Don’t Diss “Dennys” Dining During Your Japan Visit
24-Hour Denny’s Boasts the Best Trained Staff of Any FamiResu Yet
The culture of “Famiresu” or Family Restaurant is iconic and incredibly unique in Japan.
With many Japanese families worried their babbling, food throwing and not-quite-yet disciplined toddlers might bother others too much at an actual big-person restaurant, the “Famiresu” is a place to let your hair down, release your kids, spend the day studying or just hang out until the trains start after a hard partying night on the town.
Hm. Funny to think that a place that welcomes the shouts of babies, whines of picky toddlers and exasperated “Just eat it!” of nutrition conscious moms at noon, would also attract businesspeople wanting to finish up that proposal at 2 p.m. or seniors in a new-found romance sharing an after-dinner chocolate parfait at 8 p.m. and then young night-lifers still a bit tipsy gobbling down spicy warm ramen noodles at 3 a.m. Yes, Famiresu is the 24/7 oasis for yummy calorie counted food at fair prices easy on the wallet of the masses.
Of all the famiresu out there in Japan, I have categorized Saizeriya as cheap, good, crowded and fun; Jonathan’s as great for the drink bar and bottomless beverage options; Denny’s as the superstar child in the Denny’s global family who takes the cake in terms of service, taste and well any other criteria for an eatery that is not fast food but not haute couture gourmet either.
I wonder if the “Fountain Diner” my Dad used to visit during his high school days in Virginia are like the Denny’s I’ve enjoyed during my 25 years in Yokohama? The lime green/chocolate brown staff uniforms tell of a somewhat straight-laced executive board that values propriety and attention to detail. At the Denny’s near my house in Yokohama, stools are set outside the main entrance to accommodate overflow during the busy times. Busy times are when there is a graduation ceremony at one of the nearby pre-schools, a big funeral up the hill at the graveyard, mid-day to evening when the business people stop by for their bottomless cuppa and then in the wee hours of the morning when taxi drivers and party animals hunker over warm cocoa or sweet desserts.
Walk in to any Denny’s and a veteran wait-person will immediately greet you with a hearty “Denny’s he Yokoso” “Welcome to Denny’s”. They will ask if you smoke or not and then find you a seat among the buzz of conversation and laughter that fills the space.
Little children will be googly-eyeing the display of tiny plastic toys at the entrance or the candy/gum/sweet shelf under the cash-register, suited business people will be mulling over documents, intent students will be engrossed in a book, well-heeled ladies will be laughing together as they watch their toddlers gobble up ice-cream or cake and elderly men will be engaged in animated conversation with counter staff pouring coffee into half-filled mugs.
The food menus are filled with photos, there is usually some English and the calorie content of the fare is clearly displayed. Last night, “Hawaiian” was the theme with a special pineapple-themed menu, Hawaiian elevator music from the speakers and warm Aloha smiles from the staff. Actually, after going to Denny’s in Japan over the last 25 years, I know those smiles are not particular to Hawaiian night. The service and care you get at Denny’s along with the excellent food and healthy choices, is really an experience to be had.
Ask your concierge or colleague where the nearest Denny’s is and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by content, price, smiles and community at this eclectic “Family Restaurant”.
Former Deep Japan Writer