The following is a selection of our favorite places to eat in Kyoto, organized by different types of food.
KyoTours Japan does not officially endorse any of the following businesses or receive any financial restitution for recommending their services.
For further questions about dining in Kyoto, feel free to contact us.
This is one of the best spots in the city to try tonkotsu pork broth ramen. The soup is thick and creamy, and the simmered pork melts in your mouth. Nagahama is more of a food counter than a proper restaurant, so don't expect fine dining. There may be a line in the evening, but it's worth it. The locals know this is the place to go.
Dai Ichi Asahi
You will definitely be waiting in a line at this place, but it's absolutely worth it. Simple shoyu soy sauce broth and firm noodles topped with pork, green onion, and a few slivers of bamboo shoot. The menu is simple: ramen, gyoza dumpling, and beer. That's all you need. Really wonderful simple meal that hits the spot. Very popular with locals, even for breakfast.
In a city with a million soba places, I'm only listing one because I really believe this is the best. Ukiya is relatively young for Kyoto, founded only in 1929. The same family is still running the place, and their commitment making the finest buckwheat noodles in the city is evident. Ukiya also serves great tempura and a wonderful sukiyaki beef bowl. Two locations, one in the geisha neighborhood of Pontocho, the other in Teramachi shopping district. Closed Mondays.
One of the more well-known tempura establishments in Kyoto. Prices are high at dinner, but are more reasonable for lunch. The fried vegetables, fish, and meat pieces are delivered fresh to your table, and the experience is structured as a multicourse kaiseki-style meal where it's just as much about presentation as it is taste. Reservations suggested. Several locations in the south Gion area.
A great casual lunch spot, Makino serves large rice bowls topped with fresh tempura. You'll be able to try some things you've probably never eaten before here, like fried eel and tempura soft-boiled egg. The sauce drizzled on top of the tempura is particularly good, and the shrimps are massive! Expect a wait a t lunch time.
Izakaya (Japanese pub)
Yamachan is actually a restaurant from Nagoya and not Kyoto, but it's still worth visiting. Izakayas are where the locals go after work to eat and drink in a casual environment, so the feeling here is very upbeat and friendly. The menu has a little bit of everything from sashimi to tempura to meat skewers, but the main attraction here is their famous chicken wings. They really are great and very fun to eat, especially with some cold beer and a variety of other snacks on the table. Keep the orders of food coming and don't worry about the menu, it's all in English with lots of pictures. Only downside is that it can get smokey later in the evening when it gets busy (that's just how izakayas are, unfortunately).
A tiny hole-in-the-wall place that's been around for several generations. This eatery offers great mid-range lunch specials that are just as tasty as high-end sushi dinners elsewhere. Staff is friendly and accommodating, but sometimes this place fills up during lunch hours. Great local mom-and-pop shop with a homey feel. Taxi driver will not know this place, so you're better off getting dropped at Takashimaya dept store nearby and using google maps to walk over. English menu available, closed Wednesdays
Arashiyama Naritaya Sushi
Another tiny spot that is more of local secret than a Michelin star place. There WILL be a line here at lunch time, but it WILL be worth waiting for. Excellent no-frills sushi served up quickly at a reasonable price. This place is a gem, and more tourists are starting to discover it thanks to online reviews. Kind of hard to find (it's behind the Lawson convenience store), this is an excellent choice for lunch in Arashiyama.
I love this place. Located up on the 11th floor of Isetan dept store in Kyoto Station, Eijuan often gets overlooked by the crowds walking past it to other dining destinations nearby. They serve Kyoto-style meals centered around grilled fish with lots of side dishes. Most of their selection is seasonal, so you never know what sides you'll be served. Usually fresh vegetables or locally-made tofu, but sometimes they'll feature spa-boiled eggs or other interesting items. The fish is excellent, and you have a variety to choose from. Great for those who prefer their seafood cooked instead of raw.
This is a very popular spot to try okonomiyaki pancakes and well-known among tourists, so it can get busy. I know the locals have other favorite places for okonomiyaki, but you know what, Tanto is pretty good. The location is great as well, and easily accessible while sightseeing in Gion. I really enjoy their negiyaki, a pancake with a heaping portion of green onions chopped into it. This place is best for an early lunch as it gets very busy at peak hours. English menu available, closed Thursdays.
Kyoto's best tofu. Period. Large meals with a pot of boiled tofu and multiple small side dishes of grilled tofu, sesame tofu, pickles, rice, tempura, and seasonal vegetables. Lunch prices are mid range, but dinner can get up there. Check out the beautiful garden on the grounds before you leave. Reservations suggested for dinner.
If Junsei is closed or too busy, walk over to Okutan nearby on the edge of Nanzenji temple complex. Their presentation is not as impressive, but the food is great and the rustic wooden building is charming. This is similar to the kind of tofu meal that priests would eat on special occasions, so it's a nice chance to try something you can't find in many places. They also have a location at the Ninenzaka steps near Kiyomizdera, but it gets crowded and is a bit more touristy.
I fully understand that eel might not be the most inviting dish for many people, but it's certainly worth trying at this old establishment in downtown Kyoto. The menu is simple: rice bowl topped with grilled eel and sweet sauce, or the same bowl with a fluffy egg omelette covering the eel. Both are large and filling. The upstairs dining room has a great old Kyoto vibe, and downstairs is lively and fun as well. Eel isn't the cheapest lunch in town, but Kane-yo manages to keep the price within market value. Highly recommended if you want to try some unique local seafood.
That's right, pickles. Kyoto is well known for it's pickled vegetables, and you can make a whole lunch out of it! These are not the deli-style cucumber pickles that you're used to! Nishiri uses carrots, daikon radish, pumpkin, onion, cabbage, eggplant, melon, and other special seasonal items to create some really unique tastes. Nishiri is known as one of Kyoto's top pickle shops, but not many people know they have restaurants as well. Their sushi made from pickled vegetables instead of fish is fun and refreshing, and a plate of mixed pickled vegetables paired with some chilled sake makes for an excellent light lunch. Multiple locations in the city, but their Gion shop works well when sightseeing.