I know that this is really late to start, but I am going to start posting about places where I enjoy eating in my corner of Aso, near the Aso/Oita border, and maybe some other joints in Kumamoto that I like.
Tashiroya- for the bombass Okonomiyaki
Let's start off with a place that my friend and predecessor, Mr. Harvey Haynes, first took me to when I first arrived in Ubuyama two years ago. Located to the left of Aso Jinja (if you are facing the temple) is the small, unpretentious okinomiyakiya known as "Tashiroya". This place makes the best okonomiyaki in Aso hands down, and is my personal favorite in Kumamoto.
You can see Mr. Tashiro in the window and who I assume is his wife in the background.
It can be hard to get a seat, and sometimes they run out of ingredients on busy days. My favorite combination is pork and cheese (butaniku and cheese). If you like taiyaki, then this place is definetely for you. Many children drop by this store after work.
*note, and this is true: The best okonomiyaki restaraunts always are a little, or maybe more than a little, dingy and tend to attract cockroaches. This is just a fact of life. The grease from the skillet atomizes and works its way into the enviroment of the shop at a molecular level, so these places become more and more sticky with time. Eating at a clean okonomiyaki joint doesn't necessarily mean that their okonomiyaki is going to suck, but then again it probably does.
Santouka- The Favorite of Many Aso JETs
Located near Tashiroya, just 50 feet away is the famous Santouka (the kanji reading "mountain" "head" and "fire"). This izakaya makes wonderful food, but it is not my favorite because I think it's too expensive (they don't list prices on the menu) and its hard to drink and to find a way home. If I lived close by Santouka, I think that it might just be my favorite restaraunt. If you are here, try the college potatoes, nasu-age, and just point to a random kanji that you don't know and take a chance. That's my favorite way to learn kanji.
Yokayoka Tei- The Best Restaraunt In Northern Aso
Ascending Takimurozaka (from Ichinomiya in the direction of Oita) on the 57, you will come upon a yellow building near the base of the mountain on your right. This is my favorite restaraunt, Yokayokatei (maybe I put one too many yoka's in there...). Everything that they do is spectacular, including yakiniku, bibimba, steaks, hamburgs,
*note: the difference between hamburg and hamburgers is this: hamburg is generally served by itself and eaten with rice, whereas hamburgers are nestled in between a bun. Clearly stated, a hamburg is the Japanese term for "cooked hamburger patty". Hope that clears things up.
curry, tonkatsu, katsudon, and other dishes as well. My favorite night to go to Yokatei is on Wednesday because you can eat Viking
*note: Viking in Japan refers to "all you can eat" or "buffet". I think that this word lends itself to some interested imagery, such as a horned barbarian feasting on double-fisted legs of lamb or something.
yakiniku for 1,500 yen. Included in the deal are the drink bar
*note: drink bar = all you can drink access to the soda fountain/ beverage bar.
and the following are all you can eat:
chorizo (spicy and good, but not the type of chorizo from back in SoCal. this stuff ain't runny)
assorted cuts of beef including tongue, hormone, rose cut, calbee, and others
assorted cuts of pork
assorted cuts of chicken
vegetables including cabbage, carrots, and onions
The staff here are extremely friendly, and they have the capacity to seat large parties. I only wish I could have set up a party there once before I left...
Yokatei gets bonus points for having a 100 yen soft drink vending machine in the parking lot- the only other one that I know of is next to the 100 yen store in the Ozu Jusco and that one sells tall boys of Mountain Dew, but now I'm getting off topic. The vending machine is worth a stop alone on the way up.
To sum up, Yokayoka Tei gets my top spot because the management is nice, they are quick, they are very reasonably priced, they make great food, and they are open relatively late. Prices are equivalent to Joyfull prices, so you will feel stupid if you forget about this place and go to the Ichinomiya Joyfull instead.
Small restaraunt towards the top of Takimurozaka- I forget the name
When ascending Takimurozaka on the 57, you should get on the right hand side of the passing lane (you should do this anyways to pass those drivers that insist on going 30- there's always at least one of them!) and turn right when you see the first restaraunt past Yokayokatei. This place sells katsucurry, all sorts of ramen, gyouza, assorted Japanese food, and chahan. My favorite ramen here is the stamina (the term for garlic) ramen. They put so much garlic in the broth that it is spicy. As a courtesy to other patrons, they also bring out a stick of strong mint gum after you finish the bowl.
Kaguraen Sobaya- For Everything Soba Flavored
This place makes good soba, and has standard Japanese fare, including oyakodon, tempura, and many soba dishes and combinations. You can also make your own soba, but I prefer mine to be professionally crafted. I was forced to eat soba that some shogakkusei made, and tried to ignore the pockets of hidden dry clumps of flour hidden in the jaggedly cut, sorry excuse for noodles. I recommend the tempura/soba set, along with the complimentary soba-cha (soba tea). Afterwards treat yourself to soba flavored soft cream outside at the parking lot stand. This place is in Namino, just before Ubuyama on the 57.
Big Rest Stop in Oita
About 10 minutes into Oita on the 57, you will see a big rest stop with a parking lot that can accomodate an entire convoy of kanko busses on the left. This place serves good chicken tempura (different from karage), but if you are strapped for cash I would go for the chahan. This fried rice is cheap, filling, and pretty good.
OUT OF ASO
In the city I recommend the following places:
American Food- Masa's
*note: this place has gotten expensive, but is the only place outside of Fukuoka that makes a good, big burger.
Indian Food- Nanak (weekdays are the cheapest time to eat here)
Mexican Food- Plaza Del Sol
Just to use the abundance of hot sauces- Freshness Burger
Okonomiyaki- The restaraunt (2nd story) on the corner of the Shimotori.
(as pointed to by Mark Fingerhut, with Matt sprinkling the aonori)
German food and a nice catalogue of beers- Oden
Chinese- the restaraunt on the 7th floor of Old Tsuruya, in the food court. I recommend the fried chicken.
Fukuoka Chain Restaraunts
Food in Fukuoka is outstanding, and luckily two chains are spreading throughout Kyushu. One is a yakiniku/ramen shop called Gofu (the kanji for "5" and "wind"). Their ramen is excellent, especially with the fried garlic topping (their tonkotsu broth is awesome), and the yakiniku is also good.
Pictured here is the Charsiu Ramen Set, complete with Charsiu Rice. It was outstanding. This picture was from Oita, but I know of two locations in Kumamoto. One is at the Higashi Bypass, near Super Autobacs, and the other is In Yamaga.
My other favorite chain from Fukuoka is called Ichiban Doori (Number One Chicken). This izakaya style restaraunt specializes in, you guessed it, chicken and it does chicken very very well. I recommend any of the kushiyaki (skewered food), the chicken karage with green onion sauce, and the potato mochi. Find a designated driver, because you will definetely want to drink beer if you go. Located on the oppposite side of the McDonalds in Ozu (but more towards the direction of Kumamoto City on the 57).