Japan has a well-renowned culinary scene worldwide, and Okinawa boasts some fantastic food as well. From traditional Okinawan soba to noisy but atmospheric izakayas to ramen shacks to peaceful bakeries with fresh bread, Okinawa has some fantastic food around.
Capital city Naha has a great concentration of all types of cuisine available on the island, but as we had a car and stayed somewhere near central Okinawa, this guide will include great food and restaurants both in and outside of Naha.
The address for some of the places might be written in Japanese on Google Maps and therefore reads backwards, however I’ll type it in as it is seen so you can match the restaurants with the address on Google Maps should you decide to head down. Entering the postal code should usually suffice though!
Mazeman Mahoroba まぜ麺マホロバ
A little noodle shack a few streets off Naha’s main thoroughfare of Kokusai-Dori, Mazeman Mahoroba is a cosy place with limited seats that packs out often.
The noodles here are thicker and more chewy than the kind I’m used to, and they call it stir noodles, served with minced meat, spring onion, egg and in a tasty gravy. The set comes with miso soup as well and you can ask for free refills. You can order the spicy Taiwanese stir noodles if you’d like your noodles with a bit of a kick as well.
I loved this place for how cosy it was, and how great the noodles were.
It might be easy to miss, and you might need to wait for a while to get a table if it is full, but it is absolutely worth it.
WHERE | 1 Chome-2-17 Makishi, Naha, Okinawa 900-0013, Japan
Izakaya Masara 居酒屋まさら
Across the canal from Naha’s city centre is a host of office buildings and not much in the way of anything to see in particular.
However, the block of buildings facing the canal houses an unassuming looking izakaya restaurant from the outside, but on the inside, you’ll find yourself greeted in a hearty atmosphere with plenty of local diners.
Like all izakayas, they’re fantastic for late night food and drinks, but the grilled dishes here are fantastic.
We were greeted with hot towels which was a nice touch, and though English was a little more limited, it was still fine.
We arrived just before 7, which meant the izakaya wasn’t packed full yet, and though we never met any diners who did, some users on Google Maps mentioned diners are allowed to smoke inside.
The specialty here is beef garlic steak, which we ordered alongside a plate of simmered pork spare ribs, a local Okinawan pork dish. We also ordered deep fried tofu with dashi, but the clear standout here was the meat which was incredibly tender, and the garlic beef dish was fantastic, with the flavours complementing each other and balancing nicely.
WHERE | 2 Chome-6-20 Kumoji, Naha, Okinawa 900-0015, Japan
Mekiki no Ginji Shin-toshin Honpo 目利きの銀次 新都心店
A stone’s throw away from Naha’s biggest shopping mall of San-A Naha Main Place is another bustling izakaya that is very popular with locals.
A much bigger restaurant than most places, the restaurant has free parking facilities on it’s premises behind the restaurant, though lots are limited.
The restaurant has two floors here, with counter seating on the ground floor and individual tables on the second.
What I loved here was the decor, as you notice right from the outside that the restaurant is themed like a wooden barrel, and the second floor sees individual tables decorated as little barrels which was fun.
The menu here is diverse, and we ordered fish with a tangy sauce on recommendation that was unique and flavourful, as well as grilled pork, a salad with fish, and beancurd served with bean sprouts. Food here was beautiful, though I should add that it was a bit pricier compared to the izakaya above, somewhere around the range of US$21 per person, which can quickly add up if you have more drinks.
WHERE | 1-Chōme-9-19 Ameku, Naha, Okinawa 900-0005, Japan
Hokkaido Ramen Hayatemaru 追風丸 久茂地店
Missing a proper bowl of ramen, we headed to Hokkaido Ramen Hayatemaru, in the style of ramen hailing from Sapporo.
Another place for great late night food, Hokkaido Ramen Hayatemaru closes at 3am on Friday and Saturday nights, with reasonable prices to boot.
Choose from different bases like white or red, and order sides such as the plate of gyozas which is a popular dish.
