by Charles J. Waggon

This time your pal Charlie’s gonna do what he does best. And that means cheap and good, but mainly cheap. Sorry I can’t help it at hardly, I am a cheapskate.

I always like to find me a good cheap grub spot, despite the best intentions of well-meaning folks such as my assistant Kumiko, take me to some truly wonderful place with great French chow what I eat and like to cry it’s so good.

Ban Town’s where they serve jook, sometimes called congee. That’s Chinese for rice gruel. Japanese call it o-kayu but they make it way different so it ain’t the same. For Chinese, it’s mainly breakfast food, but people eat it all day. Tastes better than it sounds ’cause it’s rice cooked a long time in stock, a few slices of fried Chinese bread, some greens. Soft and filling, great for a hangover.

Ban Town is in Jimbo-cho, but it’s a new chain so they maybe got one near you by now, I don’t know.

Here’s the deal. You walk up to the vending machine, you buy your ticket and you slap it on the counter. Your basic bowl of jook is ¥180. Jook with a duck egg, vegetables, salty chicken or one of them gazillion-year-old black eggs will set you back ¥280. You want fancy with a little shark’s fin? That’ll be ¥330, pardner.

Noodles? Sure. My favorite’s the sesame sauce noodles; no soup just noodles, with a little bowl of sesame paste dip sauce, ¥300. They got plenty of soup noodles, though. Plain tanmen is ¥280. The su-ra-men is noodles; in a soup flavored like hot and sour, ¥430, most expensive thing on the menu.

Rice? Steamed rice with shark’s fin, or takana pickles or miso meat, ¥150 a bowl.

Them’s all fast food prices, folks. But for my money Ban Town has it all over McBarnyard’s Golden Starches and Colonel Bucket’s Chicken Blasphemy ’cause it’s good honest chow. Besides, they also got beer and Chinese hooch, ¥280 a pop. For the kids they got soft ice cream flavored with that Chinese almond tofu dessert, ¥180.

Charlie Jake sez thumbs up. If you find a better bargain in Tokyo, take me, and it’s my treat.

Ban Town Kayumen Senka
1F Kurosawa Bldg.
1-4 Jimbo-cho
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 5281-1282
Weekdays: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Weekends & holidays: 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.