Chic, Affordable Tokyo Cafes

For those who take their coffee with a spoonful of style.

By Jean Snow, Tuesday, Feb 21, 2006, 4:49 PM

The two major misconceptions about dining in Tokyo: There's nothing but Japanese food, and it all costs a fortune. Aoyama, home to many luxury boutiques, is a place where you're likely to want a quick, cheap bite.

Conveniently, the neighborhood has a number of stylish cafés serving good, simple food.

Caffè @ Idée

The Idée brand of interior design is a Tokyo institution, and the flagship Aoyama shop houses a café serving a substantial menu of sandwiches, pastas, and more. Minami-Aoyama 6-1-16-3F, 011-81/3-3409-6744

Café Les Jeux

Most drinks are a bit pricey--but it's worth trying one to sample some unusual uses of coffee. One of the most creative is the Sourire Glacé ("iced smile"): Milk is poured over crushed ice cubes made out of coffee ($5.50). Minami-Aoyama 5-9-5-2F, 011-81/3-3499-6297

Café Crépuscule

Even without a café on the premises, the NADiff shop located off Omotesando would be worth a visit. Its carefully curated art books, magazines, CDs, and accessories are a joy to browse while sipping one of Crépuscule's many Belgian beers. Jingu-mae 4-9-8-B1F, 011-81/3-3423-0760

Café Plus Minus Zero

The ultrachic Plus Minus Zero brand of accessories and electronics was started a few years ago by toymaker Takara, in conjunction with designer Naoto Fukasawa. Behind the Aoyama shop is a minimalist café, with a pretty patio. Kita-Aoyama 3-12-12, 011-81/3-5778-5380

Dragonfly Café

Follow the sign pointing up to the second floor, past the cow statue (indicating a branch of Cow Books). The seating arrangements divide the small café into a couple of distinct spaces: a large communal table with a funky green top, two quiet side rooms, and a terrace with a view of the surrounding greenery. Minami-Aoyama 3-13-14-2F, 011-81/3-5412-7527

Office

The name takes a cue from the furniture--desks, tables, and chairs that would be equally at home in a conference room. But make no mistake: This evening-only option (it opens at 5 p.m.) is a surprisingly relaxing place to hang out and flip through style/design magazines. Kita-Aoyama 2-7-18-5F, 011-81/3-5786-1052