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Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya
Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya

Dining in izakayas is very popular among both Japanese people and foreigners. Izakayas are traditional Japanese bars and are casual places where you go to drink and eat. They usually have huge menus, consisting of mostly Japanese food. Most items come in small portions, similar to tapas, that everyone shares.  Many companies host their company dinners or after-work drinking sessions in izakayas, and it’s also a popular spot for groups of friends.

If you have ever walked along the streets in Shibuya or Shinjuku and been approached by someone holding a small menu and luring you into their restaurants, the restaurants are probably izakayas. 

There are many different kinds of izakayas, from izakaya chains to local izakayas, high-end izakayas and even fusion izakayas.

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Street lights

Why do people love going to izakayas so much? 

Well, first of all, izakayas are very much about sharing. The size of each dish is relatively small, making it perfect for you to try and sample various kinds, as opposed to regular restaurants where everyone orders just their one own meal. 

Izakayas are usually quite affordable. There are some izakayas where each plate costs only 300 yen (USD$3). From a plate with two skewers, a plate of gyōza, a hot plate of rice, a bowl of noodles, a beer… each for just 300 yen!

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Tori
Impress Watch

Most restaurants you find in Japan tend to be relatively quiet, where people keep to themselves. Izakayas are one of the few places where you can be as loud as you want without judgement. It is a normal sight to see drunk Japanese people tumbling around in izakayas, laughing and talking loudly. 

A lot of izakayas also have private rooms or areas so you and your group can have some privacy. As most apartments in Japan are small and not soundproofed, inviting your friends over for a fun gathering or a party is not a common practice. So these private areas in izakayas are the next best options. 

It is very normal for people to spend hours and hours in izakayas, right into the wee hours of the morning. Seating is comfortable and cosy so you could very easily lose track of time. However, during busy hours, you might get a limited seating of two to three hours, but that’s still plenty of time to get food, drinks and have fun. 

Japanese craft beer class beer comparison and explaination
Navitime Travel

Here are some of the must-try food and drinks in izakayas. 

What to drink? 

You’ll be surprised how many drinks there are on an izakaya menu, so here are a few classic drinks. There’ll be both Western and Japanese alcohol. If you aren’t familiar with Japanese alcohol, check out our list of all Japanese alcohols.

Beer

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Beer
Diamond Online

Izakayas usually have a few beers to choose. It is probably the most common option for people to pick when visiting an izakaya. 

Nihonshu (Sake)

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Nihonshu
Eizaburo

Most izakayas don’t specialise in nihonshu so you might not find a wide range of options, but it’s absolutely a good place to dip your toes into the nihonshu scene. 

Highball

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Highball
Ieno Bar

Highball is a whisky mixed with soda. It is fascinating to see highball on tap, where the whisky-and-soda mix is premade. The popularity of highball has grown a lot over the past few years and is a must-try!

Shochu

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Shochu
Is Japan Cool?

Shochu is basically Japanese vodka, made with grains or vegetables. In izakayas, shochu is usually served with water, either cold or hot. When in doubt, you can ask the servers for suggestions.

Umeshu

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya umeshu
Japan Guide

If you’ve never tried umeshu, you have to! It is plum wine, a little sweet with a tiny twist. You can have it on the rocks, straight, or mixed with soda. I would personally recommend trying it on the rocks. It is very easy to drink and before you know it, you will realise you are drunk. 

Cocktails

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya cocktails
Thrillist

You can get your typical Western cocktails in izakayas. Gin tonic, Moscow mule, Rum coke etc. Don’t expect them to be strong though since most of them have only a small amount of alcohol in them. 

Cassis

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Cassis
Samurai Chajin

Cassis is probably the most popular liquor option for people that don’t like alcohol or don’t have a high tolerance. Cassis is blackcurrant liquor and people usually drink it with orange juice or soda. It is also a good drink to end with on your night out since it is quite refreshing. 

What to eat in izakaya? 

Gyōza

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya gyoza
Seikatsu Club

You can usually get grilled gyoza or pan-fried gyoza in izakayas. Most of them have pork mixed with vegetable stuffing. They tend to come in five or six pieces, and you can always order more if you like it. 

