It’s no secret that Japan loves its hamburgers – after all, it does have the second most McDonald’s after the USA. However, Japan is also well-known for its beef, with wagyu being synonymous with steaks and beef in general around the world. So it’s only natural that Japan began to focus on the hamburger and to level it up. In addition to the standard burgers found around the world, you can also find hamburgers adorned with a variety of concoctions and different types of buns. But don’t be confused by the peculiarly named Hamburg steak, or sometimes called the Salisbury steak, which is made with chopped onions, breadcrumbs, along with egg mixed in and called a hanbāgu. That’s another kettle of fish that should be assigned to the bin.
The influx of a higher class of hamburger began almost 15 years ago, but since then, craft beer has also joined the scene and hamburger joints have begun to offer up some variety in their taps alongside their variety of hamburgers. Sometimes you want an IPA with a bacon double cheeseburger, or a stout with a nice standard burger, or perhaps some pale ale for blue cheese burgers on offer.
This guide is for those wanting to have some hamburgers alongside their craft beer – we’ve asked around with some local experts on what they like and where they would eat and drink.
The only constraints for these places are:
- Hamburgers MUST be made in store and not from bought – so no places that order in hamburgers for you.
- Hamburgers HAVE to be the main focus for food in the bar. Hamburgers with something else is fine, but Hamburgers as an afterthought is a no-no.
- Hamburgers HAVE to be on the menu all-year round. Check out our Honourable Mentions though for places that occasionally have burgers on.
- Craft beer has to be on tap and not in bottles – we have no problem with the latter; however, there is no difference then in making your own Hamburgers and buying your own bottles for consumption at home.
- Must be in the Kanto area – we’ve extended the area out now as there are some good choices outside of the Yamanote line.
Without much further ado and in no particular order:
1) Darcy’s Beer & Burger in Ikebukuro, Tokyo
It was on our first trip for a walking guide around Ikebukuro that Darcy’s Beer & Burger came onto our list. It’s unusual for a place to focus on the beer aspect rather than the burger in their name when inside, the focus is mainly on the the burger with also some beers too. As we waited for a friend to turn up, we ordered some chips but then saw some of the burgers come out and then straight knew that we had to have some burgers. The burgers come either straight-up classic style, with a decent freshly cooked patty, with a few chips on the side thrown in for good measure, or some complex combinations that would involve some interesting strategies on eating them. The beer choices are reasonable, though a tad on the pricey side, but there’s a decent selection of beer on tap to make up for it.
2) Burger Mania Ebisu in Ebisu, Tokyo
For along time, Ebisu was seen as a place that Yebisu / Ebisu beer ruled over – the German pilsner is synonymous with the town, and you can see its influence too in the area with bars prominently offering up glass of Ebisu for drinking. It has a thriving drinking and eating culture, with a high number of hamburger restaurants in the area too. Burger Mania has long been a favourite of BeerTengoku with the Hiro-o branch providing lots of nourishment whenever we’ve popped into National Azabu. So why this branch then over the Hiro-o one? Well this branch has more taps of craft beer on compared to the other two in the chain, the other being in Shirokane, though the menus are pretty much the same. Freshly cooked patties to order and a plethora of choices though the bacon double cheeseburger or the blue cheese burger are particular favourites.
3) Bakery & Beer Butchers in Hon-Atsugi, Kanagawa
For a brewery of Sankt Gallen’s size and reputation, it has always been a surprise that they have gone so long without having a taproom for their beers. As one of Kanagawa’s largest breweries by production volume, it was good to see Bakery & Beer Butchers become the “taproom” for Sankt Gallen beer in the area. Of course, you have to get down to Hon-Atsugi to get to the bar; however, when you do, you’re in for a treat with Bakery & Beer Butchers specialising in meats – all kinds of meats. Hamburgers feature heavily on the menu, though there are some other choices such as the chicken burger we once had. All of the meats are cured and prepared in-house, with their own slaughterhouse at the back of the restaurant – you can actually view the whole curing process too for their charcuterie.
4) Gori Gori Taproom in Roppongi, Tokyo
Roppongi has always been a place for that I’ve tried to avoid going to after experiencing some bad nights out there – I swear everything bad that has happened to me in Japan as its roots in Roppongi. However, during the day, there are lots of choices to eat from – kebabs, Italian, and also hamburgers. Situated on the outskirts of Roppongi and Azabu, Gori Gori Taproom has a stupendous amount of burgers on its menu thanks to Tamon Nakamura – one of the first Japanese players to play in the NFL and was running back for the Green Bay Packers and Rhein Fire. Since then, he has tried to expand the craft beer on the menu but even though the title of the bar has “taproom” in its name, it’s more of a taproom for his hamburger creations. All of the burgers are made fresh to order, with the standard coming highly recommended. For those on a keto diet, they are do hamburgers without buns too, and with lots and lots of cheese going on top of them too – maximise the keto!
