The best restaurants are those that are loved by locals and sought out by travelers--and bonus points if ingredients are local or the dishes are tied into the region's history. Tsukimichi (つきみち) located in Wakuya Town, Miyagi Prefecture checks most of the boxes. Since opening in 1977, the restaurant has been pleasing customers with its signature dish: hamburgs. The handmade hamburgs have gained an almost cult-like following, though on a very local level. The medium-sized family-style restaurant is filled with everyone from office staff to construction workers during the weekday lunch hour, while families and nearby residents frequent evenings and weekends. One menu choice in particular has turned a few heads: a golden hamburg.
Gold was discovered in Wakuya Town in the year 749. The gold was presented to Emperor Shomu to help him coat the great Buddha at Todai-ji Temple in Nara with a shimmering glow. So impressed was the Emperor that he changed the official era name from Tenpyo (“Blessed Peace”) to Tenpyo-kanpo (“Wondrous Treasures of Blessed Peace”). There are a few attractions in Wakuya related to the golden history. Notably, the Tenpyo Roman-kan Museum does a fantastic job of explaining the history, culture, uses, and gathering techniques of gold. It is a 6-minute drive (or 40-minute walk) from the restaurant. While you are there, you can try your hand at panning for gold (separate charge). The restaurant uses Wakuya gold leaf flakes to decorate a mini hamburg in one of their set meals. It is both a fun and tasty option while in town.
The atmosphere of the restaurant is homely and the friendly staff make even first-timers feel welcome. Even if you don't understand Japanese, each dish has a picture and clear price. Grilled dishes come hot off the grill, still sizzling and popping as the server brings them to your table. Portions are on the bigger side--good to know as you can't always tell in Japan before you order.
Tsukimichi hamburgs are not only famous for their juicy, freshly-made taste, but their variety. Besides your "standard" version, cheese-filled, tomato sauce with egg, and "Japanese style" (not sure what that is) crowd the menu. All hamburgs are served with a bit of veggies like corn and some potato wedges. Various lunch set options allow the addition of fried seafood like shrimp or squid, rice, soup, desserts, etc. If you're not a hamburg fan, main courses also include steak, chicken steak, ramen and spaghetti.
Wakuya Town and several other areas of Miyagi and Iwate have come together to tell the fascinating history of MICHINOKU GOLD. While traveling around to learn about the rich gold history, why not enjoy a gold hamburg from Tsukimichi?
Business hours: 11:00-20:00, closed on Thursdays.