I believe that No Reservations host, author and Chef Anthony Bourdain is correct when he says "show me what people eat and I’ll show you the culture." That definitely applies to the people of Okinawa and in particular one little restaurant that I’d like to highlight in today’s blog.
(A member of the staff in period costume cleans up after a customer)
Chirugwa is a really nice restaurant in the Hamby town district of Chatan Town, not far from the massive U.S. Marine Corps base Camp Foster. It specializes in providing the customer not only delicious local cuisine at an outrageously affordable price (think really super cheap) but, the hospitality and ambiance of old Okinawa.
(The Magi Katsu before adding the sesame and Tonkatsu Sauce)
The staff are all dressed in traditional costumes and greet every customer who walks through their door with a hearty “Mensore” or welcome in the local Okinawan dialect. The same goes for when they depart holding their extended stomachs in their hands as they happily send you off with the traditional “Nihedebiru” or thank you.
(Just add sauce and dig in, hope you brought your appetite, you're going to need it to finish this!)
Traditional Okinawan music is gently piped over the sound system and customers have the choice of sitting in western style chairs at a table, at a counter or making themselves comfortable, taking off their shoes and sitting on tatami mats at a traditional Japanese table. They even have a choice offered not seen at too many restaurants any more, the choice of sitting in a smoking or non-smoking section.
The menu is based on the favorite meat of Okinawans and believe it or not, Mr. Bourdain’s too so I know he’d feel right at home here. Just what meat do Okinawan’s love? In a word, pork! From breaded pork cutlets called “Tonkatsu” to the ever popular Pork ribs or “Soki” and my favorite sliced pork belly or “San Mai Niku” and everything in between, this is a pork lover’s paradise! I think it safe to say that the only place in the world where you'll find more pork on the menu is a budget debate in Washington DC!
(Katsudon, super tender breaded pork cutlets and egg served over rice. Soba soup with San mai nikku and kamabokko on the side)
Okinawan Soba soup is the specialty and you have your choice of meat provided your choice comes from a pig. The “Magi katsu,” sounds like “McGee cuts,” means “BIG” and that is exactly what you get, a breaded pork cutlet that fills your plate and you too if you have the stamina to finish what you started.
Did I mention that the prices are reasonable? More correctly, I’d say they were insanely low. A typical dish will run well under 1000 Yen and you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that you get more than your money’s worth eating here. Speaking for myself, a late lunch here means I can skip dinner altogether.
Lastly, for those American’s on Okinawa who are deathly afraid of succumbing to a terrorist attack while stationed overseas and cringe at the idea of eating out in town, fear not. The emphasis on pork practically guarantees that Israeli/Palestinian flare ups in the dining area will be non-existent and suicide bomb wearing practitioners of a certain "religion of peace" are bound to steer clear!
Getting to chirugwa is easy. It’s on the east side of the road that runs parallel to 58 in-between Hwy 58 and Araha beach. There’s a small creek right next to it and it’s just a few blocks north of the Hamby town Shopping Mall. Just look at our picture and find that building. There’s plenty of parking so it’s not sandwiched in by other buildings.
Here's another blogger's recent post on this place for you to check out!