Omotesando is widely known as being a very posh and fashionable neighborhood, a place to shop at high-end luxury stores. That is why 246 Common, essentially an outdoor food court/farmer’s market made up of a collection of food carts and specialty shops, is so completely — and wonderfully — out of place. I’ll use an analogy from Los Angeles: If Omotesando is Beverly Hills or Rodeo Drive, then 246 Common is like a piece of the Venice neighborhood, with its laid back bohemian vibe, plopped down right next to it.
In fact, there’s a retro California feel to the architectural design and atmosphere of 246 Common. Several of the food stalls (and the restroom) are housed in small, old-style travel trailers. Another stall appears to be built from a repurposed metal shipping container, while most of other stalls operate out of cool-looking wooden shacks. Since the weather is chilly right now, 246 Common has set up heated tents for customers to dine in.
Many of the tables and chairs look like they came straight from a catalog for camping goods. Well actually, the menu/guide for all of 246 Common’s vendors indicates that the furniture came from U.S. outdoor equipment maker Coleman, with a blurb describing how their products can be used year-round in an urban environment as well as the great outdoors. Ah, marketing…
The food selection at 246 Common is diverse, and it’s easy to get a bunch of things from different stalls to share with your friends and family.
For example, there’s Schmatz, a German sausage stand owned operated by a young German expat named Christopher. It’s a humble looking wooden stall, but the large set of deer antlers is hard to miss. Schmatz serves up a delicious sausage in a soft pretzel bread topped with sauerkraut. They also serve a curry sausage, with a side of the pretzel bread.
I also tried Curry Freak which offers a selection of Indian-style curries. I ordered the Garlic Butter Chicken Curry which came with rice, pickles, and a side of Japanese-style salad made if gobo (burdock root), shredded lettuce, and tomato. You also get a glass of mineral water dispensed from a water cooler.
You’ll also find Brooklyn Ribbon Fries, which sells spiral cut potato fries that combine a slightly crispy outside with a thin but soft inside. The fries come in several seasonings including sea salt and pepper, all spice, sugar, and onion gratin (I got the onion gratin flavor which tasted fabulous). BRF also offers a variety of drinks made from their very own Ginger Syrup, including ginger ale, an amazing Mint Julep, and a warm ginger tea. And no respectable food establishment with Brooklyn in its name could go without serving craft beer from Brooklyn Brewery.
There’s Ama Tempura-ya, which makes seafood tempura that isn’t breaded with panko, but instead looks more like the stuff you get with fish and chips. But it’s still quite good. I shared some squid and fish tempura with a friend, and at first I thought the squid was fish — it was softer and not chewy/tough as I usually expect. The fish came with a great Thai-style sweet and sour chili sauce. They also make Okinawan dishes such as Okinawan soba (which is more like ramen than conventional buckweat soba noodles) and taco rice.
Next door to Ama Tempura-ya is LBC (for Local Base Camp, not Long Beach-Compton), which serves up fried oysters. I can be a bit ambivalent about oysters, but I thought these were good both on their own and with a little bit of salt and lime. LBC was also offering fresh raw oysters when I went there the other day.
There’s much more at 246 Common that I haven’t tried yet. There are several food trailers that sell meals made from fresh-from-the-farm ingredients. There’s a place that does all-natural Hawaiian cuisine. For something really offbeat, there’s a stall called Kometo Circus that specializes in serving dished made from exotic animal meats, including horse, kangaroo, bear, venison, and crocodile. There are also shops no bigger than walk-in closets that sell such things as artisanal bread, bagels, flowers, eyeglass frames, and old-style Japanese tobacco pipes. And finally, if you feel like you are slipping into a food coma after all of your munching at 246 Common, you can grab a coffee at Shozo Coffee Store.
Could 246 Common be the coolest food court in Tokyo, perhaps in all of Japan? I don’t know, but I certainly don’t recall going to a food court quite like this. It’s nicer than most of the food alleys and hawker centers you see elsewhere in Asia, and most of the stalls offer things that are a step up from standard street food. It’s definitely much more interesting than the prosaic food courts you find in American shopping malls. 246 Common is casual, relaxed, unpretentious, and hip while at the same time nice enough to attract a diverse demographic, including some of the local well-heeled clientele. It would be great to have more places like 246 Common in Tokyo and other cities around the world.
Many thanks to my friend JP for telling me about this place!246 Common Location: 3-13 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo Business Hours: Generally open seven days a week from 11:00am-10:00pm. However, stores/food stalls keep their own hours. Check the 246 Common website to see who is open on a particular day (in Japanese). Getting There: Take the Tokyo Metro to Omotesando (Ginza, Chiyoda, or Hanzomon lines) to Omotesando station. Take the A4 exit and turn right, walking to the intersection of Route 413 and 246. Turn right again onto Route 246 and walk about two minutes. 246 Common is on the right, an open lot populated with small shacks and trailers among the multistory buildings.