Japan is certainly a culture who adores and appreciates all types of foods. In fact it’s said that Japan could certainly have the finest food in all the world. Many famous chefs have come to Japan from all over the world to learn the food culture in Japan, but to also bring their own cuisine. Over the years you get a melting pot of all types of foods that have in many ways been improved on and at times given that Asian flare!
But when it comes to eating out, a lot of people of Japan are not always looking for that 5 star restaurant to eat at, in fact there are some stable favorites (meals) in Japan that the majority of the people of Japan enjoy and don’t mind if it’s from a cheap izakaya or restaurant.
The term B-Class Gourment (B-kyu – said like B-Q) is used for restaurants who make good affordable meals (it could also mean a term for someone who likes good affordable meals). People from around Japan will travel long distances to eat at an affordable BUT delicious restaurant. Perhaps you’ve heard that at times a certain ramen or izakaya shop will end up with lines going around block corners off and off into the sunset?
Well, it’s because these shops are offering amazing quality food for an unbelievable price. This happens even here in America too, and I know the sign of a good restaurant. My wife and I live in Colorado and we shop at many of the Asian markets in Denver at times, and we would always go to this smaller Asian market to pick up tea, hot sauces and some Asian sweets that you can’t get from regular American grocery stores.
Every time we’d pull up to this place it the parking lot was packed because of an authentic Chinese restaurant called ‘Star Kitchen‘ next to it, and although for the most part it was purely individuals of Asian descent coming in and out of the restaurant I knew it was epic because it was just crawling with the older generation. There is one thing I’ve found for the most part, when a restaurant is PACKED and has a good amount of older folks going to it, it’s a winner.
So we tried it, and it was certainly different then I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant scene before, but it was certainly an eye opener on how other cultures enjoy a meal at a restaurant. But with that said, a line 95% of the time usually means there’s something on the menu that you’ll enjoy (even if it’s frog legs!). It’s said that if a B-Class Gourmet restaurant keeps up it’s reviews and can continue to handle their customer base in a somewhat timely manner, it will become a ‘trendy’ B-Class restaurant and will stay that way for a decade or longer. It’s basically like winning the restaurant lottery if you want to put it in other terms.
Many big hits in the B-Class Gourmet niche are usually ramen shops. Many of these shops will make their own noodles and soup bases, giving it their own distinct flavor which is what pulls in people from all around Japan and what creates those extra long lines. It’s said that a certain B-Class food restaurant will even increase local travel to the area. For example, Fukuoka which is the city I’ll be going to school in became extremely popular because of their local specialty Motsunabe, which is a beef and pork organ stew. Many different areas will gain attention because of their local specialties.
Yakisoba – Grilled Buckwheat Noodles
Sushi – High Quality and Cheap = Long Lines!
Gyoza – Chinese rice wrapped dumpling (Star Kitchen has famous Shrimp Gyoza! – and they’re really really good!!)
Okonomiyaki – It’s basically a whatever you want pancake
Yakitori – Grill Chicken, in fact a lot of the chouchin lanterns are famous for saying yakitori (やきとり） and ramen (ラーメン) on them. –>
Curry Rice – Vegetables, Meat and Curry around rice
Tongatsu – Fried Pork Meat Strips.
You can learn a bit more about some of these on this page too.
Of course this a small list and any type of food can make the list of B-Class gourmet as long as it’s delicious and CHEAP! You can see a couple more options of famous types of B-kyu foods here.