Hakata is famous for its style of ramen, which has a very pungent smell thanks to a pork rib broth called tonkotsu (豚骨). Enjoy it with pickled ginger and lots of sesame seeds. Save the broth, because you can order a refill of noodles (kaedama) for around ¥300 at many places (another oddity you won't see available elsewhere).
Although there are restaurants all over town serving ramen at various price levels, some of the best joints are yatai, mobile food stalls. The stalls are set up early evening and can be found on major streets; particularly in Tenjin (near the post office), Nakasu and Nagahama-Dori. Also, along the river from Canal City, an entire strip of yatai can be found. Although ramen is the norm, you can find anything from yakitori to Italian cuisine. Brush up on your Japanese or pointing skills as these guys don't speak English at all. A few tips: respect other customers' space, don't go in large groups (split up and assault multiple stalls), and don't stay too long.
Ichiran5-3-2 Nakasugawa, Hakata-kuPhone: +81 92 262-0433Hours: 24 hr, 365 daysPrice: 650A well known ramen chain, dedicated solely to perfecting tonkotsu. Buy a ticket from the vending machine outside (just hit the big top button) and take a seat at the counter. Each seat has a curtain in front and dividers on the side, so nothing distracts you from the noodle experience that awaits. Cellphones, children or conversation are not allowed. Hand over your ticket, receive a questionnaire on how you like your noodles (available in English at some outlets), and choose the middle option ( kihon, or "standard") for everything. In under a minute, a bowl of noodles will appear. If you want more noodles or an egg, press the button and ask for kaedama or tamago respectively. Mana Burgers2-15-20 Kego, Chuo-kuPhone: +81 92 986-0759Hours: 10:00-21:00 Mon-Sat, Sun/Nat Hol, closed WedsPrice: from 430Entirely-vegetarian burger restaurant - several of the burgers and side orders are vegan, as are all the desserts (including ice cream). They make their own burger patties - many kinds - from soybeans. The owner, Tora, can speak English and they have an English menu. Health foods (including ground-on-the-premises peanut and almond butters) and eco-friendly cleaning products are for sale here as well.
Mami-chanHas ramen available, but is better known for the other excellent choices on their menu. Mami-chan's is unusual in this respect as many yatai don't have menus or listed prices so its often best to find out how much an item is before ordering or you might find your bill a bit higher than you expected. At Mami-chan's, Mami, the proprietor is jovial and friendly, often serving a bit extra to customers and taking photos of everyone that passes through.
Ramen StadiumHours: Daily 11AM-11PMPrice: Place your order by purchasing a food ticket from the vending machine before entering the restaurantThis celebration of ramen offers 8 restaurants with every style of ramen between Kyushu and Hokkaido. Ballots collected at the center determine a monthly favorite.
Yama-chanTasty ramen and late night hours off the streets of Oyafukodori. Cut through the park behind the police box and you're sure to find it. Yama-chan is the owner.
Another regional product Hakata is famous for is the spicy mentaiko (明太子), or cod roe condiment, though in actuality these days it is all imported. Both products are widely available for tourists in JR Hakata Station as well as major department stores, although the mentaiko needs to be refrigerated.
Fukuoka is also known for having good gyoza (pork dumplings) and there are many places to try some. (They are a perfect appetizer/side dish for ramen, incidentally.)
Tetsu-NabeThere is another located in Nakasu, but the Hakata one seems to be the most popular. Be aware though that when you enter, you will be expected to be quick with your order as the place is usually very busy.
Sancho PanzaDaimyo building 11511has a fabulous lunch menu, most dishes around 700-800. Tasty wrap tacos and other Latin-American style food is on available. On weekends, there is often live guitar music in the afternoon. In the evening the restaurant also opens the floor to dance: salsa, bachata, merengue and the cha-cha-cha all make their appearance at some point. Usually a 500 charge.
Propeller Drive1-13-30 Imaizumi Fukuoka, Japan 810-0021Phone: +81 92 715 6322Propeller has a trendy feel, with chandeliers and mirrors hanging all around. Sunday through Thursday they have Happy Hour until 8PM, drinks are 300. Until 9PM they serve the Venus Special, a dinner set for 1,050.
HarinezumiPrice: Lunch sets start at 500, dinner set from 650 yen. The owner, Ma-chan also offers a 1,000 beer and snack set.The sets are pretty standard Japanese teishouku style, rice, soup, meat or fish, veggie. Although Ma-chan only speaks a very little bit of English, he's typically game for conversation and if you aren't into conversation, there's a massive TV on the wall.
RingerHutA chain restaurant that does Champon (a kind of Chinese noodle dish with seafood and vegetables). Some branches have a system where you put your money in a machine, push the button under the dish of your choice and give your ticket to the staff. Other branches you just order from the menu.
Lunch time is probably the best value for the money. Most restaurants will do lunch sets at 1/2 or 1/3 the price of their dinner sets, but serve the same course. If you have a bit more cash to spend and want to have a nice Japanese style lunch, the Grand Hyatt at Canal City and the Excel Hotel near Nakasu are both good. Most of the larger, nicer hotels in the area will serve beautiful lunch sets. Many restaurants and cafes in the area will have lunch sets under ¥1,000.