10 Spots for Great Snacks in Japantown, San Francisco

[Photographs: Tory Putnam and Alissa Merksamer]

Ask a San Franciscan where to get a decent meal in Japantown, and he or she will probably refuse and direct you to the Richmond or Sunset. A concentration of overpriced, mediocre, and touristy restaurants in the Japantown mall has marred this neighborhood's culinary reputation. But if you shift your focus from dining to snacking, you'll discover a trove of awesome eats.

Over the last few years, this area has evolved to beget two versions of itself: New Japantown and Old Japantown. The much larger Old Japantown consists mainly of the massive mall that's actually a combination of three malls (East, West, and Kinokuniya) stretching down Post Street. It also includes the Peace Plaza and Buchannan Street outdoor mall. The rural village aesthetic of Old Japantown contrasts with bright and modern New Japantown, exemplified by the funky New People shopping center. This Tokyo-style vertical mall celebrates Japanese pop culture with a movie theater showing Japanese films, clothing shops, and the cool Cinema Café (link to Cinema Café slide).

We've rounded up the bakeries, supermarkets, and cafes that provide the best bites out of both parts of Japantown. As a bonus, everything is under $10, which leaves you with plenty of money to catch a screening at the neighboring Kabuki Theater.

Click through the slide show for onigiri, matcha, sponge cake, and more.

View Japantown in a larger map