The 20 Best Restaurants in Naha and the Outlying Islands of Okinawa
Most visitors are drawn to Okinawa for its blue seas, bountiful nature, and tourist sites. However, while there, you should also try out some of the food that you can only get your hands on in Okinawa. This article will introduce you to 20 picks of the freshest haunts in Naha and on the outlying islands of Miyako, Ishigaki, and Kume, so why not tuck into some delicious food after having fun at the beach?
Aug 16 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
The Top 10 Restaurants to Visit for the Best in Okinawan Cuisine
1. Ten to Ten
Ten to Ten is an Okinawan soba restaurant located approximately 30 minutes walk from Shuri Station. The outer walls of the restaurant are covered in ivy, giving visitors the feeling that they have happened upon a secret hideout. There is a parking lot with space available for up to five vehicles, however, be careful when parking, as it is located on a slope.
The most popular option ash the menu is the wood ash suba (Okinawan pronunciation of soba). The noodles are hand-made, and the dish is imbued with the ashes of trees such as the Chinese Banyan that have been steeped in water to create a soup that is then added to the noodle broth. This soup tastes differently to other forms of Okinawa soba, therefore even if you have had the dish before, you can experience something different from the variety sold here.
Yunangi is a Japanese izakaya located a short 10-minute walk from Kenchomae Station. It was established in 1970 and because it is located close to the famous Kokusaidori Boulevard, it is famous with tourists and locals alike. This leads to a busy and lively atmosphere inside the restaurant. It is not only open for dinner, but also for lunch.
You can order a la carte if you so wish but the top pick from the menu is the Yunangi A Set Meal, which contains a number of different dishes to sample.The menu offers a number of traditional Okinawan staples for you to enjoy, such as a stir-fry with wheat glutten known as Fu Champuru, a stir-fry with bitter melon (goya) known as Goya Champuru, and a sweetened cut of pork known as Rafute.
3. Ma-chinu Ya
Urizun is an izakaya located a 5 minute walk from Asato Station on the Yui Monorail. It was opened in 1972 and while it offers typical modern Okinawan dishes, as you would expect, it also provides visitors the opportunity to sample rarer dishes popular during the time of the old Ryukyo Dynasty (1429 - 1879). Urizun also has a restaurant in Tokyo, so if you can't get to the Okinawan branch you will be glad to know that you can sample it in the capital.
Urizun is said to have been the first restaurant to create the dish known as Duru Ten. This has grown to be a local delicacy found in a number of restaurants and is essentially a croquette containing mashed potato with vegetables, shaped as seen in the picture and then fried. Urizun also offers grouper sashimi, rafute, jimame tofu, and pickled mozuku seaweed.
5. Pengin Shokudo
Pengin Shokudo is famous for its Ishigaki Island edible chili oil, said to be the precursor of the edible Chinese chili oil known as ra-yu. They also offer you the chance to purchase it in a set with garlic oil, as well as selling spices for Szechuan double cooked pork and for white mapo tofu (tofu dish with minced meat).
Lunch time business is booming, so in order to get a seat at this time you are likely to require a reservation. You can eat Sri Lankan curry, mapo tofu, and jajan soba here at a relatively cheap price. At dinner time you will not be served without a reservation. At this time, the menu features curated multi-course meals for you to enjoy.
6. Akaishi Shokudo
Akaishi Shokudo is located in the northern half of Ishigaki Island in the Ibaruma area, a 20-minute drive from the airport. It is situated in a small settlment, yet long lines blossom outside its door. As of June 5th 2019, it has suspended its lunch service and is now only open for evening meals.The fact that it remains popular with locals is a testament to its quality.
The menu features options like Yaeyama soba, soki soba, and tonkatsu. The soki soba served at Akaishi contains three slices of soki (Okinawan-style stewed pork spare ribs). While of course customers come for the soba as you would expect, there are those who are looking to enjoy the delicious melt-in-your-mouth soki also. The portion of tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) served here is sizeable enough that even a hungry man will leave feeling full.
7. Koja Soba
Koja Soba Ya is located approximately 10-minutes by car from Miyako Airport and serves up Okinawa soba, curry and rice, beef bowls, and other dishes. This restaurant has a history stretching back more than 80 years, protecting the taste of its soba through a host of historical struggles down through the years.
