I got just a little too excited upon hearing that Fukuoka is famous for "yatai", or street food stalls. Sure, there are heaps of places to eat in Fukuoka - the Ramen Stadium in the Canal City Shopping Centre, Ichiran Ramen, the famous Restaurant Hiramatsu Hakata and so on, but there is nothing like eating at the street stalls. It is where kind-hearted Fukuoka locals gather, serving out humble, unpretentious but absolutely scrumptious local fare. It is where Japanese businessmen gather after a hard day of work, savouring up delicious morsels of food while chugging down beer and discussing about everything under the sun. It is where you can busk in the homely chatter, the smells and the relaxing atmosphere. Isn't it much more fun when you experience what the locals do?
Searching on the net for where the main rows of yatai are in Fukuoka, I came across one particular yatai that even had their own website and Facebook page, Yatai Mami Chan. A small, modest booth located in front of the huge, towering Fukuoka Bank Honten, it was easy to locate (once again with the ease of Google Maps), their bright red and white sign with black font for characters being instantly recognisable. As I hung outside the tent with a friend to see what they serve, the lady heard our voices and emerged out from the tent with a most friendly "Hi! For two?" She was Mami-san (hence the name of the yatai), and spoke a good word of English or two. Already we felt the warmth in her hospitality and made ourselves comfortable in the tent.
Mami-chan's yatai serves up a variety of delectable dishes, such as different variations of Hakata-style ramen, kushitori (grilled skewers of meats), oden, which is a variety of ingredients cooked in a huge pot of soup and served with a dollop of spicy mustard, and even different variations of fried noodles with cheese toppings and such. Being the hungry ghosts we were, my friend and I ordered a whole heap of dishes to share. The assortment of oden was absolutely delectable, the mustard making a great but rather spicy condiment for it. The kushitori, along with the grilled ox tongue steak, was so flavorful and went absolutely well with beer.
Aside from the food, the most important thing was the hospitality and sincerity of Mami-san and her husband. Despite the modest set-up, the customers who ate at Mami-san's yatai all seem to feel at home, only because of how comfortable the two owners make them feel. Couple that with delicious Fukuoka fare, and the fact that Mami-san takes great care of her modest little store by wiping her stall clean whenever she has a chance, and you've got yourself a winner of a yatai. I'd recommend anyone visiting Fukuoka, or the Tenjin area, to make the trip Yatai Mami-chan a part of their itinerary.