Some of you regular readers of my blog have been wondering how I could possibly afford to eat at all these great restaurants for three months in Japan. Well, it’s not like I did everyday. As much as I would like to, you can’t eat grade A5 steak or world class sushi everyday in Japan. Sometimes whether it’s because of time or because I just blew a few hundred bucks on camera equipment or clothes, you just need to pick up a quick, cheap burger. Burger joints are also decent places to hang out in the middle of the night if you’ve missed your last train. There’s no sort of time limit on your stay and graveyard shift staff seem to understand that getting home via taxi costs an arm and a leg. It isn’t uncommon to see people sleeping at tables at burger establishments in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve done it myself a couple times after long nights out.
Not all burgers are cheap, though. I mean, about a year ago (almost to the day), the Dot Com Pho Crew and I spent about $600 on a burger lunch at Feenie’s. I wasn’t about to drop that kind of coin on one in Japan but from what I’ve heard from the locals, there are some very good burgers in Tokyo. There are even some restaurants that only serve great burgers. I didn’t get to check them out but I did stop by some of the bigger chains at least once each during my stay.
As much as it pains me to say so, you really can’t talk about fast food burgers without mentioning the golden arches. Yes, we all know the food at McDonald’s is horrible for you and you should probably avoid it whenever possible. I would’ve stayed away from McD’s altogether but I was intrigued by this…yes, an ebi (shrimp) burger.
I hate eating at McDonald’s but I always find myself trying the unique menu items (such as kimchi burgers in Korea or curry rice in Hong Kong) if I happen to see them. This is no exception.
Like everything Ronald sells, the ebi burger isn’t necessary bad…but it’s not good. I mean, it doesn’t really taste horrible but it doesn’t really taste like shrimp either. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Ughhh…I didn’t have a great experience at Lotteria, which is probably the second largest chain in Tokyo other than McDonald’s. Not only is that burger above not good but after a long day walking around the Ginza area, the place had the tiniest tables known to man and did not have a separate smoking section. I usually don’t have a problem with smoking. However, I struggle to understand why people smoke while eating. It ruins your sense of taste and I prefer not to eat in a big cloud of fumes.
The burger is supposed to be topped with a fried egg but it was cooked beyond recognition and tiny. I really can’t believe I’m going to say this but if you find a Lotteria next to a McDonald’s…you might want to go to Ronald’s place instead.
I’m not too sure how many of these there are around as I’ve only see it near the JR station in Akihabara. Since Akihabara is full of nerds that spend all their money on video games, comic books, porn and maid cafes, the area is short on good restaurants. However, if you find yourself hungry in nerd mecca, Becker’s is a surprisingly good bet. The burger decent and tasty and those fries are crispy and well seasoned.
I do, however, remember it being a bit more expensive than most but not by much. I think that plate was about $8-9.
Along with Lotteria and McDonald’s, you might also see a lot of Mos Burgers around. I remember seeing a few in Taiwan as well but we never got around to trying them. Out of all the fast food burger places, I actually liked Mos Burger and it was the only place I went to more than once. There’s a variety of burgers including a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) burger and various fish burgers, hot dogs and even tacos. The one I actually liked, however, was the chili burger. While not as overly massive and disgustingly saturated as a chili burger from Carl Jr’s, the Mos Burger chili burger was still a lot of messy, drippy goodness.
My only problem with Mos Burger is someone forgot to teach them how to season fries. That and they somehow don’t have any condiments in sight and I don’t know how to say “ketchup” in Japanese. Oh, that and they have napkins so tiny that you can’t wipe your hands with them unless you bunch them up into small piles of dead tree.
Overall, if you absolutely must grab a bite to eat or need a place to spend a few hours waiting for 5am so you can catch a train home, try to find a Mos Burger. But if at all possible, eat stuff that you can only get in Japan. Heck, even if you’re in a rush, grab some onigri (rice balls) at just about any convenience store or grab a quick bowl of ramen instead. However, there’s just tons of great food in Japan…so don’t waste your time on fast food. Be adventurous! Go eat some poisonous fish or grilled eels instead!