Kiss My Ass McDonald’s! Better Burgers at Café Captain Kangaroo


There are MUCH better burger options....

There are MUCH better burger options….

Oh, the shame. Not finishing the best burger found on Okinawa. Especially when my wife and all the rather petite Japanese women surrounding me devoured theirs without issue….

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, storefront hamburger island cafe captina kangaroo

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, no pickles on our burgers!In and Out isn’t part of the in-crowd on Okinawa…mainly since it doesn’t exist here. Apparently there aren’t enough meaty guys on the island to have a Fives Guys. You can get steaks and shakes on Okinawa, but not coincidently enough to have a Steak and Shake. There is an Applebee’s, but it’s on base, overpriced and full of loud and usually overly boisterous Americans watching some inane sporting event. And while they do serve a pretty good burger, at twice the cost and half the taste, it “udderly” fails in comparison to those award-winning beefy concoctions at Captain Kangaroo’s!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, award-winning burgers

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, opening hours artNow, Jody and I debated whether the burgers there are alone worth the long drive to Nago, and while the outcome is close, we agree there probably needs to be another reason to make the trek. Even if it’s just for the scenic drive up Highway 58. On an island full of “hamburg” joints that serve what amounts to really good meatloaf, a REAL hamburg-ER is a rare and treasured culinary find.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, comfy and casual seating

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, iconic logo in pastels“‘Roo’s” is minimally furnished with an eclectic assortment of comfy chairs and lounging couches. The quick-order counter, at an unusual height that’s not high enough for bar stools and too low for the dining chairs provided, is a great option if you are either in danger of dehydration from uncontrolled salivation or simply on the move and don’t want to wait the 20 minutes we did during high time from 1300-1500.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, counter service bar none

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, street-side signDiners will find themselves surrounded by surfer-themed movie posters and random knickknacks, from an empty SPAM tin repurposed as a napkin holder, to our table’s hamburger warps held in place by an old Kraft Cheese cylinder…. A large selection of Japanese comics are easily selected from a wall of simple bookshelves, and randomly interesting magazines are for the borrowing in the small waiting area.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, waiting area and cashier's counter

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, comfy and casual seating 2Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, anniversary smilesWe were seated in two easy chairs alongside a classic low coffee table of just the right size, an arrangement both casual and comfy at the same time. To top off the café’s relaxed experience, soft reggae and world music plays softly in the background, and for those lucky enough of eating in the back raised corner of the small shop, there is an incomparable view of the East China Sea certainly not found at any burger joint found back home.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, Jody ready for lunch

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, heart-shaped ketchupCafé Captain Kangaroo came to Nago, Okinawa, in 2007, purposed specifically to become an iconic burger shop. The Captain’s family tree is traced all the way back to Osaka, Japan, on Honshu, where the surname was established in 1997 as only a bar; no explanation is given for the rather odd moniker. The staff are all very friendly and cheerful, and good English is widely spoken. During our visit on a lazy almost-Spring Sunday afternoon were about a half and half mix of Japanese and gaijin, all enjoying their beefy meals. There were about five people working during our visit, and their smiles combined with the fun, casual attitude of the place certainly helped to make the burgers even more delicious. Oddly enough, we witnessed one of the staffers eating a late lunch. Their pick off the menu: TACO RICE!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, no pickles on our burgers!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, menu masterpiecesOkinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, all decisions involve hamburgersYes, that Okinawan ubiquitous meal is indeed offered, but as one of only eleven mains on the menu – one key to the café’s massive success. The focus is on quality and taste, and with only a few items to master, both are promises made and delivered upon. The menu is offered bilingually in Japanese and English, with most items costing about 1,000 yen or less. Combos can be made by adding in a potato set offering a choice of hashbrowns, wedges with skin, or traditional fries. Drinks can also be added at a “set” price to complete your combination platter.

The Amazing "Sparky" Burger

The Amazing “Sparky” Burger

Jody and I both ordered the “Sparky” burger, and within about 10 minutes, were served a veritable skyscraper of a burger! A home-baked sesame-covered bun grilled crispy and served hot off the griddle, slathered with BBQ sauce (not overdone), a beef patty, cheese (Swiss we believe), tons of fresh, crispy lettuce and juicy tomato, and finally topped with our favorite: an impossibly large serving of crispy deep-fried delicious shoestring onions. The tower was held against toppling by a long bamboo spear, and multiple triangular sandwich holders are provided – and required!

Notice the "Heartfelt" Ketchup!

Notice the “Heartfelt” Ketchup!

