Find Sasagin in the low-key, trendy neighborhood of Uehara. There is a wide selection of carefully curated Japanese sake as well as beer, and the drink menu is available in English. Dishes are a cut above the typical grilled or fried izakaya fare – adventurous palates will appreciate the food here. The closest station is Yoyogi-Uehara.
Kushirokuya is a classic Japanese izakaya. It was opened by a Hokkaido-born chef who brought a lot of his northern recipes and inspirations with him, including the signature fried chicken dish. The menu is great for comfort food cravings (ie. buttery potatoes with salted fish) but there are some healthier options, too.
Punk Rock Izakaya (AKA Tatemichiya) is not your typical salaryman’s bar. This smoky, homey pub is decked out in scribbles by famous artist Yoshitomo Nara and posters of old English rock bands. But it doesn’t rely on punk rock and pop art to draw in customers; it has an impressive selection of sake and beer, and the food is as good as it gets for an izakaya. Find Punk Rock Izakaya in the upscale Daikanyama neighborhood of Shibuya.
Galali is built in a repurposed traditional Japanese home, giving it a charming, cozy feel. The menu includes sashimi, grilled salmon, and salads, but the specialty here is Japanese sake, which is proudly displayed along with 12 different types of salt (a different salt being recommended for each liquor). The place is a favorite among young professionals who work in the area.
Downtown Yurakucho is a little piece of Japan’s postwar history in the bustling Chiyoda ward, just steps from Ginza. It’s here, under the Yamanote line tracks, you’ll find Shin-Hinomoto. This classic Japanese pub is the place to go for the quintessential izakaya experience. It’s tiny, filled with smoke, and offers cheap snacks and small plates catering to the 9-5 working crowd.
Gonpachi’s popularity rose to new heights after it was rumored to be the backdrop for the iconic fight scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Despite the fame, Gonpachi maintains a modest menu with prices starting at around 300 yen (US$2.70) and includes favorites like tempura and yakisoba. Reservations strongly recommended. Open for lunch.
Kagaya is run by a fun-loving joker whose antics have made the place famous. The limited tables ensure every customer gets a share of the attention, but it also means you’d better make reservations before heading over. Food is classic Japanese pub eats.
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