Hug Chai Works (ハグチャイワークス)
Location: Sainen, Kanazawa (Kencho Road/60 near Kanazawa Station)
Type: Lunch, café
Dietary: Meals are not vegetarian-friendly, but bagels and baked goods are.
Part of the reason I learned how to make my own bagels was that in Japan, really good bagels are not easy to find, especially outside of major metropolitan areas. Kanazawa has a couple of bakeries that sell decent bagels, but my very favorite is Hug Chai Works, a café specializing in bagels and chai.
Only a 10 minute walk from the station, this small café is located just slightly off the main road facing a small playground. The building appears to be a refurbished atelier, and the cafe’s high wooden ceiling and exposed beams give it a rustic (but never kitschy) feel. The café is on the second floor, and the first floor contains the kitchen, cash register, and bakery shop.
The lunch set (1100) includes a choice of three bagel sandwiches, which change monthly; a green salad; a small piece of quiche; excellent homemade pickled vegetables (carrot, daikon, cucumber); another small side dish; and your choice of chai, coffee, or black tea. For an extra 100 yen, you can get a mini cake with the set. There are other drinks and desserts for the afternoon menu. Interestingly, this is one of the few places I’ve encountered in Japan that has a policy of serving drinks before the meal rather than after.
The bagels are plump and glossy with a good, lighter texture (vs. “hunks of bread shaped like a bagel,” as is so often the case); the chai is delicious; the gateau chocolate cake rich. Some of the bagels are more traditional flavors like plain or poppy seed; some are more Japanese flavors like matcha or azuki. By far my favorite meal has been the smoked salmon with cream cheese, onion, and lettuce sandwich. Unfortunately for vegetarians, the bagel sandwiches for the lunch sets all have meat (a rotating menu that often includes fish, beef, pork, and chicken), but the bagels and cream cheese are vegetarian and can be ordered a la carte. If you are pescetarian, check the current menu as they often have a fish option for the sandwich, but keep in mind that the side dishes, particularly the quiche, often contain meat.
The staff is very friendly, and the service is typically quick. The cafe accommodates children (high chairs), and it also seems to be a popular place for a coffee date for adults. The atmosphere is warm and cozy in the winter, and it’s a lovely place to have brunch on a sunny spring day when the windows are open. For me, bagels and chai are comfort food, and, as cheesy as it sounds, the name “Hug Chai” (the café) and “Hug Mitten” (the bakery) really fit. Want to enjoy bagels or scones in the comfort of your own home? Purchase some on the first-floor shop. Take-out lunches and drinks also available.
2-1-31 Sainen, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa prefecture 920-0024
Closed Fridays; every 2nd and 4th Thursday
Tea Time (tea and sweets): 15:00-19:00
Non-smoking. Take out available.
By car: 3 parking spots available in the adjacent lot to the left of the café.
By bike: parking available in front or in the car lot.
On foot: about a 15 minute walk from Kanazawa Station’s West Exit (西口). Turn right at the Eki-nishi Honmachi 1-chôme (駅西本町一丁目) intersection (before the Komeya drug store) and then left onto the first small street. The café is about a block away, across from the park.
Prices: Lunch sets: ¥1100-1200; drinks: ~¥400; bagels and sweets a la carte: ~¥200-400. Take-out: lunch set: ¥700; bagel sandwiches: ¥500; drinks: ~¥300.