Ketchup is served on the plate, but placed there with great care. The Japanese couple next to us had their sauce in the shaped of animated musical notes, while ours came in the shape of blood-red beating hearts – very fitting since this was our first date and outing on our own in many weeks! On the table are salt, pepper, chili spice, and garlic salt, the last of which I *forgot* to use. Oh well, a great excuse to return. And SOON.

Shirts Sold at Café Roo's

Shirts Sold at Café Roo’s

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, sorry cash onlyCaptain Kangaroo’s rates 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor, where it is also ranked the #1 restaurant in all of Nago (out of something like 348 establishments). Given some of the styles and qualities of foods that can be found in this corner of the Far East in a large city, this standing is quite an accomplishment. I have been hearing the hype about this place for over a year now, and generally don’t give into such popularity contests: seldom does anything live up to such impossibly high expectations. Hamburger Island Café Captain Kangaroo’s does, on all accounts. And all our deliciousness for 2,600 yen, or about $23.50.

Jody mocks my last uneaten bit in silent contempt.....

Jody mocks my last uneaten bit in silent contempt…..

Oh, and about that shame of not finishing my burger? In my defense, I did have a large portion of chocolate ice cream for lunch.

At least I have my priorities in the right order….

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, a plate of burger heavan

Ambiance:  Eclectically furnished and casual burger joint of the highest caliber. Furniture groupings provide comfy and casual seating for couples and large groups of up to eight.

Service:  A small establishment which prides itself on quality and perfection. Food is all cooked fresh order, and the joint can be crowded during lunch and in the afternoons. While the wait to get a spot inside may be 20 or 30 minutes, your order is taken promptly and the food appears quicker than you might think possible. The staff is overly laid-back and friendly, and English is widely and easily spoken.

Food Quality:  Excellent without question. Ranked on Trip Advisor as the #1 restaurant in Nago.

Features:  Quaint eatery with conditioned indoor seating.  Easy-going atmosphere which is beachwear and kid-friendly.

Cuisine:  Burgers, burgers, and burgers. Plus eight more types of burgers. Plus taco rice.

Price/Value:  Excellent.

Address: 183 Umusa, Nago City

Phone: 098-054-3698

Opening Times: Every day except Holidays and Wednesdays, 11:00~20:00 (last order 19:40)

Directions: Take 58 north to Nago (or the Expressway until it ends and joins 58), then a slight left onto 449 once passing the seaside Nago baseball stadium. Captain Kangaroo, a small shop that’s easy to miss, is about 0.9 kilometers down the road on the left. Additional parking is found just before the storefront, and also to the rear of the burger joint.

Website: http://www.roo-bar.jp

Okinawa Eats: Kajinho, Pizza in the Sky


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12425307123_d8a0d3f94d_bAmbiance: Local establishment situated high on a hillside in the Motobu peninsula.  With beautiful views and open-air seating on nicer days, the place is hugely popular and thus often very crowded.

Service: Although very crowded, the service during our visits has been impeccable.

Food Quality: Average-to-above-average, except for presentation.

Features: Minimal outdoor seating around the restaurant’s perimeter, with rustic bench-type seating inside.  Overflow seating in a type of circus-tent, an area that I would recommend diners attempt to avoid.

Cuisine: Pizza, one kind, house salad, and a wide array of tropical drinks and desserts.

Price/Value: Average.

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Getting to this restaurant is not easy, even with instructions, printed maps, and pins on your iPhone (make sure it is right!). Luckily for us, being a car-load of gaijin climbing the surrounding hillside roads, the locals knew where we all wanted to go, and a woman actually approached and assured us of the way…think goodness!  Finally, just over the rise of the hill and down a narrow road into a gravel parking lot stood “Pizza in the Sky,” in all its rumored glory gleaming proudly in the bright afternoon sun.

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Pizza in the Sky, like many other of the quaint style of eateries on Okinawa, appears to be operated within a traditional Japanese home. There is the expected indoor seating, but a really charming patio around the perimeter of the main building.  Watch out though:  as stated above, there is one seating area that I recommend diners avoid, a covered area set off to the side utilizing picnic table-like seating.

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There are some really fine touches at Pizza in the sky. Their simple and short menu is printed on beautiful Asian fans.  What you will find is exactly what you’ve heard:  two sizes of pizza (and only one kind), salad, and various drinks.  Note that there is no choice in the pizza, rather, everyone gets the pizza of the day at Kajinho!

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12357997233_839c53d102_b12425295503_b4daa3aee2_bThe pizza is not bad, and the salad was quite nice. The pizza crust is thicker than what I prefer, and takes a bit of chew to get through easily.  The cheese is not exactly what I would call “Italian,” but the chefs are not shy with it!  The salad is served in a large bowl easily enough for two, and is topped with a Japanese-inspired tangy vinaigrette.  The fresh juices, while delicious, are quite expensive.  It seems that their menu draws mixed reviews from the American public.  The real star, edibly speaking, was the tea that most of us at our large table ordered. Kajinho serves theirs with a bouquet of flowers and in rustically Okinawan pottery.  Regardless of what you think about the food, the fantastic views of the East China Sea are always satisfying.