Its most popular dish is its soki soba. The sweet and tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork is served in a transparent broth, with noodles that are made using a traditional style that has been cultivated and protected through the decades, combined with the best of modern techniques. The result is a taste is simply addictive. Tourists come in search of this taste sensation, however, it is so good that the locals also keep coming back for more.
Go-Ya is an izakaya that deals in Okinawan food and is located approximately 10-minutes by car from Miyako Airport and 15-minutes walk from Hirara Port. A unique feature of this restaurant is that patrons have the chance to enjoy a shamisen performance while eating their meal. Why not enjoy the Okinawan night with a dance?
The food on offer is a smorgasbord of traditional Okinawan cuisine and includes chanpuru with goya and rafute, sweet and tender rafute on its own, croquettes with purple yam or taimo sweet potato, Miyako yaki-soba (fried noodles with vegetables and meat), Okinawan-style fermented tofu and queen snapper sashimi, a prized catch in Okinawa. Listening to the sounds of the shamisen with a glass of awamori is a perfect way to enjoy your time in Okinawa.
9. Three Piece
Three Piece is located a 20-minute drive from Kumejima Airport and sells Okinawan soba and shaved ice. Kume Island is reknowned for the quality of its miso, so you will find it sold in a variety of different places, even at the airport. The pick of the miso infused dishes on offer is a soba dish containing spicy miso made on the island.
The broth in Kume Island soba is not overly heavy and has a slightly pale hue, a signature feature of the dish. They also offer a chanpuru soba teeming with vegetables. There are 7 different flavours of shaved ice on offer, served in such large portions that you may become full simply by eating the shaved ice alone.
Umibozu is located approximately 20-minutes drive from Kume Island Airport and specializes in Okinawan fish and seafood. It is popular even during the off-peak season, so during the peak tourist season it is often completely full. It can take the staff quite a bit of time to prepare your meal so during this time, relax and take it easy, like a local would do.
As well as miso, another famous dish eaten on the island is Japanese tiger prawn. This variety of shrimp breeds in deep water conditions and it is said that 10% of the entire catch of this type of shrimp in Japan is taken from the waters around Kumejima. Popular dishes at this restaurant include deep fried Japanese tiger prawn and sea lettuce, as well as grilled Japanese tiger prawn seasoned with salt.The deep-fried supple and tender shrimp combined with the aroma of the ocean that wafts from the sea lettuce and garnished with crisp onion creates a match made in heaven.
The 10 Best Eateries in Okinawa
BACAR is an Italian restaurant located five minutes walk from Kenchomae Station on the Okinawa Yui Monorail. A stylish and trendy ambience emanates from the walls of this eatery, while the inside buzzes with the clamour of patrons looking for the finest pizza possible. As you enter the restaurant your eye will be immediately drawn to the pizza oven. Like anyone, you will start to get excited thinking about what pizza to choose. BACAR is recommended for dates and for groups of friends.
Appetizers include homemade ham made from pork reared in the prefecture and a caprese salad. Then, the main attraction, the pizza. While there are only two choices; margherita and marinara, the respect that the bakers show for the ingredients they use to create the finest pizzas in a custom pizza oven ensures that the finished product is guaranteed to be delicious.
3. Captain Kangaroo Nago Branch
4. Matsumoto 2 Go Ten
Matsumoto 2 Go Ten is located an approximately 6-minute walk from the Kenchomae Station on the Okinawa Yui Monorail and specializes in shabu shabu (thin strips of meat and vegetables boiled in water or broth) made from agu, a variety of pork native to the Okinawan Islands. The main branch of Matsumoto is located nearby to this branch so you can pick your favorite. It is a well known restaurant throughout Okinawa, so much so that it is sometimes visited by celebrities.
If you choose to make a reservation, you will be served a set meal containing agu shabu shabu at a price of 5,000 JPY. Before the centerpiece arrives, you will be served sea grapes and pickled mozuku seaweed. The pickled seaweed is made by hand, meaning that the flavors can truly seep in to the seaweed. The shabu shabu is beautifully served in the shape of a rose and the taste is so delicious that you may simply gobble it all down in one bite.
