“What brings you to Fukuoka?”
“I heard there was a taco festival in town.”
Since the start of 2015, I’ve visited Fukuoka at least once a month for the sole purpose of trying new restaurants and foods. Other than that, I had no reason to be in Fukuoka. I was simply hungry for something other than Japanese food. First it was an avocado burger then a taco festival then a Sri Lankan restaurant all succeeded by desserts. So I decided to put together a list of a few of my new favorite eats in Fukuoka.
El Borracho – Website (Japanese only)
Address: Fukuoka Parco New Building B2F, 2-11-1 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka (福岡市中央区天神2-11-1 福岡パルコ新館 B2F)
Recommendation: Any of the tacos or the avocado salad bowl
Notes: In the basement of Parco (a popular department store) there is delicious collection of restaurants, chief among them being El Borracho. It is a Mexican restaurant claiming with confidence that it is the most authentic Mexican food in all of Japan. Listen, I didn’t come to argue, I came to eat. I sat down at the bar, ordered me an avocado salad bowl, and went to town. The lunch set came with crispy lettuce, tomatoes, avocados in a bowl with a dressing of your choice as well as warm pitas and rice on the side. Initially I had low expectations for this place, but the meal was really refreshing and the staff incredibly friendly. Would definitely eat there again in a heartbeat.
Pinkberry – Website (semi bilingual)
Address: 1-3 Ohori Park, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka (福岡県福岡市中央区大濠公園1-3)
Notes: Pinkberry holds a soft spot in my heart from my NYC days so when I visited Ohori Park, of course I had to indulge in an old favorite. If you don’t know, Pinkberry is a “create your own ice cream bowl” kind of shop that offers a few unique ice cream flavors like pomegranate, mango, and even green tea. You can customize your ice cream with a variety of toppings like fruits, cookies, sprinkles, and candies. It’s like the adult ice cream novelty shop. Personally, I tried the green tea ice cream and didn’t care for it. It tasted more like melon, but a very refreshing treat nonetheless, especially at the break of summer. At the Ohori Park location, you can sit inside or out on the patio. Both offer a great view of the water. Currently, there are only 2 Pinkberry locations in Japan, one in Tokyo and one in Fukuoka, but a second location is scheduled to open soon in Tenjin.
Ramen Stadium – Website (Japanese only)
Address: Located on the 5th floor of Canal City
Recommendation: Tantanmen (タンタン麺 or 担々麺)
Notes: Hakata ramen is perhaps one of the most famous types of ramen in Japan, typically served with curly, al dente ramen noodles soaked in a savory, milky pork-bone broth. I’ve tried Hakata ramen at 3 different restaurants, and I have to say that I’m not a fan. BUT I am a fan of Tantanmen which is a spicy Chinese ramen served in an oily red chili broth packed with vegetables and even boiled eggs on top. Choose any ramen shop in Canal City’s Ramen Stadium (located on the 5th floor) and give Tantanmen a try. Ramen is good all year round, but it’s best eaten for dinner in the winter after an event or work.
Elle Cafe – Website (Japanese only)
Address: Hakata Hankyu 4F, 1-1 Hakataeki Chuogai, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka (福岡市博多区博多駅中央街1－1 博多阪急4F)
Recommendation: Berry juice or Greens juice ($9 per bottle = YIKES!)
Notes: To me, Elle Cafe looks expensive, modern, and somewhat pretentious like a place where only the young, elite women gather for brunch. It’s like Elle Magazine in restaurant form. The only reason I knew about this place was because, here in Japan, cold press juice is the new trendy drink from the West, and I wanted to try some. I went for the Berry juice and Greens juice, both of which had a smooth taste with a perfect blend of sweet and citrus. The major takeaway? I’m definitely not a juice cleanse kind of girl, but I would go back if I ever craved a healthier liquid smoothie snack.
Freshness Burger – Website (Japanese only)
Address: Taketomi Building 1,2,3F, 5-26-4 Watanabedori, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka (福岡市中央区渡辺通5-26-4武富ビル1、2、3Ｆ)
Recommendation: Avocado burger
Notes: Freshness Burger is a typical burger joint that isn’t specific to Fukuoka, but the Fukuoka store is where I first got hooked on putting avocado on burgers. Who knew? In my 26 years, I never once thought of putting avocados on burgers, and boy, have I been missing out. The beef patty is fairly standard in terms of taste, but the avocado usually comes served soft so it melts into a thick, creamy avocado sauce that blends nicely with the lettuce and caramelized onions. If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat or late night snack, I definitely recommend the avocado burger from Freshness Burger.
