Burgers and fries. What kind of pie?
Perhaps more than any other city, Tokyo is built around speed. From the moment city dwellers stumble out of bed in the morning they are consumed by a need to keep to a tight schedule. 6.00 Wake. 6.05 Check email. 6.10 Prepare the kids’ breakfast. So it goes for the rest of the day – a never-ending quest for maximum efficiency.
And lunch (if you even take lunch) usually means a quick bowl of gyudon or a bento at your desk. Slow food? Forget it. There’s just no time to relax. No time to take a break.
Perhaps in order to counter Tokyoites’ workaholic tendencies, there are now some fifteen public holidays each year (a relatively high number compared with the ten federal holidays in the US or the nine in the UK). Not that it makes all that much difference – rather than enjoy the time off, many Japanese simply use such occasions to work from home.
I had no such thoughts one recent Friday – my first day off in a month. Despite some shitty weather (a blast of cold air more appropriate to the Siberian steppe than Tokyo the Urban Heat Island) a friend and I were determined to make the most of our officially mandated lethargy. What we needed was somewhere to hang while mother nature worked out her issues. And in Demode Queen, we lucked out.
Demode Queen is an American diner. A very good diner. Hidden one of the small streets to the north of Shibuya Station, a visit to Demode Queen is to be reminded that not all of Shibuya is catering to the maru-kyu crowd. And what’s more they serve Tex Mex, which is a rarity in Japan.
Up two fights of stairs and possessing a large balcony, Demode Queen is a large, somewhat industrial space with sofas and plenty of room to spread out. The interior is dimly lit, the music laid-back rock – just right for afternoon cocktails. In a move I would quickly come to appreciate, a large heater had been placed at the entrance to ensure those seated near the entrance wouldn’t freeze.
On arrival customers are greeted a large, grubby four page ‘Grand Menu’, and it ticks all the boxes. Burgers, Pizza, Pasta, Mexican. We opted for a Cajun burger, a cheese avocado burger and a Margherita pizza.
The standout dish was the Cajun chicken burger. The chicken was excellent – juicy with just the right level of spiciness. The cheese avocado burger, meanwhile, was served with a thick barbecue sauce. Both dishes came with a generous helping of fries. Good too was the pizza – the Margherita had that thin Neapolitan crust popular in Japan, and was topped with fresh basil. Demode Queen also carries an extensive drink menu, which runs the gamut from beer and cocktails to coffee and milkshakes. Particularly good are the mojitos – strong and worth the 1000 yen price tag.
The staff, a motley bunch of hipsters (tatoos! hats!) aren’t about to fawn over you, but frankly that’s one of the things I like about the place.
Alas, neither of us had space for dessert (it was the best we could do to remain upright after the burgers) but the menu includes that diner favorite, apple pie (800 yen) served with your choice of ice cream and sauce.
Somehow by the time we’d paid our bill and wandered out into the melting snow, five hours had passed.
Directions: From Shibuya Station, cross toward Starbucks and walk all the way up Sentagai. When you reach the end of the street, turn right and then take the first left (the residential-looking street with the metal rail separating the cars from the pedestrians. Turn right when you get to a path that opens into a street. Demode Queen is on your left, above Paradise Macau.
Sai Bldg. 3F, 39-5 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0042
Demode Queen does not take cards.
Mon – Sat 11:30 to 05:00 (L.O. 04:00)
Sun 11:30 – 23:00 (L.O. 22:00)