narrow laneways of Shinsekai. That’s likely because parts of the neighbourhood were modelled on Paris and Coney Island. Here you’ll find Paris’ emphasis on dining combined with a Japanese twist. One of Osaka’s local delicacies, kushikatsu, originated in Shinsekai and is now sold in multiple 24-hour shops alongside matcha desserts and takoyaki. Pair city vistas with traditional Japanese food at Zuientei, the on-site restaurant at Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka, known for its art museum and Cotswolds-inspired church.
Kitashinchi is one of Osaka’s most recognisable entertainment and nightlife districts, boasting a hearty collection of classy bars and all-night clubs. Once the place to find geisha girls, Kitashinchi still possesses an alluring ambience with its neon lights and first-class restaurants. The latter are popular among business people looking for a range of affordable dishes, from home-style dishes at Japanese taverns called izakayas to opulent multi-course dinners at award-winning establishments. Swissotel Nankai Osaka is the ideal hotel for travellers seeking a variety of on-site dining options, from crafted Japanese cuisine to skilful teppanyaki.
5. Osaka Bay Area
Osaka Bay Area might be best known as the location of Universal Studios Japan, but its collection of man-made islands are also a prime area for restaurants. The best place to start is at Naniwa Food Theme Park, where you can try all of Osaka’s native dishes including okonomiyaki and takoyaki. This gastronomic theme park is located inside the Tempozan Marketplace, another great spot to sample Japanese fast food. Rest easy at the five-star Hyatt Regency Osaka knowing you have the exclusive Irodori restaurant right outside, which specialises in authentic obanzai dishes.
Let Your Stomach Lead the Way in Osaka
Osaka is hands down one of the best destinations for foodies, where every day can take you to a different part of town to dine on Japan’s exotic cuisine. History and food share the same plate in Osaka, where restaurants with rich traditions have been the site of many food creations and are now considered experts in crafting exquisite meals.
If you’re on holiday for the food, you’ll want to consider booking a room at one of the hotels mentioned above. Not only do they place you in a prime location to explore one or more of Osaka’s best dining areas, but they also boast on-site Japanese restaurants with their own unique offerings, from rare cooking styles to seasonal fare. The next time you’re in Osaka, make sure you tick off as many of these local dishes as possible. We promise you nor your stomach will be disappointed.
What will you eat first in Osaka? Let us know in the comments below.