When you think of Japanese food, you might think of ramen, sushi, or tempura. So why are people waiting in line at Munch’s Burger Shack in Tokyo, Japan for over 2 hours to sample an American-style burger? Let me explain.
In late 2016, President Trump kicked off his 12 day trip to Asia with a stop in Japan. On his visit to Tokyo, Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. For lunch, the pair dined on a cheeseburger from Munch’s Burger Shack, a chain of burger restaurants in Tokyo. And, if you are wondering, Trump ordered his burger well-done, the same way he prefers his steaks.
The international attention made Munch’s Burger Shack a must visit restaurant in Tokyo, at least for those who wanted to sample the same burger President Trump tried on his visit. In the days after the visit, the line out front was upwards of three hours.
I would have never heard of Munch’s Burger Shack in Tokyo if it wasn’t for President Trump’s visit to Japan. And like everyone else, I was curious. Was the burger worth the wait? How did the burger taste? I headed over to Munch’s Burger Shack in Shiba to try it out for myself.
If you are looking for more information about Tokyo and Japan, I highly recommend you pick up a guidebook such as Lonely Planet Best of Tokyo 2020
Interior of Munch’s Burger Shack
If you know me, then you know that I hate waiting in line for food. I will do it, but it is not something I enjoy.
For my visit, I had a plan. First, I would visit on a weekday. Second, I would visit just 30 minutes before the ending of their lunch service. I was hoping the line would be short at this time.
And, I was correct. When I arrived, it was surprising to find no line. There was only a couple in front of me who were waiting to order.
Without a wait, I walked up the metal stairs and through the front door. At the door was a worker who asked me if I was eating in the restaurant or if it would be takeaway. I notified the worker that I would be eating in.
Directly in front of me was a cashier. It was here where I ordered and paid.
After paying, I took a seat at one of the open tables in the restaurant. With the restaurant closing up for their lunch service, I didn’t have any problem finding a seat.
The restaurant had a small, narrow open dining room. It felt cramped with so much going on but it was bright.
Behind the cashier on the right, running across the length of the dining room, was an open kitchen. It was great to be able to peak into the kitchen to watch the chefs preparing food. With the kitchen taking up half the dining room, there was only enough space for four high top tables with round bar-style stools.
The decor was modern with a chic, industrial design. The floors were concrete while wooden panels could be found on the ceilings. I thought this was a nice touch.
I didn’t notice it until I left, but just down the stairs was a sseparate small dining room with a few more tables.
President Trump Set
Even before I passed through the door and inside the restaurant, I saw poster after poster on the walls proudly displaying the President Trump Set.
This set, which President Trump ate himself on his visit to Japan, was complete with a Colby Jack cheeseburger, French fries and coleslaw. The single burger was 1,400 yen (or about $12.67) while a double patty option set you back 1,800 yen (or about $16.29).
Munch’s Burger Shack Menu
To be honest, I didn’t even look at anything else on the Munch’s Burger Shack lunch menu. I came for one thing and that was the President Trump Set. But, if you are wondering, they do have a full menu with many options.
The lunch menu had a variety of burgers such as avocado cheese, bacon cheese, mozzarella cheese, double cheese, chili cheese, teriyaki, and a standard burger. For an additional charge, you could add extra toppings to your burger such as more cheese, onions, and an egg.
Other than burgers, the lunch menu featured a variety of items including steak, sandwiches, rice plates, salads, and side orders.
Colby Jack Cheeseburger (President Trump Set)
Everyone, including myself, was here to try one thing: The President Trump Set (1,400 yen or about $12.67). This presidential set included a Colby Jack cheeseburger, French fries, and coleslaw.
The burger came out within minutes of ordering. With everyone ordering the same burger, I assumed that the kitchen was pumping these burgers out nonstop. This explained why my food was ready so fast.
The burger was bigger than I was expecting. It was tall and took up nearly half the plate. Maybe it just appeared big compared to the tiny bowl of coleslaw and meager amount of French fries.
The 100% U.S. Angus beef patty was thinner than expected but had a good smoky char on each side. While not dry, the burger was not cooked medium rare as ordered. The patty, seasoned well with salt and pepper, tasted fresh, not frozen. It had a steamed flavor which I have encountered many times in Asia.
I enjoyed the fresh sesame seed bun. At first glace, it appeared the bun-to-meat ratio was way off. While the patty was thin, the chefs pounded the meat to the right size to fit the bun.
Both sides of the toasted bun were crispy, giving the burger an enjoyable charred flavor. Inside, the bun was light and airy with a sweet and salty flavor. What mattered was that the bun did not fall apart when loaded with the patty and ingredients piled on top.
Topping the burger was a thick slice of tomato, crunchy fresh lettuce, melted Colby Jack cheese, relish, and mayonnaise. My favorite topping was the relish which was crunchy and acidic from finely diced onions and pickles. I don’t know why, but the the taste and toppings of this burger reminded me of a Whopper from Burger King.
French Fries and Coleslaw
Served along with the burger were French fries and coleslaw.
While I enjoyed the French fries, the portion size was laughable. I saw the photo, so I knew what to expect. But, for 1400 yen, I expected more than seven pieces of French fries.
With that said, while basic and seasoned well, the fries were crispy and crunchy on the outside while steamy soft on the inside. I just can’t understand with how cheap potatoes are why they couldn’t have included a larger portion of fries.
The coleslaw was just as tiny. The slaw was simple. It was crunchy, acidic, and not overpowered by mayonnaise. As with the fried, I just wanted more of it.
The service at Munch’s Burger Shack was friendly and efficient. With the rush of curious visitors from both Tokyo and around the world, it appeared as if the workers were trained how to handle the media attention and rush of visitors.
Food arrived quickly and correctly. I also appreciated how fast tables were cleared and cleaned after a guest departed, ensuring the line out front moved along.
Out of all the restaurants in Tokyo, the last I would have ever expected to visit would be Munch’s Burger Shack. But, when I heard President Trump tried a Colby Jack burger from here, I was curious to try it out for myself.
The burger, while cooked well and flavorful, was forgettable. The amount of French fries and coleslaw, for the price paid, was disappointing.
Would I come back here again? With so many options in Tokyo, I wouldn’t. But if you too are curious, come give the President Trump Set a try for yourself.
- Burger was fresh and cooked well
- Crunchy French fries
- Friendly and efficient service
- Expect a wait, especially during the busy lunch and dinner hours
- Expensive for the amount of food