Nana’s Green Tea Shop – Website
Address: Solaria Plaza Building 4F, 2-2-43 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka (福岡市中央区天神2-2-43ソラリアプラザビル 4F)
Recommendation: Nama Matcha Parfait (any of the matcha parfaits looked delicious though)
Notes: Again, Nana’s Green Tea Shop is not specific to Fukuoka, but the location in Tenjin’s Solaria Plaza department store is a very modern and chic space with a great view overlooking the square behind Tenjin station. While the cafe has a variety of food options, this is more of a place you would come meet your friends and catch up over coffee. Or in my case, a parfait. I figured what better place to try my first green tea parfait than a cafe that specializes in green tea flavored desserts. I ordered the Matcha Nama Chocoalte Parfait, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The parfait was bigger than I expected so it was a bit much for one person, but it had every kind of texture. Whipped cream, chewy sweet red bean, crunchy cereal, raw green tea chocolate, and jelly. Fabulous dessert befitting of a celebratory occasion or you know, a typical Saturday afternoon.
Hungry Heaven Burger – Website (Japanese only)
Address: 1-17-14-1 Imaizumi, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka (福岡市中央区今泉1-17-14-1 1F)
Recommendation: Avocado burger with fries
Notes: It can be difficult to find a good American burger in Japan. Thank heaven for Hungry Heaven, a small burger joint that always has a line out the door at opening hour. This place is tucked away a couple blocks behind the Tsutaya/Starbucks building in Tenjin, and their burgers are massive so come with an empty stomach. I mean look at the picture above. The burger was as tall as my whole head. Since there’s no way to elegantly eat a burger of that size, it’s best to accept that you’re going to look like a savage while you chow down. And the fries are cheap soft and oily just how I love and remember them from my McDonalds eating days. The burgers usually have raw vegetables untouched by oils or sauces, a delectably juicy beef patty, and tartar sauce, mustard, and mayo dripping from every edge (if you so desire). I’ve really come to appreciate a good burger joint with a cozy hole-in-the-wall atmosphere. Thank goodness I don’t live in Fukuoka otherwise I’d be eating here every day.
Nuwara Eliya – Website (Japanese only)
Address: Daisan Nishidori Building 5F, 2-1-1 Daimyo, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka (福岡市中央区大名2-1-1大産西通ビル5F)
Recommendation: Noodle curry lunch set
Notes: When I walked in, people were frantically dabbing their foreheads with napkins which I took as a sign that this was perhaps going to be a very spicy lunch. During lunch hours (11:30-5:00), Nuwara Eliya only offers 4 kinds of curry lunch sets, and I went with the Noodle Curry. On a giant plate full of milky orange colored curry was a giant scoop of thin noodles in the middle mixed with green onions and shredded carrots and cucumbers, a curry stained potato, and chicken. As far as spice level, I need not have worried because it barely set my mouth on fire. I would’ve appreciated more of a challenge but overall, a delicious and filling meal. Waiters scurried around the restaurant to ensure every customer’s cup is always full of water, and each lunch set comes with ice cream. The flavor of the day was a tangy sorbet with mango sauce on top. Nuwara Eliya is located in a trendy neighborhood called Daimyo where it sits among a myriad of ethnic restaurants, cute cafes, and bars. Glad I tried this place and would gladly go back over and over again.
Ichiran Ramen – Website
Address: 1-10-15 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka (福岡市 中央区天神1-10-15)
Notes: Ichiran Ramen is the kind of place you might go after a bad day at work. The Tenjin location is tucked away in an alley between major shopping centers, and inside, space is limited. Like many ramen shops, you order what you want from a machine before sitting down. What’s nice about Ichiran is that there is only 1 item on the menu, and the machine has pictures and English titles so ordering is easy. Individual seats are sectioned off with wooden partitions so you won’t be disturbed by other customers. In fact, you don’t even have to interact with the servers. You can eat in complete solitude. When you sit down, you fill out a form to customize your ramen and slip it through a small window to the kitchen staff. You can specify how you want your ramen served in a variety of ways like thickness of the broth, spice level, overcooked/undercooked noodles, meat or no meat, and/or types of onions (green, white, or none). The broth was oily, greasy, spicy, and searing hot, perfect for a cool, rainy day. So far, this is the best ramen I’ve had in Hakata.