Kyoto Café Culture

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I visited many, many temples and shrines during my two years in Kyoto. But let me be honest: I read the signs, instantly forgot them and instead concentrated on taking pretty photos. In short, I am no expert on Kyoto’s historic sites. But I do think I am qualified to tell you about eating and shopping in Kyoto as I tend to pay slightly more attention when filling my wardrobe or stomach. Therefore, after long weekends of extensive research, I would like to present my top 5 highly recommended cafes and shops in Kyoto City. Enjoy…

1. Café Independent カフェ・アンデパンダン

I love this place! Located at Sanjo Teramachi it’s big enough for a huge crowd of gaijin not to feel like they’re taking over the place, yet it’s intimate for just a small party too. Set in a basement and artily decorated, the food has a Mediterranean taste. The menu is a bit deceiving as some dishes are much smaller than others but I highly recommend the sandwiches which come on delicious seaweed bread plus chips. The Nice salad is also the nicest salad I’ve probably ever eaten in my life. Café Independent regularly has DJ sets in the evenings. English menu available.

My family do Cafe Independents

2. Sunshine Café サンシャインカフェ

Just along the road from Café Independent and above Shakeys (vomit! – sorry, my hand slipped on the keyboard) Sunshine Café serves a wide variety of healthy natural food. Unlike 99.9% of restaurants in Japan vegetarianism is really understood here; if you order a vegetarian dish they will check if you can eat cheese and egg. There are also lots of meat and fish choices and a great range of teas. And to finish off, the cake selection is amazing. English menu available.

Sunshine Café Kyoto – check out the range of teas on the left

3. The Falafel Garden ファラフェルガーデン

This Israelian eatery is just 100m east of Demachiyanagi Eizan railway station. A longstanding ex-pat favourite it serves delicious pita breads filled with a variety of falafel and houmous combinations. I love the banana milkshakes! The best place to sit is in the garden out the back. There is also a useful noticeboard for foreigners. English menu available.

The Falafel Garden

4. Café Noinah カフェ・ノイナー

With a beautiful setting on the banks of Kamo Gawa in the northern part of the city, Café Noinah is unbeatable. Great interior design and even better food. That said I have only ever tried one dish: the Okinawan Taco Rice. It’s a small mountain of rice and all the stuff you find inside a Mexican taco with the obligatory fried egg on top. Available in meat or vegetarian chickpea varieties. Picture menu in Japanese.

5. Speakeasy スピークイージー

Speakeasy is an American style café diner and bar which serves burgers, Mexican food and great Western breakfasts including refillable coffee. The French toast is highly recommended! Meals are around 750 yen per person. There is an English menu and staff speak good English, too. There are two branches of Speakeasy – the original by Shugakuin Station on the Eizan railway line has a wonderfully atmospheric  wooden interior, while the newer shop is behind Daimaru department store near Nishiki Market. Look for the giant US flag!

Sometimes you just can’t beat a Western style breakfast!

Here’s a map to all these cafés. Enjoy trying these cafés and let me know if you have any other good recommendations!

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