Don Foley

Don Foley

Chef/Owner, Good Honest Grub Restaurant and Catering


Originally published on on January 2010

Chef/food: Courtesy of Good Honest Grub

Chef/food: Courtesy of Good Honest Grub

If you’ve ever craved a taste of home cooking in Tokyo, then Don Foley is your man. The chef-owner of Good Honest Grub in Shibuya has been serving up his gourmet take on comfort food—burritos, lasagna, roast turkey and the like—for as long as most expats can remember. A native of Newfoundland, Foley worked his way through Europe and Australia before landing in Tokyo 18 years ago. After a stint in the kitchens of the US Embassy, he opened GHG in 1999 “to provide a relaxed place for down-to-earth foreigners.” The restaurant moved locations twice and is now ensconced in a friendly setting between Shibuya and Ebisu. GHG stands apart not just for its big-portioned dishes, but also because of its emphasis on healthy, nutritious cooking—vegetables come from Foley’s own farm at the base of Mt. Fuji, and the chef eschews preservatives or chemicals.

Favorite places to eat in Tokyo

When it comes to food, I am very fussy—it has to go into my body, after all. I hate when a restaurant cheats by using chemicals, additives and even margarine instead of real butter. If you are going to eat something like eggs Benedict, then it should be made from butter and not margarine, just as turkey gravy should be made from the drippings of the turkey, not from a package. Many restaurant owners are only in it for the money and take shortcuts at the customers’ expense by cheating on ingredients. I like to eat at places with a heart!

Hanazen restaurant in Shinjuku has seasonal menus, and now it’s time for fugu. Everything is prepared on site by the owner/chef. There’s nothing pretentious here—just sit on the tatami floor and enjoy good food with sake to match.

Cabana California Cuisine<br>Photo by Karl NakashimA

Cabana California Cuisine
Photo by Karl Nakashima

For a relaxed dinner, I like Cabana California Cuisine restaurant in Ebisu. They do a great raw vegetable-olive oil fondue. Tomoko is the best waitress I have ever seen in Japan, and her hubby Ken is a great chef. They have both been working in the business for many years, and have the knowhow to treat customers right. Together they make a class act!

Kateisaien Sasaki restaurant in Mejiro is good for a relaxed home-style meal of grilled fish, rice and miso soup. The king salmon is my favorite. The restaurant is run by an older Japanese couple, and it’s very small and very friendly. You can get a full meal for under ¥1,000.

Favorite places to drink

As for drinking—well, I won’t make anyone rich on the amount of alcohol I consume, but I do have a couple of places I like to go.
Ben’s Café in Takadanobaba has been around as long as my place has, and it still serves up a lovely coffee. The small patio in front is a great place to sit and chat. The owner, Yoshiko, is a sweet lady who speaks English and is used to dealing with us foreigners.
Art Café Friends, a two-minute walk from Ebisu station’s west exit, has a full bar that’s open till 2am every day. Nice wine by the glass as well as great cocktails. Some food is available.

Favorite places to shop
Park Hyatt Delicatessen<br>Courtesy of the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Park Hyatt Delicatessen
Courtesy of the Park Hyatt Tokyo

When I don’t feel like cooking myself, I go to the Park Hyatt Delicatessen. This deli offers fantastic salads, appetizers, cheese, pâté and breads that you can either eat in or take away. They also have a nice wine selection, and there’s even a patio!

For veggies, well, I mostly use my own from my farm. It’s a great feeling to create a dinner using vegetables you’ve grown yourself. Most of my friends are vegetarians, so I enjoy cooking for them at home. I also love fish, so I sometimes go to Tsukiji, but mostly I just visit the neighborhood fish shop and ask him to get something special for me.

Favorite restaurant in the world

That would have to be Le Normandie, located on the top floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Bangkok. Absolute decadence with an amazing wine selection, fantastic food and impeccable service right from the time you enter till you leave. I discovered this place some years ago, and I visit the restaurant every time I’m in Thailand. It’s exactly what formal dining should be.

Address Book

Good Honest Grub 2-20-8 Higashi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3797-9877. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm, Sat-Sun & hols brunch 10:30am-4pm. Nearest stn: Shibuya or Ebisu (located on Meiji Dori).

Art Café Friends B1, 1-7-8 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-6382-9050. Open Mon-Fri noon-4pm and 6pm-2am, weekend schedule varies due to live music shows. Nearest stn: Ebisu, west exit.

Ben’s Café 1-29-1 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 03-3202-2445. Open Sun-Thu 11:30am-11:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-12:30am. Nearest stn: Takadanobaba.

Cabana California Cuisine 3-28-12 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5421-2228. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm and 5:30-11pm, Sat 10am-3pm (brunch) and 5:30-11pm, Sun & hols 10am-3pm (brunch) and 5:30-9:30pm. Nearest stn: Ebisu, Yebisu Garden Place exit.

Hanazen 2-18-5 Shinjuku. Tel: 03-3341-4584. Open daily 11:30am-2pm (lunch by reservation only) and 5-10:30pm (last order). Closing days vary. Nearest stn: Shinjuku, east exit. (English & Japanese)

Kateisaien Sasaki 3-18-4 Shimo-Ochiai, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 03-3951-3788. Open Mon-Wed 11:30am-2:30pm and 6-10pm, Thu-Fri 6-10pm, closed Sat-Sun & hols. Nearest stn: Mejiro.

Le Normandie

Park Hyatt Delicatessen 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku. Tel: 03-5323-3635. Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat-Sun & hols 11am-7pm. Nearest stn: Shinjuku, west exit.