I was incredibly lucky to enjoy a meal at the family owned and operated restaurant ‘Honke Owariya’ as a guest of one of the owners. This restaurant, which specializes in traditional soba (buckwheat) noodles, has existed in Kyoto since the year 1465! Over the centuries, Owariya has served emperors and shoguns as well as the monks of many Kyoto temples. To this day, the royal family eats here when they come to Kyoto. (The Japanese word ‘honke’ means ‘original house’ indicating a shop’s pedigree.)
My meal was certainly one of the best I had while in Japan. The atmosphere was traditional, warm and cozy. A hot bowl of soba noodles with veggies totally hit the spot. I was surprised to find affordable prices from a restaurant with such a well known name and history; most noodle dishes were 800-1100¥ or roughly $8-$11.
I was also surprised to receive a gift of their homemade cookies (which they sell in the front area). I believe their sweet treats are all made with buckwheat flour. They were not as sweet as traditional American cookies, but beautifully packaged and I enjoyed them.
If you are in Kyoto, don’t miss a chance to eat at Owariya! It can’t hurt to browse this culinary guide for Japan from Lonely Planet either; it will teach you how to identify different types of food establishments from the outside and from the menu which is very helpful if you don’t speak Japanese!