In Japan, gyudon is considered fast-food. Except it’s is arguably better; without the fried stuff, in which you eat raw egg at a “fast food” joint, and you get miso soup or a side dish consisting of vegetables such as shredded cabbage—definitely, infinitely better. Gyudon is also known as the salarymen’s staple. Easy and delicious, and it’s filling, and most importantly, could be easily afforded under 500 Yen.
To those who are unfamiliar with the dish, “gyudon” literally means “beef bowl”, a dish consisted of rice topped with beef and cooked with onions, along with rice wine, soy sauce, and dashi (a type of sweet sauce) as the seasonings. Often times, a pink-colored pickles called shouga (pickled ginger) and miso soup are presented along with the beef bowl. It’s a very popular dish with both locals and travelers, and there are a lot of establishments in Japan specializing in gyudon. Rounded up, prices range from 400 to 500 yen per serving. Meals are often prepared fast, so if you’re both in a hurry and on a budget, gyudon establishments could be the perfect place to eat. The most popular chains gyudon chains are Matsuya, Yoshinoya, and Sukiya.
Sukiya is the newest among the three gyudon establishment. Sukiya is known to have a varied menu, with an assortment of topping options you can sample. Cheese topping is one of the most popular menu with diners. Sukiya also provides children menu and other dishes that are not considered gyudon, such as kaisendon which is rice topped with slices of sashimi. The large Erving is called “oumori”, priced approximately 500 JPY, while the normal size is called namimori.
Matsuya is a self-service gyudon chain that serve you with a vending machine and a ticket. The lack of human touch enabled Matsuya to be the cheapest gyudon chain among the three mentioned here. You simply have to press a button, put your Yen bills, then pick the menu according to what the vending machine tells you. It might sound very impersonal to some people; but try it and make a conclusion yourself. It’s an experience that you might not get anywhere else.
Yoshinoya is arguably the largest gyudon restaurant chain that’s been long-established. It’s a multinational company that has stores overseas as well, so some of you might be familiar with the name already. At Yoshinoya, customers may make requests without charges. Take notes of these terms for your future Japan trip; extra tsuyudaku (gravy sauce), extra onions (negidaku) and if you prefer to have less rice, then you can say “karui no”.
These are simply the most popular gyudon chains that basically everyone knows about. There are plenty of other gyudon restaurants you should definitely try as well, such as Chikara-Meshi that utilizes the touchscreen panel (like what many restaurants in Japan implemented as well). Regardless, whichever gyudon chains you picked, you’re guaranteed to have a delicious meal with a decent portion in under 500 Yen.