Dear Friends of Gaijin, We want to let you know that as of today, Gaijin will no longer be open for business. We will begin transitioning the space into a new restaurant, which will be announced at a later date. We apologize for the short notice, but these things have a timeline of their own. Rest assured we are taking care of our amazing staff during this transition. We are really proud of what we created with Gaijin, and greatly appreciate the customers who embraced this east meets midwest concept. We believe it was an important contribution to the culinary scene in Traverse City, and are grateful for the experiences we were able to create with this passion project. We are now looking ahead to the next adventure for this space, and are excited for the possibility. Our head chef will be staying on and helping to develop the new concept. Chef Gabe’s commitment to sourcing locally, seasonal menu planning, and attention to detail, will continue to be pillars in the new establishment. We think Traverse City is going to be as excited for this new venture as we are. You can expect the same level of quality and commitment to working with local farmers as you always enjoyed with Gaijin, but be ready for a very different look and menu. We can’t wait to share more details with you as they develop, and bring another culinary delight to the heart of downtown Traverse City! See you down the road, Simon, Chef Gabe, and the rest of the Gaijin crew


  • Japanese pub fair
  • Dinner Starts at 5pm
  • Happy Hour 3pm-6pm


Origin Story

Part 1: The Vision

Gaijin is Simon Joseph’s take on a classic Izakaya seen through the lens of the Midwest
Serving Japanese comfort food for Happy Hour and dinner. When the opportunity arose to move into the space where Gaijin sits in Summer of 2015, we jumped at the chance to put something special on Front Street. A few years prior Harvest unexpectedly found themselves on the forefront of innovation in the Traverse City food scene. The lack of affordable authentic Asian options was staggering, and in trying to fill that void, we found a true love in Ramen.

Part 2: Commitment to excellence.

Gaijin sets out to provide a commitment to excellence

Gaijin sets out to provide a commitment to excellence in food, beverage & service – taking every effort to stay local, sustainable, and affordable.  We strive to be a place where one can enjoy a quick bite, or indulge in a meal with high end sake and Japanese whiskys.

Our Chef

Chef Gabe Lava

Gabe Lava started his career at Quince at the Homestead in his hometown of Evanston, Illinois. He has since worked in a number of acclaimed kitchens including Spiaggia, Bonsoiree, Nico Osteria, and Lula Café in Chicago, and Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park in Boston. In 2013, Chef Lava travelled the world experiencing international cuisine first hand; after some time in southeast Asia, Japan and the Middle East, he spent the summer in Europe, working stints at Spring, Le Chateaubriand, and Au Passage in Paris, and Geranium in Copenhagen. Chef Lava shows his love for global culture and cuisine on every dish, incorporating it with his midwestern roots.

Chef Lava is also a strong advocate for sustainable and ethical food sourcing. Promoting local livestock and produce is more than just a fad to him, and he worked to forge relationships with many local farms while working in Chicago, and is continuing the practice here in Traverse City.

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136 E Front St,
Traverse City, Mi 49684


11:30am-10pm Wed – Sun
Monday/Tuesday Closed

Every Wednesday 8pm – 10pm Karaoke

Service Industry Night, Sunday 5pm till close, 25% off entire bill (w/ proof of employment)

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