A chic and little-known foodie secret, Kiyosumi-Shirakawa is an up-and-coming neighborhood (and tongue twister) in the western suburbs of Tokyo. Slowly but surely, this residential area is becoming increasingly popular, with more and more Tokyoites moving in for its ease of access to the city, slower pace of life, and relaxed atmosphere. Families and young people alike feel at home here, with creativity bubbling quietly alongside a rapidly-growing cafe culture. Find out where to eat in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, in our curated list of the best restaurants, cafes, and bars in this Tokyo neighborhood. Small, locally-run shopfronts line the main stretches of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, while others are tucked away in quiet backstreets. With some old and weathered shops, and others freshly designed, the contrast gives Kiyosumi-Shirakawa its casual and charming feel. You can easily get lost during a leisurely stroll and discover a variety of cafes, restaurants, and bars that are sprinkled between Kiyosumi Teien Gardens and Kiba Park, home to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Here are some of the best foodie stops to check out when you need a break in between soaking up the art and culture.
1. Allpress Coffee & Roastery
Start your morning with an awesome cup of coffee from Allpress Coffee & Roastery, about a ten-minute walk from the subway station. A roastery company originally hailing from New Zealand, Allpress serves a range of coffee, homemade sweets, and a small lunch menu, as well as espresso beans to go. A friendly cafe that occupies a renovated timber warehouse, its interior is fitted out with high ceilings and an industrial-chic design. At Allpress, you are guaranteed to get a truly killer cappuccino and a welcoming vibe from the small team working there.
2. Bakery SASA
Stop off at Bakery SASA, a tiny shop on the main street of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa area, for an artisanal pastry or two. Selling a handful of beautiful pastries and a mean sourdough, this bakery is really popular with the locals. There is only one very serious-looking man working here, baking everything on site in the morning, and serving it from midday, or whenever he fancies opening up shop. It's best to arrive early, as lines start to form outside even half an hour beforehand. Although only a few people can physically fit inside at a time, everyone buys up big once they’re in. This is a one-man show, and once he’s sold out that's it for the day, game over. See if you can manage to make it before everything is sold out, and taste for yourself what all the fuss is about.
3. Little Tokyo
Head over to Little Tokyo for lunch, a trendy cafe during the day that also serves as a cozy bar in the evening. It’s a pleasant space with big windows overlooking the street, where you’ll find the local sento (public bath) and the wafting smell of sheets tumble drying in the laundromat adjacent. A trendy wooden frame is built in to shelter the bar area, with the staff wearing hip uniforms and warm smiles. Interesting knick knacks and unconventional art pieces line the walls, while house-made fruity concoctions sit quietly stewing on the bar. At Little Tokyo there is only one set meal of the day, usually some kind of Japanese dish but with a twist, however, it changes over weekly. Come back in the evening for a drink in a relaxed atmosphere where you can try some unusual cocktails and craft beers on tap.
4. Airs Burger Cafe
For those who’d prefer something Western, try Airs Burger Cafe, just cross the bridge after Kiyosumi Teien Gardens. You’ll be greeted by a bright yellow awning out front with yellow chairs inside to match, and an open kitchen to add to its casual and friendly atmosphere. At Airs Burger Cafe, they have a range of burgers to choose from, but be warned, even the basic burgers here are way too tall to bite through in one go. While they also sell tasty salads and crunchy fries, you can’t go wrong with a burger including a fat slab of avocado, cheese, and a toasted bun.
For a post-lunch dessert or afternoon sweet treat, wander down to Brigela. With a few branches throughout Tokyo, they specialize in gelato and brioche, either separately or together! While dangerously sweet, we strongly recommend the combination. You can choose which flavor of gelato you’d like and have it encased in a sweet brioche sandwich. Like the brightly-colored gelato collection on display, the store itself pops with loud graphic patterns covering the walls. Boasting ten standard flavors as well as seasonal specials, there is something for everyone. Brigela keeps it interesting with flavors ranging from citrus and pistachio to a vibrant blue Japanese lemonade ramune, and a dense chocolate gelato. The brioche breads are fluffy, sweet, and come in different possible sandwich sizes (although let’s be honest, you’ll surely be taking the large one). Brigela also sells coffee to wash down your sweet treats if you need another caffeine hit.
Maybe it’s time for a drink before dinner? If that’s your style, join the locals down at Daruma, a tiny but lively long-standing family-run izakaya. You’ll find people squeezed together, sitting together on random stools or on a tatami mat, and enjoying a drink. The air conditioner looks ancient and you can presume that the now-yellowed walls were once white a lifetime ago. A daruma is a little red round doll that which is traditionally a Japanese symbol of good luck. And this izakaya definitely had a bit of luck, as they were visited by the food famous Kodoku no Gurume, or “Solitary Gourmet." Kodoku no Gurume is a popular manga series-turned-TV show, about a Japanese salesman who eats alone, trying different local foods. Amongst the menus pasted on the walls (which have probably been there since the day it opened), they have pictures and advertisements commemorating his visit to the little restaurant.
Its nostalgia and history contribute to the nice atmosphere of this little izakaya, and the food is simple but delicious. The food style is really katei ryori, meaning "home style cooking," with hot pots, stir fry dishes, as well as all of your deep-fried izakaya favorites. And while the head waitress running the show seems stern at first, she is actually very hard working and quite friendly, and she speaks English. With people constantly coming and going, this family-run gem is a cozy place in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa for a drink and a snack with the locals.
By now, you should have well and truly stretched out your stomach, so slowly roll yourself down to Pitmans for some mouthwatering slow-cooked barbecue. With open windows and minimal design, you can truly appreciate the view from the wide wooden terrace running along the Sumida River. Sit outside when the weather is good, and see the lovely reflection of twinkling city lights in the evening. The barbecue itself is a treat, featuring juicy slow-roasted beef and succulent pork. Champions of slow-roasted and grilled meats, Pitmans offers both single and shared plate options as well as a range of sides and salads. After a long day of tabearuki (a Japanese compound word, tabe meaning “eating” and aruki meaning “walking around”), you can unwind after dinner with an artisanal beer from local brewers, Kiyosubashi Craft Beers. Pitmans also hold a reasonable barbecue buffet at lunchtime. A modest neighborhood in Tokyo, Kiyosumi-Shirakawa is the perfect place to spend an afternoon away from the buzz of the big city. With our suggestions about where to eat in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa in mind, go forth and discover hidden cafes, bars, and restaurants. You’re sure to discover somewhere peaceful and intimate which specializes in delicious food in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa.