Village Vanguard Diner (Burgers), Shimokitazawa

There is in Shimokitazawa a true "institution" that anyone ought to visit when in the area. "Village Vanguard", which started 25 years in Nagoya as a "bookstore where you can have fun" has now over 350 stores in Japan and continues to rapidly expand its business. The stuff they sell may slightly vary depending on the location, but the one in Shimokitazawa is a labyrinthine bazaar that will satisfy anyone interested in pop culture, mangas, gadgets, candies, records, books, name it you'll find it. It is very difficult to get out of the store without buying anything, so may the force be with you should you be on a prison cell tight budget. Even if you're not into consumerism nor pop culture, go catch a glimpse at what the store has to offer, as the place is an explosion of sound and color and it's full of Kodak moments. (Click here for a MAP)

I love "Village Vanguard" and burgers as much, so it was a no-brainer for me when they opened a burger joint 5mn away few years ago. Though I find the food and most of the all the beers expensive, I recommend this place to anyone craving for a burger. Don't forget "Frisco", which offers a more authentic delicious charcoal grilled version.

Village Vanguard Diner

If you visit the texmex looking restaurant, you will probably be amazed at the service the kids working there offer you. It is the BEST service I know in Japan among any kind of casual western-style eateries. They are so attentive to details and so eager to make you enjoy your fare, sometimes it might even feel like it's too much. But too much is better than too less, so no complains on that side, and my hats-off to the director of personnel.

They also have a very decent list of popular to less know American local beers (by the bottle) that should make for a nice break if you've got a little tired of the Japanese beers. Only problem: the bottles all cost around ¥800, so it's not like you can order one after an other.

Avocado laver burger

Now, the food: they have a menu essentially comprised of Taco Rice or Nachos-like texmex fares but the stars of the joint are definitely the ten or so burgers they offer, ranging from the "Mushroom and garlic cheeseburger" to the "Avocado laver burger (with Nori dry seaweed)" or the "Pepper∧ cheddar melt (with a fat piece of bacon!) "ones. All come with french fries on the side, which you will want to ask them not to salt if you're low on that condiment. I think they tend to over-salt them, so don't hesitate to let them know in advance if you want to keep it eatable.

Authentic Burger with Cheddar cheese

You can obviously order the "regular" burgers, but I usually go for what they call the "Authentic Burger", which simply consists of a 200g beef pate, cheddar cheese, fresh tomato, grilled onion, all sandwiched with two big loaves of Graham bread.

The salt and peppered meat is unbelievably juicy. Good stuff. There is 200g of it on your plate so you should be happy if you're a meat eater.
As you can see from the picture, they're quite generous on the cheese and manage to melt it just the way you want it. The perfect definition and example of "guilty pleasure".
There are big slices of tender grilled onion hidden under the meat, which provide a timely sweetness to the otherwise salty dish. Same goes for the slightly sweet bread, which I think goes very well with the beef pate and the vegetables, though I wish it could be a hint more toasted.
An overall very satisfying and filling dish, but at a cost: ¥1,580. Given the size of the beast, you can't be too demanding, but if you order a beer the bill adds up to over ¥2,300 so I still think it could and should be cheaper.

Village Vanguard Diner is open everyday from 11:30am to midnight
Setagaya-ku, Daita 6-3-1 B1
click here for a MAP