If you’re driving, there’s plenty of paid parking around due to the fact it’s located in an area with plenty of other bars, restaurants and shops.
WHERE | 3 Chome-15-1 Kumoji, Naha, Okinawa 900-0015, Japan
Central Okinawa (Ginowan / Chatan / Yomitan)
Izakaya Adachi-ya 大衆ろばた焼酒場 足立屋 (Ginowan)
I loved this place.
This was my favourite izakaya apart from those in Naha.
Located below a residential housing block in Ginowan, at night, this place is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair. The only way you’ll be able to identify the izakaya from the outside is the sole lantern and curtains that roll down from the shelter of the outdoor dining area.
This place is incredibly popular, and is very local.
The level of English wasn’t great but we got by.
Here, grilled food is king, especially the meat skewers. Most of the place is sat around the open kitchen, which alludes to a more bar counter type of seating, making the atmosphere bustling and busy.
The food here was great, but the best thing was that it was probably one of the cheapest meals for the amount of food we ordered, and the bill added up to about US$11 per person.
Smoking is also tolerated in this izakaya.
WHERE | Japan, 〒901-2221 Okinawa, Ginowan, Isa, 3 Chome−29−2 リバーサイドマンション伊佐 1F
Taco Rice Cafe Kijimuna 塔可飯餐廳 (Chatan)
You can still see the influence America has had on Okinawa in some parts of the cuisine, and you’ll see this most in taco rice.
Taco Rice Cafe Kijimuna is a popular place for young Okinawans to get their taco rice fix at the American Village.
If you can, opt for the outdoor seating where you can sit on the balcony overlooking the shops below as it’s located on the second floor.
Taco rice basically tastes like a burrito bowl, but you’ll see the fusion where it’s basically omu rice with traditional taco fillings.
It was nice enough, though I personally don’t love burrito bowls to begin with, but it’s a great place to go if you have kids in tow.
WHERE | Japan, 〒904-0115 Okinawa, Nakagami District, 県, 北谷町美浜9-1
Monogatori Awamori Pub 読谷物語 (Yomitan)
If you fancy a more upscale place for dinner, head to Monogatori, a clean and beautiful space decorated like a cabin lodge in the middle of the woods.
In truth, it’s located in the middle of a bunch of housing apartment complexes a few steps away, and the place is almost completely dark by nightfall.
Because Monogatori is famous for the Okinawan alcoholic beverage of Awamori, Monogatori sees itself more as a posh drinking place, with food served more in the portion sizes of bar bites, and every member of the party is required to order at least one drink, alcoholic or not.
If you fancy a big dinner, Monogatori is not the place to go.
Service was relatively slower compared to other places we’d been too.
But if you’d like a slice of finer dining and a relaxed atmosphere, Monogatori is the perfect place for that.
WHERE | Japan, 〒904-0322 Okinawa, 中頭郡読谷村波平２４８１−１
Bakery Otonariya ぱん工房おとなりや (Yomitan)
Because we stayed in Yomitan, we ended up returning to this bakery on several occasions to grab a bun for breakfast and hit the road.
Set up as a family business, Bakery Otonariya lends itself to a really cosy and warm atmosphere the moment you walk in through the wooden door.
Bread is baked fresh daily, and is open till they’re sold out for the day.
There are several classics like croissants, danish type fruit pastries, as well as their own take on baguettes.
I absolutely loved the tomato buns and seasonal vegetable buns though, and were a perfect way to start the day.
We came in here so often, the guys that ran the place remembered us and greeted us fondly every morning we came to grab out breakfast.
The only thing that would’ve made it better would be if there were tables and seating areas to sit and enjoy your breakfast, but as it stands, Bakery Otonariya is a grab and go.
WHERE | 633-2 Senaha, Yomitan, Nakagami District, Okinawa 904-0325, Japan
Jakkepoes Pancake House パンケーキハウス ヤッケブース (Yomitan)
If you find yourself missing comfort breakfast food, fill up on fluffy pancakes at Jakkepoes Pancake House in Yomitan Village.
