Fukuoka’s yatai or food cart stalls are an intrinsic part of city life, offering quick, hot and affordable meals. Here are our top four picks
Competition among the city’s yatai is fierce, but Yamachan pulls ahead of the pack with its loyal customers and consistent queues. Genteel owner Takayo Araki, who began operating the stall in 1984, serves classic dishes like oden (a dashi-based broth with a variety of ingredients), ramen and yakitori. “Ramen is a Fukuoka specialty — if you’re going to eat it, it should be at a yatai. It’s a unique experience.” 2-4-18 Nakasu, Hakata-ku
Telas & Mico
After seven years in London — including time at famous Peruvian Japanese resto Nobu — chef Kubota Kensuke returned home to do his own thing. The result was a yatai that he opened in August. “I was inspired by Borough Market — that gave me ideas for the design of my stall.” Kubota offers British street fare: bruschetta, homemade sausages and even homemade cordial. In front of Loft, Watanabe-dori
How do you deal with the pressure of being the first foreign yatai-san (stall owner)? If you’re Rémy Grenard, you do it with affable ease. Switching effortlessly between Japanese, English and his native French, he dishes up morsels like quiche, garlic butter escargot and even a fusion bouillabaisse ramen. “The appeal of yatai is the atmosphere; it’s at once intimate and lively!” In front of Loft on Watanabe-dori
Hakata Fugu Chan-Tei
While other owners refined their ramen recipes, Tatsuya Cho trained to become a fugu (pufferfish) chef. “I wanted something different. Here, everything is inspired by fugu. It’s more versatile than people give it credit for.” It took him years to get his license, but now we get to reap the benefits. Start with small servings of grilled fugu, and move on to tummy-warming dishes like fugu tempura udon. 2-13-1 Tenjin (in front of Fukuoka Bank)
This story first appeared in the October 2017 issue of Smile magazine.