Café Katsuo is hard to miss.
It has a VW bus parked out front, selling specialty cupcakes.
Nestled on a street near Machida’s Odakyu line station, this laid-back café has an Italian-Japanese menu, a trendy youthful atmosphere with sofas and international pop songs blaring, and the “beetle” bus permanently parked to sell sweets.
Walking past the VW and up the steps into the café, diners can collapse onto sofas at relaxed café tables and watch whatever cartoon or American movie is being projected on the wall. Other walls have cubic bookshelves filled with everything from art coffee magazines to travel guides and children’s books.
The whole café feels like chilling at a friend’s house. Another wall is strewn with paintings and sketches from pop culture and area artists.
Café Katsuo was opened in 2011 by the Keep Will group, that also hosts several Izakayas and Japanese restaurants in the area. Technically a separate business, the VW bus out front is called Chicako Sweets Shop, opened by the Keep Will Group at the same time as the café.
Inside Café Katsuo, the food is as colorful and tasty as it is seemingly healthy, from the lunch menu’s taco rice smothered in fresh veggies to the donburi topped with smooth avocado.
The slightly spicy buffalo chicken wings or savory honey “King cream cheese” with crackers serve as perfect starters.
Dessert proves a tough decision, with tiramasu, cheesecake, or waffles piled high with berries and whipped cream to choose from.
The adorable mini cupcakes made by Chicako downstairs can also be purchased in the café, with yummy flavors like strawberry shortcake, tiramisu, and caramel. The dining experience is finished off with a cappuccino, foam topped with the café’s initials "CK". A cafe mocha topped with chocolate shavings and whipped cream works too.
With good reviews on sites like Tablelog and Gurunavi, Café Katsuo is surprisingly lacking in the crowds found elsewhere in Tokyo. Despite the wait never being very long, on chilly days the friendly staff distributes blankets to guests in the quick queue.
The Keep Will group has expanded its café offerings around Machida in 2012, opening Zero One café, the younger sibling of Café Katsuo, just a few blocks away.
Feeling much like dining in at home, Katsuo does well to keep its comfortable, cool vibe and boasts “being loved by café kids from Yokohama and Tokyo alike!”