Review: Village Vanguard Diner, Shimokitazawa; ヴィレッジ ヴァンガード ダイナー 下北沢

Oh how promising it looked...
Oh how promising it looked…

Village Vanguard… that name might seem familiar. But you may have noticed the strategically placed word ‘diner’. This is apparently the foodie offshoot of the legendary variety goods store, Village Vanguard – we’ll return to that in a bit.

I could sit and type out my woes at lengths about Village Vanguard Diner, but I’ll be brief. It’s the kind of place that tries to rock that shabby surfer scene look, culminating in a rather dingy, depressing and gauche interior with jumbled American artifacts. Potentially, someone just has a great sense of humour and foresaw photos like this:

Unwanted customers get sprayed
Unwanted customers get sprayed

The burgers looked promising but they were served with half-hearted mouth twitches from staff who seemed almost as fatigued as the décor.

Layers.... with REAL avocado
Layers…. with REAL avocado

This avocado bacon burger contained one rubbery patty and a whole lot of flavourless other stuff, including thick, soft ‘bacon’ that was about as far removed from bacon as possible whilst still resembling it. It’d make a great spy. The avocado was probably the best thing about the burger as it was the only thing that hadn’t been thoroughly processed. The onion rings were equally regrettable. Delicious memories of Honest Burgers in London and tormented me.

From frozen to thoroughly greased
From frozen to thoroughly greased

So, let’s not talk about how my companion left saying how he’d take a Big Mac any day or how Village Vanguard Diner is only worth a 1 out of 5 rating.

Instead, let’s talk about Village Vanguard, self-described as an ‘exciting bookstore’ and let’s pretend it has no association whatsoever with the burger place.

Maybe books were the original focus of Village Vanguard. And whilst it definitely still sells books, they’re somewhat subsumed by the absolute madness inside. Think CDs, sweets, and all kinds of useless memorabelia that you never knew you wanted. I go in an pore over the Moomins mugs and the Studio Ghibli gadgets and… the giant sharks?


IMG_9110 IMG_9109 IMG_9107 IMG_9106 IMG_9105 IMG_20140923_214757 IMG_20140923_214646 IMG_20140923_214811 IMG_20140923_214346

Outside, at the Shimokitazawa, they have some fantastic vending machines. I really wish I’d stopped at the Very Hungry Caterpillar one as my childhood self was squealing… and this machine vanished pretty quickly. Instead friends and I ended up at the very tasteful cheerleader machine. Isn’t this ‘cute’…?

Innocent childhood memories
Innocent childhood memories
Marketing at its subtlest
Marketing at its subtlest
Hooray! Your team won!
Hooray! Your team won!

Dubious items aside, if you see a Village Vanguard, poke your head in. I defy you to spend less than half an hour in there. It’ll swallow you up.

7 thoughts

    1. Thank goodness you didn’t eat there! Where would you recommend eating?

      And yes, I’d read that about Shimo…. it’s a cool place, but it’s not *that* cool in my opinion…

  1. For burgers in Tokyo try the following:

    Brozers in Nigyocho.
    Burger Mania is Hiroo or Shirokanedai (personal favorite)
    Great Burger in Harajuku
    Brown Burger in Omotesando Hills
    Authentic in Akasaka
    West Park does a solid one too.
    The Palace hotel bar
    The Four Seasons
    Rib Room in New Otani
    Blacows in Ebisu
    Gotham Grill in Ebisu

    to start. get back to me if you want more places to go.

    JS has a good rep but kinda weak.
    Vanguard- really??? you dont eat there.
    Teddy’s Bigger Burger- is a Wendy’s but with slightly better ingredients.

    1. Thanks so much for all of these! Blacows has been on my list for a while. Wasn’t that impressed with Great Burger, but there’s got to be one of these places that will hit the spot.

      JS was VERY weak. And yes, won’t make that mistake – I just walked past it and thought “Oooh burger” 😦

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