Gyudon, means beef rice bowl. Gyudon is one of the most popular fast food in Japan.  According to WikipediaGyudon is…

Gyudon (牛丼), literally beef bowl, is a Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with beef and onion simmered in a mildly sweet sauce flavored with dashi (fish and seaweed stock), soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine).

3 Major Gyudon Restaurants in Japan: Yoshinoya, Matsuya, Sukiya

Gyudon. From lovefreephoto

It is said that Gyudon was born around the middle of 19th Century during Meiji period. Yoshinoya, one of the biggest Gyudon chain restaurant still today, founded on 1899, and first used the term “Gyudon”.

Today, Gyudon chain restaurants are everywhere throughout Japan. It’s cheap (around 200-400 yen for middle size) but enough amount of dish makes Japanese people’s stomach full. To Japanese, Gyudon is a popular fast food like McDonald’s.

The secret menu of Gyudon?

As Gyudon has been loved by Japanese for a long time, many Gyudon restaurants allow customers to order free customized options, just like Starbucks’ “extra chocolate syrup” or “extra whip cream”!

Here is how to order customized options

Tsuyu-daku:

Extra sauce.

Tsuyu-daku-daku:

More extra sauce.

Tsuyu-nuki:

No sauce.

Negi-daku:

Extra onions.

Negi-nuki:

No onions.

Tsuyu-daku-daku Gyudon.

Tsuyu-daku-daku Gyudon. From ku-zou.blog.so-net.ne.jp

Also, pickled gingers on the tables are free to use. Here is my personal recommendation to eat Gyudon: put lots…. lots of pickled gingers on Gyudon and eat the part of rice became red by the gingers!

Gyudon with pickled gingers on top

Gyudon with pickled gingers on top. From Instagram

Top 3 Gyudon Restaurants in Japan: Yoshinoya, Matsuya, Sukiya

There are few famous Gyudon chain restaurant, but three of them are the major one. Yoshinoya (吉野家), Matsuya (松屋), Sukiya (すき家).

All of them allow to either eat inside or take out. You will be able to find all three of them in most of the major cities, but there are some characteristics you might be interested in.

Let’s look closer.

Yoshinoya (吉野家)

Yoshinoya exterior

Yoshinoya exterior. From Wikipedia

Yoshinoya is the oldest Gyudon chain restaurant. It is typically said that you can enjoy the richest Gyudon here. I hear lots of people say that Yoshinoya has the thickest slice of beef among other 2 major Gyudon chain restaurants.

Gyudon from Yoshinoya

Yoshinoya’s Gyudon. From Wikipedia

Yoshinoya also has few stores in the U.S. and other countries worldwide. They have Gyudon and other menus. Look for this sign!

Yoshinoya in the U.S.

Yoshinoya in the U.S. From airtripper2.net

 

Yoshinoya profile

Founded: 1899 (as a private shop)
Number of stores: 1,184 domestic, 641 worldwide
Price (for a Gyudon “Nami”, means middle size): 380yen
* Information above are as of November 2015.

Matsuya (松屋)

Matsuya exterior

Matsuya exterior. From Wikipedia

Gyudon From Matsuya

Matsuya’s Gyudon. From Wikipedia

Matsuya has variety of set menus. Such as salad set and pork miso soup set. People who like Matsuya love to add something to Gyudon. Miso soup will come with your Gyudon for free. Matsuya uses the ticket vending machine system, so buy the ticket first and then show them to staffs.

Food ticket vending machine in Matsuya

Food ticket vending machine in Matsuya. From Wikipedia

Matsuya profile

Founded: 1968
Number of stores: 961
Price (for a Gyudon “Nami”, means middle size): 290yen

* Information above are as of November 2015.

Sukiya (すき家)

Sukiya exterior

Sukiya exterior. From Wikipedia

Sukiya is the newest of these three and the most unique Gyudon chain I think. Sukiya is famous for the wide variety of Gyudon menus. They have unique Gyudon such as cheese Gyudon (very popular to Japanese females), vegetable Gyudon, Gyudon with okra etc.

Sukiya's Cheese Gyudon

Sukiya’s Cheese Gyudon. From blog.livedoor.jpg

Yoshinoya and Matsuya are rather specialized for people who come and eat by theirselves, but Sukiya more targets to groups and family.

Sukiya profile

Founded: 1982
Number of stores: 1,982
Price (for a Gyudon “Nami”, means middle size): 350yen

* Information above are as of November 2015.