Tamagoyaki

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Tamagoyaki
Favy

Tamagoyaki is an omelette. It might sound basic and simple but trust me, they are extremely tasty. When thinking about what to eat in an izakaya, this is definitely a lot of people’s go-to choice. Some izakayas also have different styles or ways of cooking it as well, adding something extra to the dish. 

Edamame

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya edamame
Matcha

Just like chips, edamame is something you probably can’t stop reaching out for and eating. It is bean pods that have been steamed or boiled with a hint of salt. It’s simple to eat and definitely a delicious option! 

Karāge

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Karage
Favy-Jp

This deep-fried chicken dish is usually the go-to order for izakaya-lovers, the perfect dish when thinking about what to eat in izakaya. Chicken lightly coated with a layer of flour or potato starch, then beautifully deep-fried… Japan has their special way of making deep-fried chicken (it’s not at all like KFC or Western fried chicken) and the crispy outer layer plus the juicy chicken meat is one you have to try!

Tebasaki

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Tebasaki
Yotteba

Another great izakaya food is chicken wings, tebasaki, Different izakayas have different ways of making their Tebasaki. Fried with soy sauce, deep-fried with salt, served cold… let your imagination run wild with this dish!

Sashimi

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya sashimi
Culture Trip

Most izakayas have a great sashimi plate option where you get a few different types of sashimi. If you’re ambivalent about sashimi, this will be a good option as you can try different kinds of sashimi and figure out which kinds you like. 

Tofu

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya Tofu
Gigazine

When you think of what to eat in an izakaya, you probably don’t think tofu. You may think tofu is plain but izakayas spice it up! You can usually get plain tofu or deep-fried tofu served with a dash of soy sauce, radish, ginger, green onion and fish flakes. It might sound simple but it is amazing, with different textures and flavours exploding in your mouth. 

Yakitori

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya yakitori
Torihana

Izakaya is probably where you get to try all your basic yakitori options. Most izakayas serve a mix-and-match yakitori plate with a range of skewers you can pull apart and share among the table. Check out our list of all the different types of yakitori you can try! We personally love yakitori so much, we’ve put it on our list of must-try Japanese foods!

Cabbage

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya cabbage
Tabelog

Simple and yet the perfect dish to have with your meal. A lot of places offer cabbage for free, or they might have it on the menu, but either way, you can ask for free top-ups. It is common for izakayas to serve cabbage with miso or sauce on the side. 

Yakisoba

Food and drinks you should try at an izakaya yakisoba
Epicurious

End your meal with a bang with the delicious yakisoba! Yakisoba is a common Japanese dish. It’s fried noodles with small pieces of meat, some vegetables such as bean sprouts and cabbage, along with soy sauce. There aren’t many restaurants that serve yakisoba or maybe you just don’t have the time to find a yakisoba restaurant, so having yakisoba while at an izakaya is probably the most efficient, convenient way to try it. 


Japanese abbreviated words in temple

Want to find out more about Japan travel and explore the ins and outs of Japan?

Check out the free resources here!

Every izakaya is different and there are many different options for you. When in doubt, try out some of these options for your next trip to an izakaya!

you may check Japanese food and drinks you can make at home blog here: https://flip-guide.com/blogs/what-to-do-at-home-during-lockdown-japanese-food-drinks/?

you may also check All the different types of yakitori you can get blog here: https://flip-guide.com/blogs/all-the-different-types-of-yakitori-you-can-get/?

you may also check All the different types of ramen you must try in Japan blog here: https://flip-guide.com/blogs/all-the-different-types-of-ramen-you-must-try-in-japan/?

If you have any questions or want to get in touch, feel free to DM us on Instagram or message us on Facebook Messenger! We would love to talk with you!

FLIP GUIDE TEAM

Hey friend!

Just like you, we are foreigners from all around the world.

When we first arrived in Tokyo, we all found this city to be overwhelming, not sure where to begin.

During the years that we have lived here in Japan, we have discovered and visited countless famous tourist attractions as well as unique and underground places.

We are now proud to say that we are experts of Japan and would love to share the knowledge with all of you!

 

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