Where to Eat in Nakano

By Rika Hoffman
Updated: December 29, 2022

Nakano is a Tokyo neighborhood where you’re likely to stumble upon a hidden treasure, whether that’s a piece of pop culture ephemera or a niche-interest cafe. There are so many inimitably unique places to eat in Nakano. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you covered with this Nakano food guide featuring some of our favorites, from French fusion ramen and Western-inspired yoshoku to a board game-themed bar.

Located just one stop away from Shinjuku on the JR Chuo line, the retro neighborhood of Nakano is often compared to Akihabara, a hub of subcultures centered around manga, anime, and video games. The heart of Nakano’s otaku scene is Nakano Broadway, a commercial shopping complex with around 300 shops selling everything from vintage pop culture paraphernalia to electronics to anime figurines. Notably, the Mandarake flagship store in Nakano has several shops in the shopping mall, each specializing in a different niche, like sports memorabilia and cosplay.

Nakano Broadway meets the adjoining Nakano Sun Mall, a 224-meter-long covered shotengai (shopping street) with everything from clothing stores to bakeries to traditional Japanese sweet shops, ensuring an afternoon of fun as you zigzag between shops. With its entrance just across from the north exit of Nakano Station, the shotengai is a convenient place to grab a bite to eat, run some errands, or take shelter during a rainy day. 

In case you're wondering where to eat in Nakano, we've compiled a list of a few highlights. While not a completely comprehensive guide, we encourage you to use this list and our Nakano street food video as a starting point to discover your own favorite spots to eat in Nakano.

Where to Eat in Nakano

Here are a few of our recommended places to eat in Nakano.

  1. Board Game and Dining Bar Kurumari
  2. Transforming Now (Tadaima Henshin-chu)
  3. Bun Kichi
  4. Oyakidokoro Refutei
  5. Daily Chico
  6. Nostalgia Cafe

1. Board Game and Dining Bar Kurumari

Interior Board Game Bar in Nakano

For those with a competitive streak, this themed bar and restaurant in Nakano offers over 450 board games crammed into every available nook. The first 30 minutes of gameplay are free, after which a half-hourly fee is charged. But if you’re more motivated by food than the prospect of annihilating an opponent, their selection of six types of omurice makes this restaurant worth the visit (and no time charge necessary). 

Omurice from Board Game and Dining Bar Kurumari

Omurice traditionalists can stick to the classic homemade ketchup omurice, while the adventurous can go with Kurumari’s most popular omurice: gobo (burdock root) potage omurice, with a creamy, earthy white sauce. Meat dishes, tapas, and desserts are also available; and Kurumari’s extensive drink menu features over 70 cocktailshandy for turning any board game into a drinking game. 

2. Transforming Now (Tadaima Henshin-chu)

Along one of the picturesque alleyways extending from Nakano Broadway, you’ll find Transforming Now, a ramen shop that gives the Japanese noodle dish a French twist. With tadaima translating to “I’m home” and henshin-chu meaning “transforming,” the restaurant’s name evokes the evolution and homecoming of a chef who made the leap from French cuisine restaurant (where he had over a decade of experience) to ramen shop.

The Spicy Oyster Ramen and the Red Snapper and Soy Milk Ramen are two signature dishes here that push the boundaries of ramen with surprising techniques and contemporary, artistic presentation. They share the same base: soy milk and tai (seabream) soup that's creamy but light, blended using a milk frother. A sweet balsamic-oyster sauce adorns one corner of the bowl; and toppings include pork chashu and chicken breast, gently-cooked oyster topped with tobiko (flying fish roe), and a crisp rusk.

The Spicy Oyster Ramen, which has three spice levels available, has an additional seasoning that lends even more depth to the soup, as well as a mound of togarashi spice.

3. BUN Kichi 

A plate of BUN Kichi Beef Stew, rice, and a salad

Showa era through and through, from the atmosphere to the menu, BUN Kichi is a beloved neighborhood spot. A one-man show run by a hardworking ojiisan (grandpa), BUN Kichi is isolated from the hubbub of central Nakano, a hidden gem located along an unassuming street. 

The interior is simple and practical. The menu, too, has no need for embellishment. Classic dishes done well have earned BUN Kichi a reputation as a well-respected yoshoku-ya (Western-inspired Japanese restaurant) in Nakano.

The beef stew is delightfully tender, the sauce creamy and decadent; and it comes with salad, soup and a plate of rice. The yoshoku-style menu also includes gyusuji (beef tendon) curry, hambagu (hamburg) teishoku, wagyu steak, and roast beef. 

4. Oyakidokoro Refutei

Custard cream Imagawayaki from Oyakidokoro Refutei in Nakano

Directly opposite the north exit of Nakano Station, you’ll find the entrance to the covered shopping arcade Nakano Sun Mall, and the storefront of a popular shop selling imagawayaki. A traditional Japanese street food, imagawayaki is a round cake that’s stuffed with fillings like sweet red bean paste.

Oyakidokoro Refutei puts their own twist on this classic portable snack. While they make the typical variety of imagawayaki—stuffed with anko bean paste—they also have surprising combinations like sausage with mayo sauce. We recommend the yakiimo anko (roasted sweet potato and bean paste); creamy, hearty, and autumnal.

5. Daily Chico

Ice cream tower from Daily Chico in Nakano

Located on the basement floor of Nakano Broadway, the old-school shopping mall that neighbors Nakano Sun Mall, is a little ice cream stand with a big reputation. Daily Chico is known for their towers of soft serve; choose up to eight flavors including vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, black sesame, pistachio, cafe au lait, ramune, and yakiimo a.k.a. baked sweet potato. The cafe au lait is a definite favorite. 

6. Nostalgia Cafe

Pumpkin pie and cafe latte from Nostalgia Cafe in Nakano

Nostalgia Cafe is a retro, American-style cafe in Nakano, run by a duo that includes a former film industry professional and a pastry specialist. The interior was inspired by the atmosphere of Manhattan establishments—picture pendant lighting fixtures, white subway tile backsplash, and thick-walled coffee mugs.

Using beans from Onibus Coffee, one of Tokyo’s top roasters, Nostalgia Cafe should be your go-to place for a pick-me-up in Nakano. Get a jolt of caffeine while you click-clack away on your laptop, seated at the wooden counter by the window; or enjoy some chit-chat with companions on the main floor of the cafe. 

The food menu includes a variety of New York Meatballs and sandwiches served with pickles and slaw, as well as salads, soups, and sides. Homemade baked goods and desserts also feature, with cookies like chocolate chip and rocky road, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and an espresso brownie. The seasonal pieslike the pumpkin pie pictured above, crowned with whipped cream and a shard of pumpkin seed brittleare also a hit here. 

Interior of Nakano Sun Mall

Compared to its neighbor Shinjuku and the more expensive Akihabara, Nakano offers a peek at a more down-to-earth neighborhood of Tokyo, with great deals on electronics and pop culture paraphernalia. Even if you don't consider yourself an otaku, Nakano is certainly worth a visit for food lovers, with local restaurants and tasty street foods galore, ready to be explored.

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Rika Hoffman
Rika is a sourdough enthusiast, amateur film photographer, and pun-lover, born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A carb-based lifeform, she is always on the lookout for tasty bakeries in Tokyo.
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