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Smart Coffee, Kyoto

Great breakfast in the Teramachi Shopping Arcade

While a Japanese style breakfast may routinely be part of a stay at a ryokan, Western style breakfasts in Kyoto are more of a challenge to find. Despite a variety of early morning options at Kyoto Station for travelers passing through, like the bakery cafés or chain coffee stores, a sit-down Western breakfast place is more of a rarity.

Smart Coffee is a traditional kissaten (coffee shop) open since 1932, located in the Teramachi covered shopping arcade in downtown Kyoto (Kawaramachi/Sanjo intersection). Open from 8 o'clock in the morning, this small restaurant/café serves terrific hotcakes and French toast along with excellent home roasted coffee. The hotcakes are homemade from an original recipe. The French toast is done perfectly, with a crisp exterior giving way to a custardy, delicious interior. There are ham and egg sandwiches or ham and toast as alternate options. In addition to coffee, there are a variety of fresh fruit juices including orange and peach. The service is attentive and the atmosphere relaxed yet classy. The décor is vintage with dark wooden tables and leather seats. Coffee beans or ground coffee can be purchased to take home as a souvenir; it is packaged in elegantly designed tins.

Smart Coffee is located in the Teramachi covered arcade on Teramachi Dori north of Sanjo Dori. The store is easy to find, as there is a vintage coffee mill outside the store front. The opening hours are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The upstairs dining room is non-smoking but the first floor is not. Go early for breakfast as there are often lines by 9 a.m. A hotcake or French toast set with coffee included costs 1,000 yen. At lunchtime the 2nd floor is open for sandwiches and Western-style fare including dishes such as hamburger steak and ebi (shrimp) fry. They also serve cake and ice cream desserts.

Smart Coffee is one of a handful of surviving older coffee kissatens including Inoda Coffee and Rokuyousha Coffee Shop. Its excellent location in the Teramachi shopping area makes it a perfect place for breakfast before sampling the nearby Nishiki Market or shopping in the Kawaramachi area.

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Lynna Wang 3 years ago
One of the few things open early in the morning for jet lagged westerners - the french toast is perfect, lightly battered and soft, really delicious!

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