If you’re going to Osaka, you have to know it’s a food city. Sure, Tokyo is known for Michelin star sushi, but Osaka style sushi is just as impressive. Kobe may produce the high quality beef, but Osaka knows how to serve it. But Osaka’s real claim to culinary fame is the street food. Takoyaki (octopus dumplings), okonomiyaki (savory pancake), and dango (rice cake in a sweet sauce on a stick) alone can feed you for a day, if not your entire stay. There is, however, a lesser-known Osaka classic any food-lover must try: kushikatsu.
Kushikatsu, or kushiage to some, is simply fried foods (called katsu in Japanese) on skewers (kushi). It’s a type of cooking and eating nearly universally loved. Yet, so many visitors to Osaka don’t know it exists. That stops here. Since Dotonbori has the reputation of Osaka’s go-to food street, here are 6 Kushikatsu spots nearby to convert you into a full-fledged street food fan.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT KUSHIKATSU
First things first: kushikatsu has some rules and history behind it. Kushikatsu has its roots in the neighborhood of Shinsekai. Historically populated by the working-class, much of the area still retains elements of pre-WWII Japanese aesthetics. According to legend, the first kushikatsu was created in 1929 as a cheap and tasty dish for laborers. The food’s popularity took off in the wartime era as the fried batter helped to fill bellies facing food shortage. Today, kushikatsu is still popular as a low-budget, tasty meal--a favorite of college students. But, more upscale and adventurous kushikatsu restaurants have opened around Osaka.
Now for the rules. Kushikatsu restaurants have either counter or table settings (though counter is far more common). Each area is given a container of dipping sauce, which tastes like a light soy sauce. You can either dip the stick right in the sauce or remove the stick and use chopsticks. This part is crucial: no double-dipping. Since the sauce is shared, this is for everyone's sake. No one wants to eat anyone else’s dribble. If the first dunk doesn’t give you enough sauce, don’t worry. Restaurants provide cabbage leaves so you can scoop out more sauce for your own plate. You can also eat the saucy cabbage after your finished scooping.
Ordering kushikatsu varies by location. Some places allow piece-by-piece selection from a menu while others only have set courses. A few restaurants have no menu at all and food keeps coming until you say stop. Be sure to keep this in mind while going out to eat!
DOTONBORI KUSHIKATSU #1: KUSHIKATSU DARUMA DOTONBORI
Kushikatsu Daruma is the first kushikatsu restaurant built in Osaka. The first location opened in Shinsekai in 1929, along with the invention of kushikatsu. Today there are locations all over Osaka, including four in the Minami district. Our suggestion is right along the river in Dotonbori, easily spotted by its large storefront mascot.
The restaurant offers both counter and table seating, as well as twenty seats on the floor. Daruma is also one of the most affordable options on this list, with a meal costing between ¥1500-¥2500. Combination sets are available at low prices and they’re a good option for a first taste of kushikatsu dining. However, be aware that Daruma uses prawn oil when frying their skewers. While this makes the flavor amazing, it does pose an allergy risk for shellfish. But the added flavor from the shellfish plus the crispy texture all covered in Daruma’s original dipping sauce? It’s the most classic kushikatsu taste you can get right on the main Dotonbori strip.
If you’ve never had kushikatsu and you’re hesitant on where to start, Kushikatsu Daruma is a great choice. The Dotonbori location of this Osaka icon is open year round from 11:30am until 10:30pm. You just need to head toward the angry chef for a delicious lunch or dinner.
Address: 1-6-4, Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, 542-0071
Credit Cards Accepted
Menu and Combinations Available
Counter, Table, and Floor seating
DOTONBORI KUSHIKATSU #2: KARATTO (カラッと)
Though not right on the main Dotonbori strip, Karatto is in the adjacent Shinsaibashi neighborhood. And trust us, it’s worth the extra blocks of travel. The restaurant is in a renovated century-old warehouse. But that’s not the only way it sets itself apart. From decor, menu layout, and even what you dip your food in, Karatto takes kushikatsu to another level.
The biggest difference between Karatto and other kushikatsu joints? There’s no sauce. Instead, Karatto offers salt for dipping, much like a tempura restaurant. But true to the nature of the dish, a sweet sauce is provided with sets. The double dipping rule still applies. In addition to sets, an à la carte menu is available if you prefer to pick and choose. And you may want options. Along with traditional kushikatsu meats and vegetables, Karatto offers avocado, banana, and even condensed milk skewers. All this style and innovation comes at a price, though. Meals here can cost around ¥3000-¥4000 per person, but you can keep the cost down with à la carte ordering.
A bilingual menu and incredibly long operation hours make Karatto accessible to anyone. Though be warned, it is incredibly popular and Saturday nights usually have lines out on the streets. If you can make it inside, Karatto is a fun and stylish date spot or tasty meal after a night out. Just bring your wallet and your appetite.
Address: 1-3-23 Shinsaibashi-suji, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, 542-0085
Bilingual Menu and Sets Available
Table and Counter Seating (Two Levels)
Credit Cards Accepted
DOTONBORI KUSHIKATSU #3: UESHIMA
Ueshima is in the Amemura neighborhood just north of Dotonbori. It’s a little harder to find than some of the other options. There’s no sign, just a brown shop curtain on the outside stairs. Once inside, it looks like a standard kushikatsu restaurant; counter only, no tables. But the lack of frills only lets the incredible food quality shine.
The first thing you need to know about Ueshima: there’s no menu. That’s because owner and chef Master Ueshima only serves the freshest meat and vegetables of the day. This makes ordering simple, because there isn’t any. Master Ueshima will serve his own selection until you say stop. See? Easy. However, that makes budgeting a little difficult--because there’s also no pricing. On average one piece costs around ¥80-¥150, which can add up quickly. If money is a concern, let the master know ahead of time and he’ll cut you off before spending gets out of control.
