Being a tourist and looking for a nice café or bar for an afternoon pick-me-up can sometimes be strenuous, and more often than not you may feel the need to resort to what is most recognizable to you (crowded, tourist-filled Starbucks come to mind). But coming across a hidden gem beloved by locals is a much more satisfying experience, and very much worth the effort for the unique menus and the less harried atmospheres.
Upon first moving to the Hamamatsu area, one of the first things I wanted to do was to find such a gem. I wanted to find a trusty hangout spot where I could lazily spend my afternoons sipping coffee or my evenings sipping wine, a spot where I could meet up with friends that is neither too quiet nor constantly stuffed to the brim with bodies, a spot I could recommend to friends visiting from out of town that could make them think “Hey, Hamamatsu isn’t so bad after all!”.
My search has led me to PARK/ING PUBLIC CAFÉ BAR – a quirky, public park-themed café and bar. Located a short 10 minute walk from Hamamatsu station, PARK/ING is easily accessible by foot and removed from the pedestrian chaos of the crowded, nearby Happy Street. Inattentive travelers may even skip past this locale mistaking it for a parking garage, but the careful pedestrian will spot an enticing coffee menu etched on a blackboard outside the entrance, inviting you in for a siesta.
Alas, the whole look of the café seems to suggest it is something it’s not: a pair of sliding glass doors open up to the main seating area, irregularly decorated with branched plants, wooden details, and the ever-present and expected string lights for that extra bit of hipster ambiance. The pavement is decorated to look like a road running through the middle of the main area as it leads to an open back section reminiscent of a public park, plastic outdoor furniture and vine covered walls included to stay in line with the theme.
The café is busiest on weekends and though you usually need not wait long, during peak hours you may find yourself waiting for longer periods of time. For the Nihongo (Japanese) illiterate, an English menu complete with colorful pictures is available.
Lunch sets are inexpensive and provide a sizeable amount of food. I’ve tried a number of items on the menu but the Eggs Benedict is perhaps the most interesting item, and one that is harder to come by in the lesser known regions of Japan. The stand-out star of the menu during lunch hours is probably the pancake, topped with ice cream and chilled fruits, all gloriously drizzled in chocolate and best enjoyed with a tea or coffee beverage on the side.
In the evenings, the locale transmutes itself into a stylish bar, and if you’re lucky you can even catch a live music performance. Dim lighting and rustic décor contribute to a good atmosphere. The drink menu features a decent (not excellent) array of drinks that, although not the cheapest, are at least an interesting line-up of international beverages that are not so commonly found at other Japanese establishments in surrounding areas.
The nighttime food menu consists of inexpensive entrees as well as a variety of western-style bar snacks, so do not hesitate to order onion rings fried to crispy perfection to go with your beverage!
Small and unassuming, this trusty little bar and café is always a safe bet, and definitely a worthwhile way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, or to end a long weekday of work or sightseeing. The public park theme and multitude of plants in the open section is a welcome sight in an otherwise relatively nature-bare city. The food menu is small but not entirely boring with a few stand-out pieces.
Nonetheless, I will still be continuing my search for the holy grail of Hamamatsu cafés.
|Name||PARK/ING PUBLIC café/bar|
|Address||315-24 Tamachi, Naka Ward, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture 430-0944|
|Access||[map]315-24 Tamachi, Naka Ward, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture 430-0944[/map]|
|Opening Hours||Mon-Thurs & Sun: 10:30~24:00 Fri-Sat: 10:30~03:00|