Join us as we size up the drink bar options at Japan’s top family restaurants, starting today with a trip to Denny’s.

One of the best things about visiting a “family restaurant“, or “famire” as these cheap and casual restaurants are known in Japan, is the chance to try all sorts of amazing beverages at their drink bars.

Adding a “drink bar” to your order at a famire gives you unlimited access to the lineup of self-serve beverage options located along one wall of the restaurant, and the variety on offer is just as impressive as the price, as it usually costs less than 500 yen (US$4.35).

Not all drink bars are made equal, though, so we’re delving into an in-depth investigation of the drink bars at the top family restaurants in Japan, starting today with a trip to Denny’s, where the drink bar costs 438 yen to purchase on its own, or 284 yen as part of a set.

▼ The drink bar costs 108 yen for children up to elementary school age, with children under three drinking for free.

Out of all the family restaurants, Denny’s has been late to the party when it comes to drink bars, only adding them at select locations in Fukushima and the Kanto region a few years ago. The drink bar option is still limited to these regions today.

So let’s get straight to it and head on over to the Denny’s drink bar in Japan to see what’s available. There are over 50 different options to try here, starting with…

▼ …this Coca-Cola soft drink machine.

This is a pretty awesome gadget, because although it has a variety of standard options available, it also mixes drinks for you.

For example, if you press the Coca-Cola button, the below screen pops up, giving you the option to choose a regular Coca-Cola (left), a Lemon-flavored Coca-Cola (middle) or a Melon-flavoured Coca-Cola (right).

That’s not all — you can add lemon or melon flavours to Coca-Cola Zero, Calpis, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and Calpis Soda as well.

Leaving the mixing up to the machine instead of manually mixing drinks ourselves made things super easy, and it was a lot of fun trying all the different combinations. One of our favourite mixes was the melon-flavoured ginger ale, which was a weird and wonderful blend of flavours that we would definitely try again.

The machine also has several orange juice customisation options, which allow you to choose straight-up OJ (left), “slightly carbonated” (middle) or “carbonated” (right).

Minute Maid Orange juice contains 100-percent fruit juice so the carbonated option allows you to enjoy a soda-like drink that’s not as sweet as an orange soda, and it tastes a lot healthier and fresher as well.

Denny’s really goes all out with its drink customisations, even giving diners instructions on how to mix their own mocktails using the options on the Coca-Cola machine. Some of the suggestions include: Coke and Orange (Coca-Cola with orange juice), Royal Vegetable and Fruits (vegetable and fruit juice with Calpis), and Royal Melon (melon soda with Calpis)

Hmmm, our Coke and Orange didn’t taste like orange juice and it didn’t taste like cola either. That combo didn’t really float our boat, but hey — it was fun to make and again, fun to try the different combinations.

Moving on from the marvellous mixing machine, we decided to try the coffee machines next, and when we got to them, we were surprised to see that two of them offered Seven Cafe coffees, which are the coffees sold at 7-Eleven.

▼ Iced coffees on the right and hot coffees on the left.

7-Eleven coffees are hugely popular in Japan, as they’re great value for 100 yen, so a drink bar with unlimited 7-Eleven coffees is an even better bargain. This is definitely a big draw for Denny’s, but if you prefer another coffee alternative, there’s also a Franke espresso machine next to the 7-Eleven options.

▼ This machine offers blend coffees, espressos, hot water, and café lattes and café au laits in hot and iced versions.

We compared 7-Eleven’s coffee (left, below) with a coffee blend from the espresso machine (right, below), and as you can see, they looked totally different. They tasted different as well, with the one on the right being hotter, more bitter, and displaying very little acidity.

Now it was time to move on to the teas, and there are a lot to choose from at Denny’s, covering everything from black teas and green teas through to herbal teas and non-caffeinated varieties.

After all that coffee we were feeling a bit jittery so we decided to try a “health tea” from Kumamoto, which had its prefectural mascot, Kumamon, on the package.

This non-caffeinated tea contained barley, corn, adlay, senna tea, and Houttuynia cordata. It was a soothing, hot barley tea, with no astringency at all, and a fragrant, delicious flavour.

The tea was a great end to a great drink bar, and if you’d like to know all the drinks they currently have on offer at Denny’s, here’s the complete list of what’s available, although the lineup may vary slightly from store to store.

  • Water
  • Hot water
  • Carbonated water
  • Seven Cafe Hot Coffee
  • Seven Cafe Iced Coffee
  • Espresso
  • Blend coffee
  • Cafe latte
  • Cafe au lait
  • Ice cafe latte
  • Ice cafe au lait
  • Coca-Cola (normal, lemon, melon)
  • Coca-Cola Zero (normal, lemon, melon)
  • Calpis (normal, lemon, melon)
  • Calpis soda (normal, lemon, melon)
  • Ginger ale (normal, lemon, melon)
  • Minute Maid Orange Fruit Juice (Normal, Slightly Carbonated, Carbonated)
  • Minute Maid Vegetable and Fruit Health Recipe Fruit Juice 100%
  • Fanta Melon
  • Fanta Lemon
  • Kocha Kaden Iced Tea
  • Fan Oolong Tea
  • Strawberry tea
  • Peach tea
  • Apple tea
  • Apricot tea
  • Rose hip & hibiscus
  • Jasmine
  • Chamomile & peppermint
  • Caffeineless Earl Gray
  • Oolong tea
  • Ceylon tea
  • Darjeeling
  • Earl Gray tea
  • Aso health tea
  • Sencha with Uji Gyokuro
  • Hojicha
  • Puer tea

So  there you have it, famire lovers — the Denny’s drink bar in Japan. It was an impressive all-you-can drink experience with a wide array of options and some fun drink machines to play with. Plus, diners can also enjoy Wi-Fi for up to three hours free of charge, so it’s a good place for a spot of telework as well.

Denny’s made a great impression on us with their drink bar, but how will the others compare? Keep your eyes peeled for our next famire drink bar adventure, and until then, enjoy this breakfast comparison between three of the country’s top family restaurants.

Related: Denny’s Japan
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