Forget the sights – this is Fukuoka. Come evening, steam billows out from more than one hundred mobile street-kitchens, each cocooning a fascinating little world of their own. Customers push their way through a thin drape of plastic sheets to find a garrulous clutch of locals, crammed onto narrow benches and filling up on scrumptious food – pork-based tonkotsu ramen is the meal of choice, usually accompanied by flasks of sake and a few new friends. Mobile in nature, none of these yatai has a fixed location, but this being Japan they rarely venture too far from their original mark, and you’ll usually find them open from 7pm–3am. The greatest concentrations of yatai are around the intersection of Tenjin Nishi-dōri and Shōwa-dōri, and along the southwest bank of Nakasu Island. These are some of the most enjoyable places to eat in all Japan, and the focus on merry-making means that any noisy yatai is worth a go, but a few certainly stand out from the crowd.
Ebi-chan えびちゃん. All yatai have beer and sake, but this goes further, its menu containing no fewer than fifty cocktails, as well as Italian-themed food.
Shizue しずえ. The tricolour on the outside isn’t just a decoration: amazingly, this yatai serves no ramen; even more amazingly, its menu is based upon French cuisine. Beef in red wine sauce at a yatai? Somehow, it works.
Taka-chan たかちゃん. Kokin-chan is a local institution, having dished out ramen for over four decades. But here’s the secret – the place next door is just as good, and you won’t have to queue for an hour to get in.
Tsukasa 司 wyatai-tsukasa.com. The best of a clutch on the riverside (it even has a website), this shack specializes in mentaiko tempura – spicy cod roe fried in batter. Mmm…oishii.