Admittedly more popular with the Americans on the island than the locals, Jakkepoes Pancake House packs out every morning, so much so that parking has become a problem.
Remember that you can’t just leave your car parked anywhere, as the sheer amount of car rentals on the island invading in residents’ public spaces has caused quite a nuisance over the years, so much so that locals call the police on rental cars parked in the wrong places.
Still, if you need help, feel free to approach the warm and friendly staff who’ll happily help you out in finding a lot.
Once you’re in, there are several types of pancakes to choose from the menu, and served piping hot, the pancakes here wonderful, and it’s not uncommon to see some ordering two plates.
Of course, you can choose between sweet and savoury pancakes.
WHERE | Japan, 〒904-0305 Okinawa, Nakagami District, Yomitan, Toya, 436
Northern Okinawa (Nago, Motobu)
Churaumi Cafe 美ら海カフェ
Located just a minute away from the picturesque Bise Fukugi Tree Lane and a couple minutes away from the Churaumi Aquarium, Churaumi Cafe serves up homely local food which though simple, is tasty.
The chicken curry is the specialty here, and unlike the deep fried chicken cutlet curries I’ve become accustomed to, the chicken here is grilled, tender and juicy. Curiously, the pizza here is also the specialty, and I decided to opt for that for a little break from local cuisine, which was decent too.
WHERE | 403 Bise, 国頭郡本部町 Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0207, Japan
Manmi Yakiniku 満味 （まんみ） (Nago)
If you’re craving yakiniku, grill-your-own-meat Japanese style BBQ, Manmi Yakiniku is a popular joint on the northern part of the island in Okinawa’s second biggest city of Nago.
The restaurant is decked out like a traditional wooden house, and trust me when I say this restaurant packs out.
Even in the winter, we had to wait a good 20 minutes outside the restaurant before we could get a seat, so if you can, make a reservation before coming.
You can pick and choose the meats you’d like off the menu, though their specialty is intestines, which is delicious if you can appreciate eating intestines.
We ordered the local specialty Motobu beef, as well as a shabu shabu set.
Food here was good, but it should be said that this was our most expensive meal on the island, possibly due to the added shabu shabu set, and the bill came out to US$90 for 3 of us with no alcohol.
WHERE | 251 Isagawa, Nago, Okinawa 905-1152, Japan
Southern Okinawa (Nanjo)
Tonsen Okinawa とんせん OKINAWA (Nanjo)
A quick 10 minute drive away from Okinawa World is an unassuming farmhouse type set up by the name of Tonsen Okinawa, with a specialty of Okinawan pork rice sets.
This teishuko place serves pretty much solely meat on the menu, with four different options of the type of pork you’d like to choose from.
Served on a hot plate, the sizzling slabs of pork look mouthwateringly good, and taste great too with a firm texture.
Oh, and there’s also a free salad bar where you can get unlimited refills.
A set meal rounds up to about US$15 per set.
WHERE | Maekawa-418-1 Tamagusuku, Nanjo, Okinawa 901-1400, Japan
Eastern Okinawa (Hamahiga Island)
Cafe Santorini カフェアンドダイニングサントリーニ (Hamahiga Island)
We visited Cafe Santorini on a day where we visited the Katsuren Castle, Yakena Straits Observatory and Ikei Bridge, which saw us on the east coast for the first time.
Truth be told, once you’ve crossed the bridge to the islands of Miyagi, Ikei and Hamahiga, there isn’t a whole lot of dining options here, but Cafe Santorini was a pleasant find.
The food here serves up Western fare, and though there isn’t much in the way of variety on the menu, the ambience here was amazing.
Try to get yourself a table on the sheltered terrace outside, as you’ll be overlooking the blues of the sea.
The tables inside I found were a little stuffy for my liking, so move out when you get the chance even if all tables outside are taken when you first arrive.
There is also supposedly a sightseeing terrace, but we never got to see it as it was closed.
WHERE | 243-1 Katsurenhama, Uruma, Okinawa 904-2315, Japan