Food stalls open from 6pm. A stall may not open if the weather is stormy, or if the owner is unwell. Due to the limited seating, you will need to share. Beware of arriving in too large a group or lingering too long. If you read this, you will be fine as a first-time customer. Make a quick check of the rules and manners stated by the stall before you go. Here are 10 tips for making the most of your time at a yatai.
1. Be happy if your chosen yatai is open
Stalls open from 6pm, but it depends on the place. Some do not open in rainy or stormy conditions, so call ahead to be sure. Note that a lot of yatai do not take bookings.
2. Go to the toilet before you visit
There is no toilet in a food stall. Go before you arrive. If need be, ask the owner where the local public toilets or well-equipped convenience stores are.
3. Check the price on the menu
The menus have prices on them. Stalls have varying rules about the amuse-bouche or minimum orders, so check before coming or before you order if you are worried.
4. I cannot eat raw food. Is it okay?
Under the Food Sanitation Act, no stall is permitted to serve raw food. That is why none serve sashimi or raw vegetables. Try the famous hot-cooked specialties like oden and yakitori.
5. Be courteous about seating
In such a small space, people give up or share their seats. Take care to avoid coming with too big a group or to linger too long after eating. Standing around and drinking outside the stall is also prohibited.
6. Ask the owner if you have questions
Do not hesitate to ask questions of the owner. For example, "What is recommended today?" or "What is something I can have right away?" Just make sure the time is right, and ease off the questions if it's busy.
7. Have a good chat
The joy of a yatai is communication. Leave your phone to one side and enjoy a conversation with your fellow diners. It's fine to come on your own, the owner will probably get you involved in the banter anyway.
8. Take care of valuables
Take care of your personal items. Instead of putting them on the seat next to you or hanging them on the back of your seat, put them at your feet or your lap. If you have big items like carry bags, let the owner know.
9. Drink in moderation
Just because it tastes great, does not mean you should drink too much alcohol. If you end up making trouble, all the fun you've had will cancel out. If you start to feel any more than tipsy, it is time to take the night air.
10. Enjoy a range of yatai
Whether it is ramen, tempura or gyoza, every yatai has its specialty. Go around and try them out. You can ask the owner about what is on offer if you like.