Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Great Lakes Tokyo, a burger joint in the Takadanobaba neighborhood of Shinjuku Ward, had a reputation for being vegan friendly. Its vegan Superior Burger, made with Great Lakes’ own vegan patty featuring a secret recipe combining shiitake, brown rice and onions, was known to be very good.

Close enough to Waseda University to be a watering hole for the local students, the little restaurant only has about 10 seats. Its clean, open-plan design and laid-back vibe is rounded off with a cooler full of craft beer and indie rock on the speakers.

Owner John Penny, who hails from California, envisioned a community hangout modeled on the burger shacks in small towns around Lake Michigan, where he spent summers as a child with his mother’s family. After working on a business plan and logistics for a few years, Penny opened in December 2019 with a limited menu featuring beef and vegan burgers, some fries and sides, and a short list of craft beers and soft drinks.