Best Japanese Convenience Store Ever: “Gooz” Oozes Deliciousness

IMG_7442There are many reasons why Japan could arguably be the most advanced and civilized society in the world. If you ask me, one of those reasons is Japanese convenience stores (konbini).

I don’t know what convenience stores are like in other countries, but a 7-11 in the United States is a wasteland for food compared to their Japanese counterparts — hot dogs and hamburgers that taste boring and stale, Big Gulps, and the usual junk food. I know there have been some efforts to improve the offerings, but Americans are still being shortchanged on this front.

On the other hand, a 7-11 in Japan (or any of its myriad local competitors such as Lawson’s and Family Mart) is a surprisingly good place to grab not just a quick and affordable meal, but a relatively enjoyable one as well. It’s not gourmet cuisine, but you’ll have a far better time eating the vast assortment of bento boxes, ready made noodles, rice bowls, salads, sandwiches, and (my personal favorite) onigiri rice balls than you will their mystery meat counterparts in America. Konbinis are also great places to grab delicious breads, like the ubiquitous melonpan, and pastries on the go.

You can debate the merits of each konbini chain. But personally, I believe that the very best konbini here is one that even many Tokyoites have not heard of. It goes by a funny name: Gooz.

Gooz (which, according to Urban Dictionary, coincidentally means “fart” in Persian… but don’t let that turn you off to this place) is an offshoot of a Yokohama/Kanagawa prefecture-based konbini chain called Three F, and is meant to be a more upscale convenience store. There are a very small number of Goozes around, with only one Tokyo location in Nakameguro.

Why is Gooz so great? Unlike the other konbini chains, a lot of the food sold at Gooz is made on site rather than delivered by truck. You can taste the difference in both the freshness and the overall quality.

And the stuff that they make? Gourmet cheesebergers, with patties that taste like a delicious mix of pork and beef. Deep fried shrimp patties that are breaded with panko and served between hamburger buns. Several types of cream puffs, bread with cream cheese filling, and other fresh baked pastries that are clearly better than what you find at other convenience stores. And, of course, the standard onigiri, sandwiches, noodles, and other konbini fare, many of which are prepared in-store.

On top of that, Gooz features a self-serve coffee bar, featuring an assortment of different flavors. You can get it hot or pour it over some ice cubes for some iced coffee. All of it tasty, all of it convenient. Their coffee tastes significantly better than the stuff at other konbini and is a viable alternative to the drip coffee at major chains like Starbucks and Tully’s.

It might sound odd for a food blog to recommend a convenience store, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Gooz reframes what you expect from a convenience store, even in a place like Japan which already has the finest in the world.

Keep in mind that some of the items, such as the burgers and the baked goods, do begin to run out by the middle of the evening. And, of course, the freshly made food does taste better earlier in the day. So don’t get there too late.

Finally, there’s a larger question for my fellow Americans — why don’t we have this in the United States? Family Mart has tried to introduce upscale, Japanese-style konbini in Southern California in the form of their Famima! stores, which are a step in the right direction, but pale in comparison to Gooz. Of course, Gooz is still a small operation, occupying a niche, higher-end market in Japan. But I hope more people discover, appreciate, and frequent it because it’s really that awesome. Gooz is the best that a convenience store can be.

Gooz
Location: The Nakameguro store is located at 1-26-2 Kamimeguro, Meguro, Tokyo. There is also one in the center of Yokohama, on Nihon Odori.
Hours of Operation: 7:00am-11:00pm (a convenience store that actually operates from 7 to 11!)
How to get there: To get to the Nakameguro store, take either the Tokyo Metro’s Hibiya line or the Tokyu Toyoko Line to Nakameguro station. Go southeast on Yamate Dori (the main street right in front of the station exit), and turn left on Komazawa Dori. Gooz is located on the left, just before you get to the Meguro River.
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8 thoughts on “Best Japanese Convenience Store Ever: “Gooz” Oozes Deliciousness

  1. I swear I could live off the food from a konbini! When I tell that to my friends sometimes, they look at me really weirdly (like why I would gush about convenience stores and not some upscale meal in Ginza or something). It’s a complete meal, from drinks to appetizers to main course to dessert 😀

    Can’t wait to try this one the next time I go.

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    • You’ve hit on a key point about konbini, which is how Americans (and probably many other foreigners) have a fundamentally different concept of what a convenience store is and what they offer in terms of food. For Americans used to US-style 7-11s, it’s at least a step or two lower than going to a fast food place like McDonald’s. You wouldn’t see the long lunchtime lines that they have at Japanese konbini. The preconceived notions about convenience stores are probably so strong that a store like Gooz or Famima! may have to frame and position themselves as something other than a convenience store in order thrive and expand in the US market.

      And definitely check out Gooz when you’re in Japan next time! They really deserve to have more exposure.

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  2. I wish I had known about Gooz before this last Japan trip, I would’ve loved to try those cheeseburgers. And I miss Famima in So Cal, I think almost all of them have closed down. There used to be one just down the street where I would get my sesame wing fix.

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    • Very sorry that I didn’t blog about Gooz earlier! I think you would have really enjoyed it. Yeah, I heard that many of the Famimas in SoCal had closed, but that you can find the locations of the remaining ones on their website. As I mentioned in my comments to matchadippedbaguette, perhaps one of the big challenges that Famima faces is that Americans probably have strong, preconceived notions about convenience store food, which impacts their willingness to buy even if it tastes significantly better. These stereotypes could be so strong that Japanese-style konbini may have to frame themselves as something other than convenience stores in order to thrive and expand.

      One of the other things I like about Gooz (which perhaps I should have highlighted more) is how they present their fresh made food. Stuff like the cheeseburgers and pastries are not sold in plastic wrapping like they are at other konbini — they are set out in the open in baskets, as if you were walking into a bakery. This helps to underscore their freshness and quality. Furthermore, you can peer into the kitchen areas where they prepare at least some of the food on-site, which shows that the stuff isn’t simply massed produced in a factory somewhere. You feel like you’re in a bakery or deli, rather than a convenience store — and it’s reflected in the taste too.

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      • Oh no worries! I’m sure to be back in Japan either next year or the year after, and will go to Gooz then. I got excited when I saw that they had cheeseburgers because I always get a craving for one when I’m in Japan. Strange because I hardly ever want one when I’m back home in the US. I know there’s places like Mos Burger or Freshness Burger but I really don’t like their burgers much.

        You make very good points about why Famima didn’t do as well as they would have hoped in the US. I think another problem was that the food, while better than stuff sold at 7-11’s, was nowhere near as good as what you’d find in a Japanese combini. Most people I knew said they’d rather go to the Japanese supermarket and pick up bentos and musubis because they were better than Famima’s.

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  3. I love the convenience stores in Japan! I could live off the katsu sandwiches and onigiri. This is the first time I’ve read about Gooz. Would you know if they have branches in the Kasai area? Traveling there next year and would appreciate any recommendations 🙂

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    • Hi! According to their website, Gooz only has one store in Yokohama, one store in Tokyo (Nakameguro), and two highway rest stops (Japan has the finest rest stops I have ever seen anywhere… like just about everything else, they make road trips so civilized). I’m not aware of anything like Gooz in the Kansai area. Though there seems to be many more Ministops and Circle Ks in Kyoto than in Tokyo. So if you want to check out convenience stores besides the ubiquitous 7-11, Family Mart, and Lawsons, you might to start there. Hope that was somewhat helpful.

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