Walking towards Na-ya from Ojikoen station may leave you wondering, “What else is around besides vegetable stands and recycle shops?” but at the end of the long shotengai (covered shopping street) is one of Kobe’s best soba restaurants. Great quality soba at affordable prices, what more could you want? A piping-hot bowl of delicious broth served with a plate of chewy, nutty soba noodles and crispy tempura will only set you back ¥1,000. Such a quality meal in Kyoto easily costs double. Their pork belly soba is a unique menu item and, at ¥770, it’s tempting to order two bowls. The broth is rich and flavorful while the pork belly is melt-in-your-mouth tender. One of the best lunch deals in Kobe is Na-ya’s tonkatsu set meal. It comes with a crispy pork cutlet, a small bowl of soba, daikon (radish) pickles, tofu, and a bowl of rice for only ¥870. No English available. Smoking is allowed.
Open: Lunch 11am–11pm
Price Range: ~¥1,500
Access: Hankyu Ojikoen Station,10-min walk
In the suburbs of Sakai, Konichitei may seem like too much of a hassle for just soba. However, this place is well known in the Sakai area for being fantastic. Located in an old Japanese-style home, Konichitei immediately welcomes you with creaky hardwood floors and a huge Japanese-style hearth right in the middle of the restaurant. While this restaurant offers a large menu filled with classics like curry udon, katsudon, and tempura set meals, soba is the star. You can order the style of soba you’d like and then choose the soba serving size. One of the most special things about Konichtei is that, for an extra ¥200, a fresh wasabi root comes with the meal along with a grater to choose the perfect amount of pep for your soba. Make sure you take the extra home with you in the plastic bag. You haven’t really tried wasabi until you’ve grated it yourself. No English available. Smoking allowed.
Price Range: ~¥2,000
Access: Nankai Nakamozu Station, South Exit, 9-min walk
Right outside the Tenjinbashisuji-6-chome shotengai is one of Osaka’s highest ranked soba restaurants, and the owner of a coveted Michelin Star. Takama has no distinguishing features outside. In fact, I walked by it and I thought it was closed until I attempted to open the door and was ushered in. Expect to wait at least 30 minutes for your meal, but it’s well worth it. There are a variety of sides and styles of soba to choose from. The miso-yaki is sublime with a chewy, meaty texture that is almost reminiscent of a good cheese. It’s hard to describe, but should be on your order. The duck soba broth is dark and flavorful with savory slices of duck. The myoga (Japanese ginger) soba, topped with myoga slices and sansho pepper leaves, may not be for everyone, but it has a refreshing bite for a simple dish. Each meal comes with unlimited refills of hot soba tea, perfect on a cold winter day. English is available.
Open: Lunch 11:30am–2:30pm
Price Range: ~¥2,000
Access: Tenjinbashisuji-6-chome subway station, Exit 4, 5-min walk