Nakau (chain) – Tokyo, Japan

An excellent chain with Japanese staples, open 24/7, much needed after jet lag.

While you’re adjusting to possibly a 12 hour time difference, we invariably woke up very early and hungry. Daily, we would leave our rental in Taito right after sunrise and escape into the streets to avoid our kids waking up the neighborhood. Walking around, we saw few places to eat. But, one open option was the Nakau near the Sendagi station. We weren’t familiar with it, but the pictures of food were inviting and we found out it is Japanese chain. To us, this was like a Japanese Waffle House, and like the Waffle House, it is open 24/7, but the difference is that Nakau has traditional Japanese food.

Typical Nakau store front

The store front is welcoming, but not necessarily straightforward if you don’t read Japanese. The pictures of food and prices were welcoming. The prices are welcoming by themselves, on the storefront we see ¥250, which is about $2.50 (we found it easiest to think of the currency in terms of pennies, even though it wasn’t exactly $1.00 = ¥100). Further examining some other advertisements we see ¥650 for a Chicken Oyakodon. So, by price alone, Nakau is a very reasonably since most dining prices in Japan seemed higher than in the US. These prices are even more reasonable when you realize that a Chicken Oyakodon will be a dish of tasty chicken and eggs on rice. This won’t be the best meal you can find in Japan, but it is better than most Japanese restaurants in the US…and much much cheaper…

Just a sampling of the options at Nakau. What you order does look like the picture.

It took a few minutes of people watching to figure out the process at Nakau. The kiosk right by the door is how you order, you pay here and have to play around to find what you want. Cash only, which was troublesome because we saw our Yen diminishing daily, but it was worth it. We found it easier to keep the kiosk in Japanese and look at the pictures of options. Peaking through the window, we see tables, counters, and a pathway. As we’d find out, the servers use the pathway to deliver food to your table. After ordering at the kiosk, they will come and take your tickets and very quickly return with your order.

Basic Nakau layout. Reminiscent of a Waffle House in operation.

The options here are immense. You won’t sample their whole menu. But based on what we ate, we think they must be able to create a wide variety of Japanese staples and foods you want to explore. The noodles are good options and enough for a full meal.

Further options. Many unexplored.

For breakfast the first day, we ordered a traditional Japanese meal of rice, meat and onions, and miso soup. It also came with a raw egg, which you break and stir in the rice. The egg was super fresh and this is a typical way of starting your day in Japan. I wouldn’t try this back in the US unless I raised chickens and knew how fresh the eggs were. Some mild chilies and bonito also came with the breakfast, if you wanted to add them as flavor.

A Japanese breakfast to start the day

One day, I decided to have a beer for breakfast. It might be 7AM in Tokyo, but it’s 7PM back home. While I wasn’t the only one drinking beer, some Japanese guys were also having beer with their breakfast, it’s not that typical to see this. But at Nakau, you can make it happen. They have the typical options for Japanese beers and it came out in big frosty mug.

Beer with breakfast, if you want you get it

One of the last days eating at Nakau, we had Oyakodon, a beef bowl, and some noodles for the kids. The Oyakodon was exception and the tastes blended perfectly. This would be hard to find in the US. Similarly, the beef bowl was very good. This comes with rice topped with beef and onions. The flavor was exceptional and a great example of fast Japanese food. The simple noodles, for the kids, was very good and had a good broth and flavor. Everyone was happy with this meal.

Beef bowl, Oyakodon, and some noodles for breakfast.

Nakau is popular in Japan and a great option. There are currently over 400 chains, so you should be able to find one. This is a great way to cheaply explore some new dimensions of Japanese (fast) cuisine. While not upscale itself, many of the items on the menu are hard to find in the US, not for quality because many are better than most any item on a typical Japanese Steakhouse menu. You shouldn’t constrain yourself to just eating at Nakau, but it’s a great way to find a few staples and it is very budget friendly.

400+ locations in Japan, we went to:
〒113-0022 Tokyo, Bunkyo City, Sendagi, 2 Chome−13−13-1 ルネ千駄木プラザ
Yelp | Webpage
First Visit: 2019
Most Recent Visit: 20 April 2019
Cuisine Rating: 14
Decoration Rating: 10
BEST BET (meats): chicken, beef, etc.
BEST BET (meals): Oyakodon, donburi, curry, breakfast