In this series of articles, John Ashburne recommends his ten favorite high-quality spots to dine during the festivities. Indeed, at any time of the year. The average level of culinary skill in Kyoto is so high, that you can eat well all year round very inexpensively. At most of these places you'll come away having spent less than ￥1000. Here's #1.
Each year it is estimated more than a million tourists visit Kyoto between July 1st and 24th to witness its famed Gion Matsuri Festival. In response, countless restaurateurs, especially those in the central Nakagyo Ward, drastically inflate their prices in what is commonly nicknamed 'the Gion Surcharge'. Boo, hiss! Fortunately there are a number of hostelries that refuse to 'fleece the tourists', and provide excellent fare at normal, very reasonable rates. And Kyoto is a fabulous city in which to find good food on a budget.
Expect the areas near the festival floats, the hoko, to be especially busy. The streets between Oike and Shijo, and especially West of Karasuma are the most crowded, along with Shijo-dori itself and the approach to Yasaka Shrine.
The secret is to get to your eatery early, or to travel further afield in search of a quieter venue. Kyoto's an easy city to get around, and there's plenty to see and do beyond the Gion festival. Nowhere is much more than thirty minutes from downtown.
Eitaro is a noodle shop by day and izakaya by night. It was initially best known for its udon wheat noodles, but of late has become famous for its chuka soba 'Japanese-style' ramen. In particular its yuzu citrus chuka soba noodles are the darling of Japanese TV shows, though this reviewer prefers just their plain shoyu variety. The set meals here are a bargain too. It's right slap bang in the middle of the Gion Matsuri festival action. English menu is available.