5. Hitoshi Ishiganto Branch
Hitoshi is an izakaya that offers up seafood and traditional dishes, and is located a 6-minute walk from the bus terminal. While main branch is located further away, this store is found in a more central and busy part of town, making it the more popular of the two. Even locals come to this restaurant for its quality, cost and the variety of dishes on offer, so you can be assured of the great taste.
A large amount of tuna can be fished from the waters around Ishigaki Island so, as to be expected, Hitoshi offers both tuna sashimi and sushi, but there are also other delicious meals on the menu like sea urchin somen (fine white noodles), seared Ishigaki beef served like sushi, sashimi platters, and grouper broiled in soy sauce. It might be difficult to get a reservation over the phone, so it is recommended to call them just before opening or while they are closing up. If you are on your own you may be lucky to get in if they have an empty seat, so make sure to give them a call.
7. Doug's Burger Miyako Island Main Branch
Doug's Burger is a hamburger restaurant located 10-minutes by car from Miyako Airport. The head branch of this chain is located on Miyako island with the affiliated restaurants in Hakata, Hiroshima and Taiwan all satellite branches of this one, owing to its popularity. There are plans going forward for a new branch on Ishigaki Island.
The burgers are made with patties, vegetables and cheese, packed between thick buns. While they may be difficult to eat, the texture and bite is simply perfect. So that it all doesn't fall apart, a stick is pierced through the center of the burger and this stick features the shape of an airplane at the top, so you will find yourself wanting to take a picture before you know it.
8. Maruyoshi Shokudo
Maruyoshi Shokudo is an Okinawa soba restaurant located approximately 20-minutes drive from Miyako Island Airport. It gets quite busy during lunchtime, so if you would like to secure a seat immediately then perhaps it may be better to avoid going at this time. It is close to hotels and beaches, so both yourself and your children will be welcomed at Maruyoshi.
The most popular dish on the menu is the soki soba. If you are simply expecting an ordinary soki soba then you are in for a shock when you decide to tuck in. The soup contains garlic, therefore it packs a punch. If you get bored of the taste, then try changing up the flavor with some vintage awamori, a blend of seven spices or even some of the curry powder, all available to you on your table.
Namiji is an izakaya serving Okinawan food and is located approximately 20-minutes by car from Kumejima Airport. As it is located nearby to the Eef Beech Hotel, it is a very popular restaurant so if you don't have a reservation you may be waiting for quite a while to get a seat. There are not a lot of options for eating out on Kume Island, so it is advised to do some research and make a reservation before venturing out for food.
When you think of Kume Island, you think of Japanese tiger prawns. Whether you eat it as sashimi or as tempura, it is tender and supple and you can eat it all, from the head to the tail. You will be bowled over by the wealth of choice on offer on the menu, with Kume Island karaage (fried chicken), somen, chanpuru, and porcupine fish soup as just a selection of the delights that await.
10. Nanto Shokurakuen
Nanto Shokurakuen is located about 15-minutes by car from Kumejima Airport. It is located close to the Kume Island Hotel and is in fact part of the same company, therefore you can rest assured that you will get to enjoy your meal in a spacious, stylish and safe atmosphere. It is not only frequented by tourists but it is also beloved by locals.
The Japanese tiger prawns found here are also extremely popular, as you would expect. Other customers come in search of the hearty portions of Kume Akadori chicken sashimi on offer. They also offer seafood and fresh fish with drinks are served comparatively quickly upon order so you can relax as you wait for your meal.
Enjoy your Trip to Okinawa and its Outlying Islands by Getting Your Fill at Local Eateries
When hunger strikes, you want to be able to head straight to a restaurant and grab a table on the spot. However, if you pick a more popular place, it is often the case that you will need to make a reservation beforehand, and with so much choice on offer, it can be hard to make a decision. Depending on the island in question, local specialities vary and you are likely to want to go to a restaurant that is beloved by the local people. While there are so many more options available on the Okinawan islands, this article introduced you to the most recognisable, top picks of where to go. When you venture south to Okinawa, make sure to keep this article close to hand and get your fill of the best of delicious island cuisine.
Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
By the way, you can book a hotel through Relux (run by SPIRA) by clicking here!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.