Shinjuku is a sight to behold, and one that every visitor should be sure not to miss. It’s big, brash, bold, and writ large, with big lights, big screens, and big voices booming every which way. When you’re ready for a boisterous but somewhat more chilled-out, local evening outing, hop on the train and head about fifteen minutes west on the JR Chuo line to Nishi-Ogikubo.
Care to stop by a sidewalk cafe?
In a slight departure from the French sidewalk cafe tradition, Nishi-Ogikubo’s offerings include yakitori (skewered charcoal grilled chicken), oden (various vegetables and meats simmered in a clear broth), and just simple places to whet your whistle. A typical joint, pictured above, often has both indoor and outdoor seating, a fun vibe, and tables made of whatever happened to be laying around.
As delicious as any given restaurant may appear, don’t eat too much at just one spot as you are liable deprive yourself the joy of restaurant hopping!
Prefer to stand while you nibble?
Le Monne may posture about as a vaguely French affair, but rest assured (or be sadly disappointed) that it is nothing of the sort. These standing bars, by their very nature, invite conversation between strangers. Standing bars save on costs but keeping it cosy, and the savings are passed on to customers through lower alcohol and food prices as compared to proper restaurants that have, for example, a place for you to sit. The proprietor of Le Monne is happy to chat with you as much or as little as you’re keen.
Why just stand around when you can have something to eat too?
Standing bars such as Le Monne are best suited for grazing, and generally offer small plates priced around 250 JPY (2 USD) a plate. Pictures above is a scrumptious clutch of deep fried sweet potato slices which, naturally, pair swimmingly with a draft beer. Dishes may vary by season or even day, but expect to see everything from sashimi to a cheese plate, with some pickled and grilled things in between. In addition to beer, wine and sake are also available, as of course are a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.
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Pump up the volume, Thai style!
International city that Tokyo is, many delicious non-Japanese foods vye for your stomach real estate. A winner in both taste and ambiance is “Handsome Shokudo (dining hall)”, which also gets special mention for having such a creative name. The festive, kitschy interior besuits the spicy cuisine, washed down of course with cold beer! Thai noodle dishes, various cold and hot dishes, plus the usual curries, all come together to form a well-rounded, fairly priced menu.
With a few stops under your belt, it's time for a walkabout!
In the area immediately around the Thai restaurant, you will find many other welcoming restaurants and bars of variously quirkiness. Try your hand at getting to know some locals! With a smile on your face and a drink in your hand, success is virtually a done deal! These are the kinds of experiences you’ll never forget.
The night could go on and on!
With the chicken a-grilling, the sweet potatoes a-frying, and the Thai food a-flaring, this primer gets you off to a good start, but let your eyes and nose lead you about the area and see what discoveries you can make on your own. Who knows? You may never want to return to the big lights of Shinjuku again!
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