A chic and little-known foodie secret, Kiyosumi-Shirakawa is an up and coming neighborhood 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.
Small, locally-run shopfronts line the main stretches of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, while others are tucked away in quiet backstreets. With some old and weathered and others freshly designed, the imbalance 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 best foodie stops to check out when you need a break in between soaking up some art and culture.
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. It’s a friendly cafe that occupies a renovated timber warehouse, with its insides fitted out with an industrial-chic design and high ceilings. At Allpress you are guaranteed to get a truly killer cappuccino and always a welcoming vibe from the small team working here.
Stop off at Bakery SASA, a tiny shop front 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.
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.
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 plan kitchen to cultivate its casual and friendly atmosphere. At Airs, they have a range of burgers to choose from, but be warned: even the basic burgers here are way too tall to take a bite 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 latter. You can choose which flavor of gelato you’d like and have it in a sweet bread 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 between citrus and pistachio, right through to a bright 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.
Okay, maybe it’s time for a drink before dinner? If that’s your style, Dragonfly Beer Hall has got you covered for chill vibes and a fine craft brew. A renovated warehouse, the interior of this tavern has corrugated iron walls and wooden decor with about twenty seats (there’s also a few outside on the deck for that sneaky alfresco brew). Dragonfly sells craft beers by the Baird Beer Company and some nibbles from their small kitchen. A family run brewery, Baird Beer was born in Numazu, a seaside town in Shizuoka Prefecture, which is hardly a few hours south of Tokyo by train. Offering some unusual IPAs and ales, all brewed with heart, you’ll be able to find your favorite. With a friendly and pleasant atmosphere, everyone is welcome here.
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, a wide wooden terrace runs along the Sumida River. You can sit outside when the weather is good, and see lovely reflection out onto twinkling city lights in the evening. The barbecue itself is a treat, featuring juicy slow roasted beef and succulent pork. As champions of slow-roasted and grilled meats, at Pitmans there are single and shared plate options as well as a range of sides and salads. After a long day of tabearuki (a compound word in Japanese meaning tabe for “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 so many hidden cafes and bars, you’re sure to discover somewhere peaceful and intimate which specializes in something delicious.
Never not hungry, Lucy is an artist and foodie from Australia. You can find her hunting for the next delicious deal, documenting her food, or brunching. She lives firmly by the philosophy that food friends are the best of friends.