5) Golden Gate in Okachimachi, Tokyo
For some reason, on the original writing of this guide, Golden Gate missed the list. I don’t know why but for some reason the area of Okachimachi has never really held much pull. It was only when a friend suggested coming one blue-sky in winter that I took the plunge. And I’m (partly) glad for doing so. The burgers are made from 100% Australian beef, which we mentioned about in our review of the place, but still seems a bit strange considering there has been a big swing to get American beef on people’s plates during the last few years or so. Combine this with four taps of craft beer from both Japan and overseas, you’ve got yourself a decent little lunch selection – which is when you should get there really to avoid the smoking crowd that are allowed in during the rest of the time. A shame really.
6) Folk’s Burgers & Beers in Jimbocho, Tokyo
Folk’s Burger has been on our radar for a while but for some reason – i.e. not being about to get to Jimbocho – it has long since eluded our dirty, greasy hands at BeerTengoku. The main chef plied his trade at Fire House burger shop in Hongo, another highly recommended burger shop, before opening this branch up in August 2018. All of the hamburgers are freshly cooked instore and are made from imported American Angus beef which is ground to the owner’s specification. The burgers come in a variety of combinations – either with or without the special smoky sauce – but the basic burger was perfect for us. A nice soft fluffy bun that was crunchy at the first bite, and the perfectly cooked burger paid nicely with the beers on offer, which encompass a good variety of styles.
7) Gastropub Gozo in Shimo-Kitazawa, Tokyo
Many of the places I’ve been drinking at in Shimo-Kitazawa have lacked on the food front – it’s either a second thought or just something that is ignored and replaced with some snacks. Gastropub Gozo popped up after a friend’s recommendation and off we went as part of the Odakyu Line Crawl. Gastropub Gozo opened up in August 2014 so it’s one of the older craft beer places in the Shimo-Kitazawa area. Gastropub Gozo prides itself on hamburgers – and it isn’t a gastropub. Well, not in the English way of Heston Blumenthal and his molecular gastronomy. There are a variety of ways to order your hamburger, with a plethora of toppings, but keep it straightforward here and let the beef shine through. Just make sure you ask them to hold back on the momentous amount of vegetables and salad they put onto the burger and you’re be happy.
8) Nomi Nalu in Adachi, Tokyo
The Adachi area of Tokyo isn’t really heaving with craft beer bars past Kita-Senji – in fact it seems to be a barren desert once you’ve crossed the Arakawa into what seems to be an area dedicated to residential zones. However, if you are in the area, then Nomi Nalu is definitely worth a visit for some craft beer and burgers. While the place may seem to be of a rose in the dessert, there are enough beers to keep you here for a bit while the burgers on the menu are really tasty. There is a decent selection of burgers on the menu, along with some specials that Nomi Nalu advertise on their social media pages. The prices, considering where Nomi Nalu is located, are reasonable and the service is pretty quick too. Just make sure you don’t leave it too late to finish up as being in the middle of nowhere does mean the last trains are quite early.
9) Quays Pacific Bar & Grill
The area around Sakuragicho has seen a massive amount of development since the early 10s, with a once thriving industrial port becoming a thriving tourist location for both shopping and also relaxing. With these two forms of entertainment comes the need for drink and refreshment, and Quays Pacific Bar & Grill goes some way into filling in the gap there. With the Number Nine brewery being their on-site brewing, combine this with a roastery and also a distillery, you’ve got a lineup for plenty of drinks that cover both alcohol and non-alcohol choices. While the burger suffers from a bad name, the R’s burger is also a very tasty patty of meat with some decent sides. The burger is freshly made to order and comes in a soft sesame topped roll that has been slightly grilled. The standard burger comes with a slice of cheese, but you can ask for it just plain if you so wish.
Antenna America Kannai
Why Did It Not Make The List?
Well Antenna America is focussed on American craft beer and we’re a site about Japanese craft beer. That’s why. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy going there but more often than not, we end up getting the chicken wings over a burger. When we’ve gotten the burger, it’s been top-notch and well worth the price.
Why Did It Not Make The List?
Titans does have a couple of domestic craft beers on tap out of the 12 taps, but they don’t always serve burgers. They only tend to serve burgers on niku no hi, which is on or around the 29th of each month, and is run by our friends over at Magical Animal. So if you can, get up there on the 29th and pig out on some burgers and craft beer.
Why Did It Not Make The List?
We love the beers that Tokyo Aleworks are doing and really recommend a visit up there; however, the burgers are only on during lunch times, so you have to get up there pretty early to get some. It’s worth the visit for the beers along, but definitely try to get up there to get some tasty burgers too.
Why Did It Not Make The List?
Beach Muffin tends to make it onto the list, but this is a list of hamburgers – which by itself means that the burgers contains meat. Beach Muffin is a vegan only food place; however, they do make some tasty vegan burgers that will make you think twice about vegan food. Pair this up with some beers from Yorocco Beer, and you have got yourself a dangerous combination for the weekend.