Osaka is famous throughout Japan for its cheap, hearty and delicious food. Here, we’ll introduce the main Osaka specialties and where to eat them.
Street vendors selling food: MACH Photos/Shutterstock.com
- Osaka specialties include tako-yaki, okonomiyaki, ramen and kushi-katsu.
- Of course, every Japanese specialty and regional cuisine is available in Osaka.
- In addition to Japanese food, you’ll find plenty of French, Italian, Chinese and Korean food in Osaka.
- You’ll find the most dining choices near train stations, office blocks and on the restaurant floors of department stores.
What’s Good in Osaka?
- Tako-yaki: Osaka’s most famous specialty is tako-yaki, which is usually translated as “octopus balls.” That doesn’t make it sound very appealing and, anyway, they’re not THOSE balls. They’re actually chunks of octopus legs dipped in batter and cooked in a special round mold. They’re served covered with a savory sauce and dried bonito flakes. They’re one of the world’s great street snacks and even if you don’t really like octopus, you might just like tako-yaki.
You’ll find tako-yaki stands all over Osaka, but they’re most common in Dotombori (Minami). Here are two tips: 1) Don’t stand on a long line for tako-yaki – the stuff at the stand next door is probably just as good, and 2) force yourself to wait a few minutes before eating your tako-yaki – they’re always served scalding hot and burnt mouths are the main hazard of eating tako-yaki.
- Ramen: Osaka is a ramen kind of town. The hearty, meaty and plebian nature of the dish is a nature fit for rough and ready Osaka. You’ll find ramen restaurants in every Osaka urban hub, but they’re most numerous in Minami and the Tennoji Area. See our Osaka’s Best Ramen Restaurants page for our top picks.
- Okonomiyaki: Like ramen, okonomiyaki is real Osaka food. It’s cheap, unpretentious and delicious, so naturally Osaka is filled with okonomiyaki restaurants. You’ll find plenty of good ones in Kita, Minami and Tennoji.
- Kushi-katsu: The fried food to beat all fried foods, kushi-katsu is another classic Osaka dish. “Kushi” means skewer and “katsu” is derived from “cutlet,” and the name means all kinds of goodies stuck on a stick, dipped in batter and deep fried. As you might imagine, this is drinking food (only someone half drunk would eat this stuff without feeling guilty), so you’ll find kushi-katsu restaurants primarily in drinking areas and entertainment districts. You’ll even sometimes see stalls selling it on the street. The two best areas to find kushi-katsu are Dotombori (Minami) and Shinsekai (Tennoji).
What Else Is Good In Osaka?
- Of course, Osaka has a lot more than greasy street food and unhealthy drinking snacks! You’ll find every variety and regional specialty of Japanese food in Osaka, including some truly refined kaiseki and kappo fare. You’ll also find a wide variety of international fare. As usual, you’ll find plenty of Italian, French and Thai restaurants. Osaka also has a relatively large Korean population, so Korean food is particularly good in Osaka.
- See our Osaka’s Best Restaurants page for recommended restaurants in each category.
Where Should You Eat in Osaka?
- You’ll find a huge selection of restaurants in and around each of Osaka’s urban hubs like Kita, Minami and Tennoji. Many large office towers have their own restaurant floors (often in the basement) and these are often great places to eat (just avoid the noon-1pm lunch rush hour).
- Department stores almost always have restaurant floors (often on their upper levels). Yeah, I know, eating in a department store sounds awful, but Japanese department stores are different. You’ll find branches of some of the city’s best restaurants on department store restaurant floors and these places are often very easy to enter.
- See our Osaka District Pages for complete lists of recommended restaurants in each district.
How Much Does It Cost To Eat In Osaka?
- Make no mistake: Osaka is a place where you can eat well for cheap. It’s significantly cheaper than both Tokyo and Kyoto and it rivals any city in Japan for dining value. Here is what you can expect to spend for food in Osaka.
- Budget: You can eat for as little as Y400 per meal at cheap noodle and rice joints in Osaka. But, if you’re willing to pay around Y900 per meal, you can eat some pretty good food in Osaka. As always, dinner might cost a bit more than lunch.
- Mid-Range: If you’re willing to spend between Y1,500 and Y2,000 per meal, you can eat some truly delicious food in Osaka. Indeed, this is the real sweet spot for Osaka dining.
- Luxury: At lunch, you can sample some of Osaka’s starred restaurants for as little as Y2,000 (although Y2,500~3,500 is more likely). At dinner, meals in starred restaurants will cost at least Y6,000 per person and double or triple this is certainly possible.
What About The Fancy Places? Do You Need Reservations?
- Although Osaka tends to be more open and friendly than either Tokyo or Kyoto, it’s still best to make reservations for “fancy” restaurants. Some high-end restaurants will accept direct reservations from foreign travelers and have English speakers on hand. But, this is not common.
Some people suspect racism when a high-end restaurant won’t accept a direct reservation from a foreign visitor. Unfortunately, many such places have had bad experiences with foreign guests making bookings but then not showing up. As usual, a few bad apples have spoiled it for everyone. Thus, the best way to get a reservation at a high-end place is to book through your hotel’s concierge. Another option is to use a specialized booking service (see following).
Restaurant Booking Services in Osaka
Several companies offer specialized restaurant booking services for foreigners in Osaka. Here is one such service with a good selection of Osaka restaurants: Open Table
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Inside Osaka Google map:
- Open the Osaka map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Osaka Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Osaka guide
- Check Osaka accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Osaka
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- View my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare flight prices and timings to find the best Japan flight deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, you might save money with a Japan Rail Pass – see if it's worth it for you
- Get a prepaid Icoca card to make travelling around Osaka easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world