Want to Try Tachigui Soba? 3 Standing Soba Restaurants to Get You Started
Tokyo is full of them. You might have spotted one on a busy train station platform or tucked away in a dark alley. A small space, a high counter and a row of standing men slurping noodles with their heads bowed. This is tachigui soba (standing soba), one of Japan's most ancient fast foods!
Standing food stalls originated in Japan back in the Edo period (1603-1868) as a way for people to eat more quickly. These stalls served mostly sushi and buckwheat noodles called soba.
To this day, Japanese people are as busy as ever and standing soba restaurants are never out of fashion. Not only is it quick, it's also cheap. And not only is it cheap, it's also delicious.
It might be hard to pick a restaurant to try, and some of them might look hard to get in. I scouted the metropolis and put together a selection of three standing soba places to get you started. But first, here is a useful list of soba dishes to help you order.
The Most Common Soba Dishes
Kake soba | かけそば
Plain soba topped with sliced scallion. This is usually the cheapest item on the menu.
Tanuki soba | たぬきそば
Soba topped with bits of tempura batter
Kitsune soba | きつねそば
Soba topped with deep-fried tofu
Tempura soba | 天ぷらそば
Soba topped with tempura
Ebiten soba | 海老天そば
Soba topped with shrimp tempura
Niku soba | 肉そば
Soba topped with meat
Tsukimi soba | 月見そば
Soba topped with a raw egg
Wakame soba | わかめそば
Soba topped with wakame seaweed
Sansai soba | 山菜そば
Soba topped with wild vegetables
Mori soba | もりそば
Chilled soba served with a dipping sauce on the side
Zaru soba | ざるそば
Mori soba topped with shredded nori seaweed
Beginner Level: Tachigui Soba Inside the Station
If you're new to standing soba, my recommendation is to start with one of the restaurants inside train stations. They usually have ticket vending machines, which makes it easier to order. Most of the time they also have an English menu.
You'll find standing soba restaurants in all the main stations like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, and Akihabara. I chose Ajisai in Nakano station because it has an English menu and the station is not too crowded
When you order from a vending machine, you'll get a ticket like this. Give it to the person behind the counter. They might ask you if you prefer soba or udon noodles, or if you want it hot or cold. Once your order is made, grab some water and pick a spot at the counter.
Kake soba (270 yen)
After a long wait of about 30 seconds, here is your steaming bowl of soba! Slurp it up and then hop on a train, the Japanese businessman way.
Ajisai Chaya | あじさい茶屋
Address: JR Nakano Station (Platform 1-2, 5-6) 5-31-1, Nakano, Tokyo
Hours: Weekdays 6:40am-10:00pm. Saturday, Sunday and holidays 6:40am-6:00pm
Intermediate Level: Try Some Original Tachigui Soba
Now that you're familiar with tachigui soba, why not step away from the big chain restaurants and try for a more unique experience? Many establishments personalize their menu and offer original creations along with the regular kinds of soba. Also, the quality of the food is even better!
This standing soba hub is right outside exit A7 of Tokyo Metro Nihombashi station. "Yomoda" is Ehime Prefecture dialect for "carefree" or "easygoing". This is the atmosphere that the owner, a native of Ehime, wants to recreate in the restaurant.
Yomoda soba offers a wide variety of special toppings and it has weekly specials.
Weekly soba: soba with wild grasses (400 yen)
The menus on the walls and on the vending machines all have English.
Pro tip: Some restaurants have a wet towel on the counter to clean up after patrons eat. Be careful not to use it to clean your mouth like a friend of mine did!
Yomoda Soba Nihombashi Main Shop | よもだそば 日本橋店
Address: Yaesu Nakadori Bldg. 1F, 2-1-20 Nihombashi, Chuo, Tokyo
Hours: Weekdays 7:00am-10:00pm. Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10:30am-3:00pm
Expert Level: Try Some Fancy Tachigui Soba
Japanese people love to experiment with food. The recent rise in popularity of tachigui soba saw the birth of new places mixing traditional Japanese with Western cuisine. To top our list, here is a modern standing soba restaurant that I loved and recommend.
The stylish font and white door certainly might not make you think of a standing soba place. But this is what Sobausa is, a standing soba restaurant with a twist.
"I wanted to open a tachigui soba where anyone could enter easily, and create dishes with ingredients that I love," says the owner. Here the atmosphere is relaxed and the clientele is mostly young.
Basil cold soba (850 yen)
The dipping sauce is filled with fresh basil and decorated with two cherry tomatoes.
Pro tip number two: in most standing soba restaurants patrons return their trays after they've eaten. If you're not sure what you should do, watch the other clients.
Sobausa | そばうさ
Address: 1F, 2-5-2 Kojimachi, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Hours: Monday to Friday 11:00am-3:00pm/5:00pm-9:00pm. Saturday 11:00am-3:00pm
Closed on Sundays and holidays
I hope that these three shops were a good inspiration for you to try tachigui soba and other standing restaurants. As an old tradition and Japan's first fast food, tachigui is an experience worth trying!
About the author
Laura is an Italian living and working in Tokyo. She loves exploring hidden and unknown places, taking pictures and listening to Punk Rock music. When she’s not busy doing the above, she might enjoy a craft beer or play the sanshin (an Okinawan instrument similar to a shamisen).
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THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 06 12,2017 Author：DiGJAPAN! 編集部