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Best burgers in Tokyo
Juicy, flame-grilled burgers on succulent buns are now as Japanese as green tea ice cream
Sizzling slabs of burger meat might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to visiting Japan’s capital, that’s undeniable -- sushi is still king and raw fish rules.
However, the last 10 years have seen Tokyo blossom from a city where the only patties on offer were chain-restaurant atrocities to a place where superb burger joints can be found in most any neighborhood.
Here’s a quick rundown of the best burgers in Tokyo.
Catooya -- for the big eater
It may be a 25-minute ride on the Chuo Line from Shinjuku, but Catooya in the western Tokyo suburb of Kokubunji is worth the trip for fans of burgers done just right.
Lunchtime sets are particularly good value, starting at under ¥1,000, while the king of the big burgers is the Canyon Burger.
That giant balances two patties, cheese, avocado, pineapple, jalapeño, bacon and an egg. With fries. At ¥2,500, there’s more than enough eatin’ for two.
Catooya’s owner, Masayuki Hagiwara, speaks near-native English and will gladly introduce newcomers to the rest of the extensive menu and perhaps even a quiet pint in his adjacent bar to go with one of the best burgers in Tokyo.
Bonus: Learn shodo (Japanese calligraphy) every other Monday evening for ¥1,500.
Kokubunji-shi, Hon-cho 3-8-17, 1/F; +81 (0) 42 300 6500; 11:30 a.m.-midnight (closed weekdays 3:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.), closed Monday unless national holiday.
Baker Bounce -- for the straight burger fan
Diners who need the American experience to fully appreciate a burger should make a beeline to Baker Bounce.
Originally based in the quiet suburb of Sangenjaya, the chain expanded into Roppongi's trendy Tokyo Midtown shopping complex two years ago.
Baker Bounce offers possibly the best all-around burger on this list -- delicious beef with buttery buns grilled to perfection. It also gets points for a rarely seen menu item in Japan -- root beer.
Tokyo Midtown location: D-B113 9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku; +81 (0) 3 5647 8311; 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Gotham Grill -- for the meat freak
One of the newest additions to the city burgerscape, Gotham Grill in Ebisu, bills itself as a hamburger and steak house. The steaks are good, but this is also the place for some of the best burgers in Tokyo.
Focusing on basic meat lovin' rather than fancy recipes, Gotham Grill provides just one burger option: a 225-gram patty grilled in full view of the public at the front of the shop. Topping choices are minimal: cheese (cheddar or Gruyère), bacon or an extra meat patty.
Quality comes at a price. The steep ¥1,300 covers just the burger. Fries and sides are extra, but Gotham Grill still definitely flips one of the best burgers in Tokyo.
3-16-10 Higashi, Shibuya-ku; +81 (0) 3 5477 0536; 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 6 p.m.-midnight, closed Tuesday.
J.S. Burgers -- for the DIY enthusiast
Spinning off a burger joint from an earthy fashion label isn't the most obvious business strategy, but Journal Standard has greatly contributed to the meat-and-bread scene by giving birth to restaurant chain J.S. Burgers. The company operates three branches, in Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harajuku, all of which are well up there when it comes to serving some of the best burgers in Tokyo.
Options are updated seasonally, though you can always create the burger of your choice by selecting from a list of toppings.
Also worth noting: If you like them delightfully crisp, J.S. Burgers may have the best fries in Tokyo.
Harajuku location: 6-6-2, 2/F Jingumae, Minato-ku; +81 (0) 3 6418 2586; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (Opens at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, closes at 10 p.m. Sunday and holidays).
Pakutch -- for the late-night munchies
Behind the Mark City shopping center, Shibuya's Dogenzaka back streets offer a hodgepodge of night-owl drinking establishments and yakitori spots. But here is also a good spot to seek out some of the best burgers in Tokyo.
But head there in the daytime to experience Pakutch and its "Tower Burger." This is a legit tower of meat -- three patties stacked high, each with its own slice of cheese.
OK, the Tower sounds bigger than it really is -- patty diameter is on the small side -- but we're suckers for innovation. And, when it comes to burgers, thinly veiled gluttony.
1-11-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku; +81 (0) 3 6276 2955; 10 a.m.-2 a.m. the next day (Monday, Thursday, Sunday), 10 a.m.-5 a.m. (Friday, Saturday, and days before holidays).