I seem to rubber neck a lot while driving north along Route 58 in Chatan, amazed at all of the interestingly decorated shops and restaurants that dot the roadway. One of the most visually unique places in the area is the Bikkuri Donkey hamburger steak restaurant. The eatery is situated in a wooden structure that looks like an abandoned farm house from the American Midwest, complete with an old tractor and tires out front. Inside the restaurant the kitschy theme continues with rope, aluminum siding, drift wood, wire and burlap woven together along the walls and ceiling.
Bikkuri Donkey translated into English literally means surprised donkey, but I like to think of it as shocked donkey as it helps to explain the interesting decor. The restaurant is a chain started in 1968 that currently has 326 locations in Japan of which there are three in Okinawa. Inside the lobby of the Chatan branch diners must take a number from the ticket machine then wait in the cozy waiting area that looks like it was decorated by Tim Burton. Bikkuri Donkey seems to always be packed with patrons but the wait to be seated usually doesn't exceed 20~30 minutes.
The real visual journey begins once seated. Each table is a cavern unto itself cordoned off from other tables by an endless variety of seemingly recycled materials in every direction. The menu itself is laminated but comes in a large standing wooden frame that rests upright on the table like a portable window shutter.
The sign outside on Route 58 proclaims that Bikkuri Donkey is a hamburger steak restaurant and the menu stays true to that. While there is steak, and fish, and chicken, and side orders to be had, hamburger is the main course offered. Basic dishes include hamburger steak, rice, French fries and salad. The Hamburger itself comes in several different sizes. Topping ranges from cheeses, to marinara sauce, to Japanese radish, to many other choices like egg, gravy, stew, or curry sauce. There are also sets that include hamburger and various toppings paired with either steak or chicken.
My family and I ordered two kids hamburger sets, one with salad and one without, a Caesar salad and corn soup for my wife, and a 300 gram hamburger and cheese set for myself. The most surprising part of the whole visit is that the hamburger is served only with chopsticks to eat with. The meat is tender enough to cut with chopsticks but it wasn't mushy or brittle like a TV dinner Salisbury steak.
Bikkuri Donkey in located on the western side of Route 58 in Chatan just south of the intersection with Route 130, only accepts yen, and is open daily from 11:00 ~ 02:00.