An izakaya is a Japanese tavern or pub. Not a fancy bar, or refined restaurant.
This is where the Japanese hang out, enjoy drinks, and really relax.
Izakayas serve unlimited beer and other alcoholic drinks but they also are famed for their delicious menu including many popular Japanese dishes.
Here are ten of the best izakaya foods for a relaxed night out in Japan.
Table of Contents
10 Best Izakaya Foods for a Relaxed Night Out
A visit to the izakaya is all about good ol’ fashioned Japanese hospitality.
Many of these joints are family-run and will really take care of you.
For tavern owners, it’s a shame if you are not fully fed and watered before heading out of their establishment.
Take a quick look at the izakaya way with this short video of an elderly couple who run a charming village izakaya!
Here are some of the mouthwatering meals you can enjoy:
10. The ‘Tapas’ of the East
When you sit down in an izakaya, don’t expect to dine.
Tavern owners are experts at sending over a mouthwatering selection of small-plate dishes like this fried rice bowl wasa and spicy ramen all washed down with ice-cold Orion Beer.
Eat to your heart’s content and sleep it all off!
Edamame, boiled soybean in the pod sprinkled with sea salt, is a staple group starter for a night out at the izakaya. Just remember not to eat the pods.
Pick them up and squeeze the delicious freshly steamed beans into your mouth.
Tamagoyaki is an izakaya favorite.
This classic Japanese omelet is made by cooking and rolling sequential layers of beaten eggs in a special rectangular omelet pan called a makiyakinabe.
The layers upon layers of light and fluffy egg are incredibly moreish!
The Japanese know how to grill!
You can rely on an izakaya for crowd-pleasers like yakitori (charcoal-grilled meat skewers).
Just line up at the bar or communal table to enjoy delicious grilled chicken and beef that will be delivered to your table.
6. Goma-Kanpachi Great Amberjack with quail egg and sesame dressing
Just because it’s pub food, doesn’t mean that izakaya cuisine is unsophistic.
Think again and tuck into delicious dishes like this velvety seasonal Goma-Kanpachi Great Amberjack served with silky raw quail egg.
The KFC of the East! Karaage chicken is a staple of a drunken izakaya night out and probably prevents many drinkers from becoming over-inebriated.
Japanese fried chicken which originated in Oita Prefecture but is now a nationwide hit that puts fear into the colonel!
4. Agedashi dōfu
This hot silken tofu dish is a must-try as an izakaya appetizer.
Chunks of tofu are cut into cubes, dusted with cornstarch, and then deep-fried until golden brown. It is usually served in dashi.
Yakisoba is a late-night favorite and izakayas do it best.
Blunt soba is the strongest and perfect for this legendary dish. Bring your appetite or be prepared to share as the servings are always generous!
Izakaya owners pride themselves on the freshness and quality of their ingredients.
So you can be assured that a platter of delicious sashimi will be on the menu.
Tasty sashimi is a light and refreshing dish that is perfect with house sake. If raw fish isn’t your thing, izakayas all do specialty grilled or fried fish.
Korokke is another delicious izakaya dish, that is actually a type of yōshoku, Japanese-style Western food.
It roughly compares to the French potato croquette, but is a little more elaborate, with satisfying fillings like ham, cheese, crab, or minced meat.
You will need several rounds of this to wash down with your beer!
Best Izakaya Foods for a Relaxed Night Out FAQs
What are the two types of izakaya?
The two types of izakaya tavern prioritize either plentiful drink or food:
1. Nomi-hōdai izakayas are all-you-can-drink, budget boozers that are famed for their cheap prices.
2. Tabe-hōdai are all-you-can-eat taverns that usually have a yakitori grill to turn out a variety of meat and fish dishes.
However, these establishments usually have a time limit of a couple of hours.
What do you eat at Izakaya?
Izakaya cuisine is bar food and includes many popular Japanese crowd-pleasers like edamame, chicken yakitori, and other grilled skewers, and the Yōshoku favorite, korokke. Nothing formal or elaborate, just simple, tasty food that can be quickly prepared.
What is the difference between izakaya and bar?
An izakaya has a different setup from a conventional bar. Patrons in these taverns are seated rather than standing and mingling, with groups of diners at individual tables.
Bars are a bit more sophisticated with more expensive beverages like craft beer and cocktails, while izakaya will have a more limited range of drinks and tapped beer.
What does izakaya mean in Japanese?
Izakaya means “stay-drink-place”, a place where you can sit down and grab a drink with friends and associates. The kanji for izakaya are 居酒屋.
What do you say when entering an izakaya?
The traditional greeting on entering an izakaya is ‘Irasshaimase’ (いらっしゃいませ) or yokoso (ようこそ), meaning ‘welcome’ and ‘nice to see you’. They will then ask you how many people in your party, “Nanmei?”
Just hold up your fingers to indicate the number. When your drinks arrive don’t forget to share a rousing ‘Kampai!’ or ‘cheers’.
How much do you spend at an izakaya?
Nomi-hōdai and tabe-hōdai izakaya will charge a fixed price for unlimited food and drink within a certain time period. Expect to pay up to 3000 yen for a hearty meal and drink.
What is the dress code for an izakaya restaurant?
Izakayas have ZERO dress code, making it easy to hit the town for a night out in shorts, flip-flops, or whatever else you have to hand.
Do you have to drink at an izakaya?
No, there is no pressure to drink alcohol at an izakaya. Simply order a soda, juice, or water. Some taverns may insinuate that you have to have a drink of some sort.
- Best Izakaya Foods for a Relaxed Night Out (My Top 10 Picks)
- Edo Kiriko Whiskey Glasses (Japanese Heritage in Every Pour)
- Japanese Viral Foods on Social Media (Discover the Top 10)
- Amezaiku: 10 Amazing Examples of Japanese Candy Art
- 25 Must-Try Japanese Desserts: Old and New
- Sipping in Style: Exploring the World of Sake Sets