Japan’s fourth most populous city, Nagoya, is in many ways analogous to Chicago, both in location and temperament. Smack-dab in the middle of Japan, the city is known as an industrial hub, where hard-working locals fuel up on hearty Nagoya-meshi cuisine that is generally saltier, fattier, and richer than dishes from Kyoto or Tokyo. Iconic rib-sticking foods like hitsumabushi (charred eel slathered in sweet-salty sauce), tebasaki (twice-fried chicken wings rubbed in white pepper), and kishimen (flat noodles in fragrant broth) don’t just sustain the everyman’s city. They also make Nagoya a prime destination for hungry travelers.
During the Tokugawa shogunate, the city served as a historical seat of power, and Nagoyans have long prided themselves on legacies of monozukuri, or manufacturing. Toyota has a significant, tangible presence in the city, which boasts wide streets to accommodate the many locals who prefer to drive rather than walk. There’s even a saying among restaurateurs: To succeed in Nagoya, a restaurant needs a good parking lot.
There’s no better embodiment of the city’s gustatory ethos than hatcho miso. Fermented longer than the average red miso, Nagoya’s favorite condiment sports a rusty color and heavy, luscious flavor. Miso gravy-smothered pork katsu comforts locals at night, but in the morning it’s all about coffee, enjoyed at traditional kissaten coffeehouses with complimentary milk-bread toast. You’ll now find the Komeda Coffee chain, which started in Nagoya, all across Japan, but seek out the original location to mingle with coffee-loving Nagoyans over breakfast. Then rent a car to explore the city’s other essential restaurants, from a famous grilled-eel destination, to a local chain known for earthy noodle stews in clay pots, to a cozy jazz cafe.
Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 1,000 yen (Less than $9 USD)
$$ = 1,000 - 2,000 yen ($9 - $18 USD)
$$$ = 2,000 - 3,000 yen ($18 - $28 USD)
$$$$ = 3,000 yen and up ($28 USD and up)