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Although the food is not to die for, in my opinion neither is the ambiance. Contrary to the urban legend of mythical proportions that has arisen around Pizza in the Sky, the mass of crowds that can share this hilltop location with you are enough to cancel out any romantic or rustic notion of dining here.  Crowds seem to crush at lunch, combining trips to the Aquarium or Butterfly Garden with a stop for a bite to eat.  I have heard that the dinner wait is much, much shorter, but watch the clock:  they close early with last order at 1830.

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Beware there are a lot of bugs here, especially at night or near sunset. The staff does provide some bug-repellent coils to burn at your outdoor tables, but just be prepared for mosquitos and no-see-ums.  And come prepared:  Yen only!!

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Hours: Open 12:00 – 19:00 (Last Order 18:30), closed Tuesday & Wednesday

Address:  1153-2 Yamazato, Motobu-cho

Phone: 098-047-5537

Hotto Motto (ほっともっと): Take-Away Food for the Gods!


Our Hotto-Motto Take-Away Dinner

Our Hotto-Motto Take-Away Dinner

“Fast food is equivalent to pornography, nutritionally speaking.” ~Steve Elbert

Jody's First Visit!

Jody’s First Visit!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Eats HottoMotto, Okinawan fast foodHotto Motto:  Japanese fast-food take-out chain, with over 90 locations on Okinawa.  Some open 24/7, others serving either side of lunch and dinner.

Ambiance:  Take-away only; clean and brightly lit stores with limited parking.

Service:  Good & quick.

Cocktails:  None; beer may be available in standalone coolers.

Food Quality:  Very Good.

Features:  Well-staffed, but some with only a single register.  Orders can be called-in prior to pick-up.  Dollars may be accepted, but better value will be realized if Yen is used for payment.  Kid-friendly meals are available.

Cuisine:  Bento-style Asian-inspired meals cooked fresh and served hot.

Price/Value:  Very good.

My Waitress was NOT Wearing this Uber-Cute Outfit

My Waitress was NOT Wearing this Uber-Cute Outfit

Okinawa Oct 2013, Eats HottoMotto, bright logoHotto Motto (ほっともっと) is a Japanese fast-food chain specializing in take-out bento, found in all but five of Japan’s 47 prefectures.  They are generally small storefronts which offer limited parking, and with the vast number on Okinawa (90+), there is probably one just down the street from you which you might not even know about!  But you should.

Find the Western-Inspired Meals!!

Find the Western-Inspired Meals!!

I’m not sure if this generally proves to be true, but as fast-food, it seems that most of the staff at various locations cannot speak English, so have your cell-phone translators ready.  However, English menus, or at least subtitles, are readily available and are enough to the job using the point-and-smile-at-the-picture method of ordering.  A Google translation of their menu is available, but the site can be cumbersome (and frustrating) to use.

Thank Goodness for Cell-Phone Translation!

Thank Goodness for Cell-Phone Translation!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Eats HottoMotto, dinner in a box for 5 dollarsThe food at “HM” is cooked fresh to order, and most is served Bento-box style.  The 50+ menu items are centered Japanese-grown chicken (tori), but other meats are available.  Additionally, there are soups (Soba of course), salads, rice bowls (-don), and surprisingly a variety of items seemingly inspired by American eating habits (“hamburg”).  The chain is very kid-friendly, and offers a wide selection of kids’ meal options.  And, most interesting and different for fast-food, the chains’ specials change every few weeks, which no doubt draws people back early and often.  HM also offers party plates which range from ¥3,000 to ¥5,000, while their reasonable lunch bento boxes cost between ¥290-590.   Small add-ons – mini-soups and small salads – can be purchased for ¥100-150.

Cheap Enough to Pay For with Change!

Cheap Enough to Pay For with Change!

Hotto Motto’s owners tout the healthy aspects of their take-out cuisine, which is both cheap and tasty, sure signs in America that the food is most certainly bad for you!  That doesn’t seem to be the case here, however.  The chicken is fresh, and the ingredients are simply and wholesome, and most importantly, every request is cooked-to-order to insure maximum hot freshness.

Girl-Group AKB48 Members Can't be Wrong!!

Girl-Group AKB48 Members Can’t be Wrong!!

2010-12-28-044531Stop by Hotto Motto, decipher the menu, and surprise your loved ones with Japanese fast-food take-out.  Everyone will be happy, including your wallet/pocketbook!