There’s something about charcoal-grilled meat that’s highly addictive, and when you put them on sticks, they become so much better. In Japan, they call this Yakitori. Strictly speaking, it only refers to chicken meat and Kushiyaki is the appropriate term for a broader class of meat skewers. However, even locals use the two interchangeably, so we will just follow their lead.

In Tokyo, particularly in Shinjuku where the city’s nightlife is so vibrant, yakitori joints abound. Best paired with alcoholic drinks, you might want to spend a night out like a local – at a Yakitori restaurant or an Izakaya most likely drinking their choice of poison and chowing down enormous amounts of this grilled meat.

Curious to know where the best sticks in town are served? Check out this list – The 10 Best Restaurants in Shinjuku for the Yummiest Yakitori:

1. Torihana (鳥はな)

Different kinds of yakitori at Torihana.

Different kinds of yakitori at Torihana. From Instagram

The chef at Torihana is popular among gourmet patrons. There’s a level of sophistication to how he prepares his grilled chicken meat that his creations are regarded to be one of, if not, the best in the area. In-house specialties include Tsukune (chicken meatloaf with egg), Torikawa (chicken skin), Tebasaki (chicken wing), and Seseri (chicken neck meat). You can opt to order a set course and a seasonal appetizer. Wash it off with sake and your night is all good.

Address: 5-18-18, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Price: ¥4,000 ~ ¥4,999

Website: http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1304/A130401/13058653/ (Japanese only)

2. Torimitsu (鳥みつ)

Half raw chicken breast with wasabi at Torimitsu.

Half raw chicken breast with wasabi at Torimitsu. From Instagram

Torimitsu is Kabukicho’s hidden gem. It’s a small Yakitori joint within the vicinity of Toho Cinemas. It’s a little hard to find but definitely worth the scouring for its fresh and high quality meat. Must try items are Tsukune, half raw chicken breast with wasabi, and white liver.

Address: 1F K’s Building 1-12-4, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Price: ¥3,000 ~ ¥3,999

Website: http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1304/A130401/13136411/ (Japanese only)

3. Tori Tamura Honten (鳥田むら本店)

Tori Tamura Honten Yakitori.

Tori Tamura Honten Yakitori. From Instagram

Tori Tamura Honten is a chicken specialist. Besides Yakitori, it offers other chicken delicacies like Torisashi (raw chicken sashimi), chicken salad, Tori Zosui (chicken soup rice), and Nikomi (chicken giblet stew). You’re in for a chicken overload here. Good thing they have a variety of vegetable side dishes and even vegetable skewers to give their menu a good balance.

Address: 3-11-2 Shinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo

Price: ¥3,000 ~ ¥3,999

Website: http://desertsnow.jp (Japanese only)

4. Shinjuku Imaiya Honten (新宿 今井屋本店)

Tsukune yakitori from Shinjuku Imaiya Honten.

Tsukune yakitori from Shinjuku Imaiya Honten. From Instagram

Imaiya Honten serves Hinai chicken, one of the “big three” when it comes to Japanese chicken breeds. Given its premium offering, dining at this restaurant is on the pricey side but of course, the extra shell out is worth it. Unlike in other Yakitori joints where you have to battle it out for space, Imaiya provides a more comfortable environment and for sake fans, an impressive selection that can even surpass the Izakaya standard.

Address: Shinjuku Moliere Bill B1F, 3-33-10, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Price: ¥5,000 ~ ¥5,999

Website: http://imaiya-shinjuku.com/ (Japanese only)

5. Hajimeya (はじめ屋)

Yakitori feast at Hajimeya.

Yakitori feast at Hajimeya. From Instagram

Speaking of Izakaya, Hajimeya is one that serves great Yakitori. The main attraction is of course, their grilled specialties but their Toriwasa (chicken grilled on the outside and raw on the inside) is pretty amazing too. The shop is larger than most Yakitori joints, so if you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere and if you don’t want to feel pressured for staying too long, this is a good choice.

Address: 1-26-7 Kabukicho Shinjuku Tokyo

Price: ¥3,000 ~ ¥3,999

Website: http://www.fukukuru.jp/izakaya.html (Japanese only)

6. Torigen (鳥源)

Yakitori place Torigen.

Yakitori place Torigen. From Instagram

Torigen is an Izakaya / Yakitori Restaurant with a diverse menu. They serve course menu sets and a la carte dishes, most notable of which is Mizutaki, a kind of hot pot dish with fresh chicken and vegetables in a special broth. They only use high-quality chicken meat that they also have chicken sashimi on the menu. For their grilled specialties, go for their Tsukune, Tebasaki, and chicken liver.

Address: 3-17-11 Shinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo

Price: ¥6,000 ~ ¥7,999

7. Kabuto (カブト)

Piss Alley or Shinjuku’s Yakitori Alley.

Piss Alley or Shinjuku’s Yakitori Alley. From Instagram

Shinjuku’s Omoide Yokocho has a lot of nicknames: Memory Lane, Piss Alley, and Yakitori Alley. It is an interesting narrow street filled with tiny establishments, intoxicated crowd, and a vibe that exudes nostalgia for Tokyo that existed decades ago. It has a high concentration of Yakitori shops too, so you can hop from one joint to another.

Kabuto’s Unagi Yakitori.

Kabuto’s Unagi Yakitori. From Instagram

From this point on, the Yakitori joints featured are all located in Omoide Yokocho and for starters, there’s Kabuto – the corner shop that specializes in Unagi (eel). You’ll be amazed at how many different eel parts they managed to put on a skewer. The eel sticks look charred, but they are very tasty. No wonder it’s a favorite among this alley’s regular patrons.

Address: 1-2-11 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo

Price: ¥2,000 ~ ¥2,999

Website: http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1304/A130401/13006700/ (Japanese only)

8. Agasshai (あがっしゃい)

hicken Yakitori at Agasshai.

hicken Yakitori at Agasshai. From Instagram

This alley is predominantly a salarymen crowd and can be intimidating for female customers. Fortunately, Agasshai is one of those female-friendly options in the area. They have an inner room with a classy atmosphere. The ruckus outside disappears the moment you step inside. They serve Daisen chicken, another distinguished chicken breed, which basically translates to high-quality meat.

Address: 1-2-8 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo

Price: ¥3,000 ~ ¥3,999

Website: http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1304/A130401/13063693/ (Japanese only)

9. Echigoya (越後屋)

Yakitori with English menu at Echigoya.

Yakitori with English menu at Echigoya. From Instagram

Perhaps the best way to start your Yakitori-hopping here is to visit Echigoya first. This shop is foreigner friendly because of their English menu. Eat a few sticks here, familiarize yourself with the different varieties, and slowly you will gain confidence navigating the menus of the dozens more Yakitori joints down the lane.

Address: 1-2-12 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo

Price: ¥1,000 ~ ¥1,999

Website: http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1304/A130401/13043969/ (Japanese only)

10. Izakaya Asadachi (朝起)

Grilled salamander skewer at Asadachi.

Grilled salamander skewer at Asadachi. From Instagram

Saving the weirdest for last, Asadachi is only for the brave. This Izakaya is well documented by Western media for serving a lot of bizarre items on sticks and on plates. If you want something to brag about, feel free to try their grilled salamander, horse penis, frog sashimi, pig testicles, and whatnot. You sure deserve a badge after trying any one of these items. Good luck!

Address: 1-2-14 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo

Price: ¥3,000 ~ ¥3,999

Website: http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1304/A130401/13006692/ (Japanese only)

Information in this article is as of August 2016. Refer to the official websites for the latest information.

Thumbnail image is from Flickr.