Contrary to popular belief, I believe the best hamburgers are definitely a slow food. Just because McDonald’s made hamburgers into the archetypal fast food, it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice the concept of a real high quality burger. While it’s rare to find a burger joint that is willing to keep their customers waiting 15 minutes or more after ordering, T’s★Diner (T’s Star Diner) is and is proud of it.
To be honest, the first time I visited T’s, I baulked at their “slow food” sign (pictured). I was in a hurry and all I wanted was my fix. Even takeaway was fine. But the clock was ticking away and so I had to suppress the urge, swearing to come back again another day. After all, this guy seemed serious about his hamburgers… How could I continue my search for the ultimate Japanese hamburger without trying one of T’s. (If you haven’t read the previous installments then you might like to read my reviews of Awajishima Burger and Okinawa Jef Hamburger.)
At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of T’s. After all, it wasn’t really a burger joint, it was a diner right? And the menu seemed to be filled with a bunch of typical Americana (that you’d expect to find in your typical diner). But I was pleasantly surprised. It turns out that the owner of T’s (who is also probably the guy you’ll see standing behind the counter most of the day) is a devoted connoisseur of hamburgers. When I asked him why on earth he bothered to open up a diner in the middle of Takatsuki (高槻, near Osaka), he gave it to me short and simple:
ハンバーガーが好きだから (’cause I love hamburgers)
As you’d expect, he has traveled the US to get a sample of the real thing but I really liked his story of how he trained after he got back to Japan. It turns out that there is a town in Aichi prefecture (愛知県) near the headquarters of Toyota (in Toyata City) that is famous for its diners.
I must own up and admit that I have never been there. (If any stippy readers out there have, I’d love to hear more about it in the comments section below.) Apparently you’ll see more diners there than in downtown Chicago. It seems the owner spent several years learning the trade here before starting his own in his home town of Takatsuki. While you may laugh and say “Who on earth visits a burger joint in Takatsuki?” (I certainly did) you might be surprised to hear that he receives a regular flow of international clientele who come to get a swig of the cool-ade we know as Americana.
So what’s so good about his burgers. At first sight, the menu looks pretty low key actually. While you can order a burger with two patties, there are no extravagant toppings to be seen here. T’s prides itself on the flavor of the patties and rightly so. While I’m usually a fan of a burger with plenty of other toppings between the pattie and the bun, I enjoyed sitting back and savouring the texture and juiciness of the beef in the bun. I think I’d almost forgotten how important a high quality pattie was until then. Even so, I couldn’t quite settle merely for a plain old hamburger and went for the cheese and bacon burger (900 yen). Yum. Quite to my surprise, the bacon was thickly sliced premium bacon (厚切りベーコン) and balanced the beef in the burger perfectly. I’ve also had the chili burger at T’s which I do recommend for any chili con carne fans out there.
For some reason there is a 500 yen minimum charge at T’s but it includes a free drink so if you’re happy to augment your hamburger with a jockey of nama (生, on the tap) beer then you don’t really notice. It might be a bit of a sore point for cola drinkers though. Perhaps it’s because he can’t make money out of the hamburgers charging only 7~900 yen (although the double pattie burgers cost 1,500). At the moment the diner is only open for lunch and dinner but it closes very late (5AM) and the owner hopes to be able to open it 24 hours a day at one stage (in true “diner” style). I’d personally prefer him to stay open all afternoon as I’ve been passing through more than once between 3~5PM wanting a burger only to find that they are closed. And, quite frankly, how many people are gonna come and have a hamburger at 3AM in the morning at Takatsuki? Although being very close to Highway 171 probably guarantees him a bit of late night traffic. To T’s credit, you can order a hamburger anytime up to 4AM in the morning. Not many bars stay open that late and offer food much past midnight. Please keep that in mind next time you’re wandering in Takatsuki in the wee hours of the morning.
There’s something about T’s that just doesn’t feel quite like the diners that I know from back home. The music is great (he has some really golden oldies music videos playing in the back) but perhaps it is the atmosphere. It is “Japan size” as far as a diner is concerned (It can probably only seat 10~15 people) and lacks in buzz: I’ve never seen more than one customer (beside myself) there. I’d hate to see him go out of business so all the more reason to visit more regularly, I guess! I’ve decided to give T’s Diner two stippies. Just like Michelin is very kechi (ケチ, tight) with their stars, we here at Stippy don’t take our hamburger ratings lightly. Perhaps if there was no cover charge, the option of an egg in the cheese burger and a little more buzz then I might, just might, have been tempted to consider three. All in all, I can highly recommend a feed at T’s.
T’s Star Diner
How to get there:
T’s Diner is located between Highway 171 and Hankyu’s Takatsuki-shi station (阪急高槻市駅). There is an arcade heading out on an angle to your left (the one before Centre Rd センター街) and T’s is a couple of blocks walk down it. Look out for the blues brother statue or the Betty Boop holding a hamburger that they have out front. From JR Takatsuki it’s a good 15 minute walk and easiest to cut through the Osaka Medical College Hospital (大阪医学大学病院). (It’s just the other side of the Hankyu railway if you sneak under the line in front of the hospital.)
2-11-5 Johokucho, Takatsuki, Osaka
Hours: 11:30AM~3:00PM / 5:00PM~5:00AM