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Cheap and Tasty! Seven Select Beef Bowl Chains in Japan

If you want "tasty, cheap and fast" food in Japan, you will want to get gyudon beef bowls with thin slices of beef simmered with other ingredients such as onions and served on rice. Here are seven select gyudon chains.

1. Yoshinoya

This is one of Japan's three great houses of gyudon beef bowls, and is a long-established gyudon shop that opened in 1899. Today, it is famous as a major gyudon chain with branches not only in Japan, but around the world. It now has a wide variety of menu items other than gyudon, but until about 2003, it only sold gyudon and is known for its dedication to this dish. Their gyudon (380 JPY for regular size (incl. tax)) is made by slowly simmering beef and onions in a sweet and savory sauce. It is a flavor you will never get tired of, and is enhanced by their tasty red ginger condiment. You won't want to miss the secret sauce that is a result of more than 100 years of research. The unique taste made by adding sweet fresh ginger to a white-wine based fermented seasoning is the secret to the flavors of this long-established gyudon restaurant. *Prices may vary depending on branch.

1. Yoshinoya

Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market Food C, 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

2. Matsuya

Matsuya is also one of the three great houses of gyudon. This chain is characterized by its large menu including not only gyudon beef bowls, but also curries, set menus, and morning set menus. It is also known for the free miso soup that comes with each dish, and the ease of ordering using tickets. The Premium Gyumeshi (380 JPY for a regular size (incl. tax)), which is served primarily at Matsuya restaurants in the Kanto region, is popular. It is made using aged chilled beef, an additive-free sauce and 100% Akita Komachi rice. The balance between the soft and sweet carefully selected onions, the meat, and sauce creates a sublime taste you might get hooked on.

*The menu and prices may depend on the branch.

2. Matsuya

26-9 1F Metro Bldg., Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

3. SUKIYA

Sukiya is also one of Japan's three great gyudon houses, and has the most branches in Japan. It is popular for its atmosphere that is welcoming to all, including women on their own and families. A favorite of family diners is the Okosama Gyudon Sukisuki Set (370 JPY (incl. tax)). This set includes a child's size gyudon, toy, drink, and simmered hijiki seaweed. The drink is selected from among apple juice, fruit juice, green tea, and black oolong tea. The chain is known for the variety of gyudon toppings and sizes, and the standard gyudon is 350 JPY (incl. tax) for a regular size. The Gyudon with 3 Cheeses (490 JPY (incl. tax) for regular size) is popular among those who like rich flavors. Enjoy the spectacular combination of gyudon and fragrant mixed cheese and gorgonzola powder.

*The menu and prices may depend on the branch.

3. SUKIYA

1F Comodo Umeda Bldg., 1-52 Chayamachi, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

4. Nakau

Nakau is a chain that serves primarily rice bowls and Kyoto-style udon noodles. Their gyudon is the Japanese-style Wafu Gyudon (350 JPY (incl. tax) for a regular size) that uses white spring onions instead of onions. The sweetness and rich aroma unique to white spring onions whets the appetite. The homemade sauce has fat from Japanese beef added to achieve soft, deep umami flavors. At Nakau, you can enjoy a unique gyudon different from those served elsewhere.

*The menu and prices may depend on the branch.

4. Nakau

1F Daiichi Doboku Bldg., 53-1 Higashikujo Kamitonoda-cho, Minami-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

5. Tokyo Chikarameshi

Tokyo Chikarameshi is famous for its grilled gyudon. Although gyudon toppings are usually thinly sliced beef and onions simmered in a sweet and savory soy sauce based sauce, the gyudon at Tokyo Chikarameshi is made by grilling slightly thicker slices to add fragrance and achieve a texture that is different from other gyudon. In addition to their standard Ganso Yakigyudon (430 JPY (incl. tax) for regular size), they have a wide selection of dishes such as set meals including grilled beef or fried chicken as well as pork bowls.

*The menu and prices may depend on the branch.

5. Tokyo Chikarameshi

1F Totani Bldg., 1-17-2 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

6. Don-tei

Don-tei is a chain with several locations, primarily in Naha in Okinawa. In addition to gyudon, the menu includes curries, sets, and other rice bowl dishes. The standard menu item is Gyudon (390 JPY), but if you want a more substantial meal, try the Don-tei Special (680 JPY), or "Donsupe" for short, that is a combination of gyudon and cutlet curry and is recommended by Don-tei fans. It is a voluminous and filling dish.

6. Don-tei

1F Takakura Bldg., 2-1-6 Makishi, Naha-shi, Okinawa

7. (Bonus Entry) Sutameshi

Sutameshi is a chain where you can enjoy pork bowls instead of gyudon. The Sutameshi (680 JPY (excl. tax) for a medium) is a spicy dish with pork belly firmly flavored with garlic and soy sauce which can be eaten with raw egg by those who prefer milder flavors. In addition to the pork bowl, the chain has a wide selection of set dishes with meat so it is recommended for when you want a substantial meal.

*The menu and prices may depend on the branch.

7. (Bonus Entry) Sutameshi

1F Sakuragi Bldg., 1-15-1 Nishi-shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Please compare various gyudon when you are traveling in Japan.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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