Tokyo’s burger scene has been a well-trodden destination for global firms for years now. Twenty years ago, international burger spots were few and far between in the Japanese capital. For the last decade, however, it has been a dog-eat-dog situation but, even then, when a west-coast burger giant decides to land on Japanese soil, people still take notice. 

Seattle-based burger chain Lil Woody’s set up shop in Shibuya last month at the new Indigo Hotel. When it’s headed by legendary west-coast entrepreneur and restaurateur Marcus Lalario, who Seattle Met, in a headline from a few months described as being “Behind Every Scene,” Lil Woody’s, then, means serious business. 

Bringing a Seattle Vibe to Tokyo

When Tokyo Weekender spoke with Lalario by email, he said, “We are bringing our Seattle vibe to Tokyo to do the same here. So, in the next few months, you will see burger specials and merch collaborations with your favorite clothing brands, musicians, artists and chefs.”

With a real smorgasbord of burger goodies, including the Lil Woody, Big Woody and specialty burgers, Pendleton (which comprises of a quarter pounder grass-fed patty, onion ring, cheddar cheese barbecue sauce and mayonnaise), The Fig and the Pig, The Trotter, Smoked Out and New Mexican as well as an array of sandwiches and sides, it’s a real taste of Seattle and all-American culinary goodness in downtown Shibuya. Lalario explains that it wasn’t all plain sailing, however, as the store was originally supposed to have been opened a few years back.

“About five years ago, we got approached by a now good friend who knew a bunch of operators looking for a new burger joint to bring to Tokyo,” he says. “After getting visits to Seattle and visiting Tokyo, we narrowed it down to one group and had a deal in place. Then the pandemic hit, and it set the world back. As we started climbing out of the pandemic, the group was a little hesitant to go all in. At that point, I decided that I didn’t want to compromise. So, I chose to do it myself. I was too far down the road and had built too many connections to turn back.”

A Hardcore Following

The result of Lalario’s hard work and determination is a brand-spanking new location in central Tokyo with a hardcore following of burger fans lining up daily for a taste of America.

The entrepreneur adds, ” I spent over 100 days, in 2022, in Tokyo setting up my business, staff and back-end support. Now we are here and couldn’t be happier with the way it all turned out. Our burgers, fries, shakes and sauces taste just like they do in Seattle. I’m so excited to be here and share our brand with Japan.”

Lil Woody’s, however, has its work cut out. With a real influx of burger stores, many originating in the United States, the city has become a competitive backdrop for fast food operators. Lalario and his team don’t seem too fazed by the hype and interest shown in Lil Woody’s, suggesting it’ll certainly be around for the long-term. 

Lil Woody’s: 2-25-12 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-shi