Photo by grape Japan

Japanese convenience store cheeseburger surprises jaded English media writer

Having lived in the Tokyo area on and off since the days of the bubble economy, I've had my share of burgers. The fact that I'm an American citizen doesn't really matter in that regard. Just like the locals do, I like to have a burger once in a while, although perhaps I think of it more as comfort food than anything else. Since I like to mix things up, I've sampled quite a variety of them.

In a major urban area like Tokyo, it's easy to get your burger fix. Even without considering the dozens of foreign and domestic fast-food chains that specialize in them, you can enjoy burgers in restaurants, cafes, bars, specialty shops, pop-up shops, and even convenience stores.

Until I actually tried one for this review, however, I had been avoiding the convenience store burger.

Don't get me wrong. The local conbini is great for grabbing one of those amazing egg sandwiches, picking up some tasty onigiri rice balls for a light meal or snack when I'm busy or checking out what quirky new snack has joined the ever-changing lineup. But burgers...

They're never in the hot foods section and either come cold, nestled among the sandwiches and other cold items on a refrigerated shelf, or sitting at room temperature together with the baked goods. In both cases, heating up a burger in the microwave just hasn't seemed too appetizing.

As it turns out, I may have been too hasty in my judgment.

The Lawson Cheeseburger

I have 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart in my neighborhood but I decided on Lawson this time.

Here's their Cheeseburger. They have another product labeled "Cheeseburger," which is a bit smaller and at room temperature in the baked goods section, but since it was inside an opaque yellow wrapper and I couldn't see what it looked like, the one in the refrigerated section was my first choice.

Photo by grape Japan

At 235 JPY with tax ($1.73 USD at today's rate), it's very affordable, and actually looked quite appetizing, at least from the photo on the wrapper.

Back in my apartment, I followed the instructions and heated it for 60 seconds at 500 W. The packaging is designed to be easy to rip open at one edge. You can just eat it like that if you want to, without getting your hands dirty, but I put it on a plate so you can see what it looks like.

As I unwrapped it, a pleasant aroma of sweet bread and cheese wafted up. So far, so good...

Photo by grape Japan

As indicated in small writing on the package, the patty is seasoned with black sesame seeds, which is probably something you won't find in your typical convenience store burger in the United States.

Now, for the moment of truth. I took a big bite into my first conbini burger...

Photo by grape Japan

The patty, while not 100% beef and flame-broiled, was decently beefy, moist and had a satisfying texture. Combined with the melted cheddar cheese, tangy ketchup and the soft and lightly sweet buns, it was actually quite decent. I was pleasantly surprised.

My expectations for a convenience store burger were admittedly quite low, but now that I've tried it, I think I prefer it to some of the fast-food versions I've had.

If you're chomping at the bit for a cheeseburger when you're in Japan and you can't be bothered to find a restaurant or just want to save your yen, your local convenience store might be worth a shot. It's also better than reheating a cooked fast-food cheeseburger you had delivered to you if you weren't able to eat it for some reason. The expiration date should be at least two or three days, so you can keep it in your fridge until you're ready to heat and eat. Finally, if your hunger for a cheeseburger hits in the late-night hours, this may be your only option.

By - Ben K.