With incredible service and made-to-order skewers, Ueshima is an amazing place to eat quality kushikatsu. The shop business is handled in Japanese, so bring a Japanese-speaking friend or brush up on key phrases before going. With some preparation, you’ll be in for a night of first-rate dining.
Address: 2F Ueshima Bldg. 1-6-5 Nishishinsaibashi,Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi
No Menu/No Price
DOTONBORI KUSHIKATSU #4: MOGAMI (串処最上)
For true luxury dining, MOGAMI offers a sleek location right off Shinsaibashi-suji. The store takes its name from the Mogami River in Yamagata Prefecture, the CEO’s hometown. As a result, much of the interior’s theme has elements of Yamagata culture. Most of the sake comes from Yamagata. The plates are shaped like koma, shogi pieces produced mainly in Yamagata.The kushikatsu, however, is pure Osaka (with some new touches).
MOGAMI’s main attraction is the chef’s set course. Thirty-six skewers are delivered individually in an order chosen to elevate the flavor. You have the option to stop at any time, as long as the skewer count is above ten. The koma-shaped plates feature divisions for sauces and spices. Plus, it’s individual--there's no shared dipping. Servers will help you choose the best option for each piece. You can also tell your server at the beginning of your meal if you want less than thirty-six pieces. The full course is pricey, coming in at around ¥11000 before tax. If saving money is important, the lunch sets are around half that price, with about fifteen skewers. Additionally, they include rice, miso soup, appetizers, and dessert.
The prices may be higher, but the visuals are stunning. MOGAMI retains some of the classic elements of kushikatsu but adds their own modern twist. It’s a great place for a date or business dinner that actually serves delicious food. If the communal dining nature of most kushikatsu places is a bit scary, or if you want a fancier night out, MOGAMI is for you.
Address: Shinnihon Mittera Bldg. 1F 2-2-10 Shinsaibashi-suji Chuo-ku Osaka-shi
Hours: M-F 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-9:00pm Sat-Sun 11:30am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-9:00pm
Menu Sets and Courses
Credit Card Okay
DOTONBORI KUSHIKATSU #5 (AND #6): ROKUKAKUTEI & AGEMONYA ROKUKAKUTEI
Rokukakutei has a seriously impressive reputation. After earning a Michelin star in 2016, it’s popularity has skyrocketed with locals and tourists. It’s both high-end and in high demand. However, the main branch is often incredibly busy so it’s not guaranteed you’ll get a spot. Luckily, there’s a sister location also within walking distance from Dotonbori, with its own unique feel. That’s why we’re recommending both as places to get excellent, first-rate kushikatsu.
The main store is a three-minute walk from Nipponbashi Station, or roughly an eleven-minute walk from Dotonbori. You may recognize the area as Kuromon Market. This location follows a similar set-up as Ueshima, if not on a much larger scale. There is no menu. Instead, there is one course option with chef recommended pieces that change daily. Since the restaurant is in Kuromon Market, the biggest food market in Osaka, you’re sure to get the freshest ingredients.
Each skewer is served individually on a piece of bread to soak up excess oil. A tray of sauces and salts are on each table for dipping. The chef at Rokukakutei gets a lot of produce and meat from Kuromon Market, but the flavors are meant to represent all Japanese cuisine. This sometimes leads to some interesting kushikatsu that looks and tastes different than the norm.
Address: Takoso Building, 2F, 1-21-16, Nipponbashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi 542-0073
Hours: Every day 5:00pm-10:00pm
No Menu/Prices Start at ¥9000 (10% Service Charge)
Counter and Table Seating
Credit Cards Accepted
If the price or fanciness of the Kuromon branch scares you, you can still enjoy Rokkakutei kushikatsu. Agemonya Rokukakutei is a small, counter and standing table only spot also around eleven minutes from Dotonbori. You won’t see it from the street, though. It’s located in the basement food court in Daimaru department store.
Don’t worry: Japanese department store food courts aren’t like American mall food courts. Department stores in Japan are meant to feel luxurious from the brands and service counters to the food options. And Agemonya is that exact luxury dining feeling just on a smaller and quicker scale. Instead of the main branch's chef course, here you have options. There are sets based on skewer count as well as a few course options. Plus, if you come for lunch it’s about half the price as the main location. That also gives you an excuse to walk around the many floors of Daimaru and look at the brand-name fashion.
Hours: 11:00am-8:00pm (Daimaru Main Building Hours)
Gluten-, Egg-, And Dairy-Free Options
Counter and Standing Table Only
Credit Cards Accepted
IN LOVE WITH KUSHIKATSU? GO TO SHINSEKAI
Shinsekai is not only the birthplace of kushikatsu but also its ultimate destination. More locals and online reviews will point you to this neighborhood for the best spots than any other. If you’ve had a bite of fried lotus root and decide you need more, this is where to go. Or maybe you want to eat other food while in Dotonbori but you’re not afraid to explore more of the city. If the price and upscale nature of the listed restaurants have you worried, don’t fret. Shinsekai’s kushikatsu tends to be much cheaper and far more casual. Yakko and Yaekatsu are local favorites with low prices and great food.
There’s no way to visit Osaka without eating something delicious. And while there are many types of food available, there’s something special about kushikatsu. It’s easy to eat, fun to experience, and always tasty. Most importantly, however, it’s pure Osaka. Sure, it’s a trendy food with locations popping up all over Japan and even some abroad. But grabbing a few skewers in Osaka is the best way to eat it, one dip in the shared sauce bowl at a time. Hopefully our options inspire you to get out there and order up!