By Bonson Lam
The concept of a standing soba or udon restaurant is very common in Japan, especially in busy thoroughfares like train stations. This kind of restaurant is a quick way for people to pop in and out whenever hunger strikes.
Usually, standing soba restaurants provide a vending machine so the customers can order the food first. Yet, the price of all the menu items are very affordable. It's not much different with the standing soba restaurant that I visited in Kyoto.
Miyako Soba is a small restaurant located in Saiinkozanjicho, just across by McDonald's some distance west of Takashimaya department store. The staff at the hostel I stayed in recommended Miyako Soba since it is well-known for its delicious taste and cheap price. It is also on a convenient piece of real estate, next to Saiin station and located on Kawaramachi street where people come and go day and night. Saiin is an genuine working man's district in Kyoto, far from the main tourist haunts. Moreover, the concept of eating while standing at the counter was compelling for a foreign traveler like me.
The menu had at least 12 different selections, such as Soba Udon, Kitsune Udon topped with aburage (a Japanese large-sliced tofu), Stamina Udon with a full topping, or the most expensive one, Nishin Soba. The food comes in large portions and are available for a very affordable price, ranging from ¥230 - ¥520. It's good for budget travelers too.
It took me no time to grab an available spot at the counter to order a Tempura Udon for me and a Wakame Udon for my friend. The soba lady took our order quickly and then handed us two empty glasses while gave us a cue to the self-service counter to fill the glasses with water from the water dispenser at the corner of the restaurant. If you feel ravenous enough, you can add your own topping that had been served in a food basket on the counter, like tempura or onigiri rice balls with a price range between ¥150 - ¥200.
As my order was being served, I could smell the aroma of the hot broth mixed with the thinly cut spring onion from the bowl. If you like spicy food, you could add chili powder from the counter. I was pretty impressed by how Japanese people who ate here can finish a big bowl of hot noodles in just 5 - 8 minutes. On the other hand, I needed more than 15 minutes to finish my meal. Lucky it was not a competition, so itadakimasu!
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