3 Artists, 2 NYers, a Photographer, and Ebisu Tour Pt. I: Pubs

May 14th, 2014, 3pm

Have you ever hung out with artists before? There are many kinds of artists but the types of artists I am referencing are artists who draw. Perhaps the correct term are illustrators? Who knows. An artist’s craft can not be categorized or at least I don’t think it should be. Besides, I believe in everyone having an artist in them. Where was I? Yes, artists. After my outing with these artists, I urge everyone to befriend a few, tag-along on one of their outings — there is nothing quite like it.

It’s just another Friday night in Ebisu, my neighborhood in Tokyo. Friends are in town so I take them to one of my favorite restaurants and have an incredible dinner. We are heading to the next bar I make sure to take all out of town visitors to and as we are walking down the street, I see three men standing in the middle of the sidewalk, heads-down in their phones. Living in tourism heavy cities, I can’t help but to assist those who look as though they need guidance. I’ve relied many times on kindness of strangers, especially when traveling. I shift focus away from my friends and to the men — specifically to hear what language they are conversing in: they are speaking English. I peer into their faces and one of them looks familiar: Hey, that looks like Luis. (Luis as in Luis Mendo!)

”Luis?” I ask, he looks up startled. ”It’s me, Mona — Moe!” I say and we greet each other with a hug like old friends. I tell him we are heading to the Snack Bar and when he asks what that is, I ask if they would like to join. The Snack Bar (駄菓子バー) is an only in Tokyo experience and everyone needs to go at least once. Luis introduces me to his friends, Adrian and Graeme. I introduce them to my friends, Mike and Melissa from NYC. We wait for one more person, Sophie from the Netherlands, to join us and we head-off towards the Snack Bar.

It’s Friday night in Tokyo. Of course there is a wait. I put my name down and think where we can kill time while waiting for our table at the Snack Bar. In Tokyo, there are hundreds and thousands of restaurants and bars stacked on top of each other in every neighborhood. I can live in Ebisu for the rest of my life, eat and drink out every night and even then, I doubt I will get through all of the bars and restaurants. There are really that many.

But as many restaurants and bars there are, there is a shortage of casual bars or restaurants where people can have one drink and hang out. I always default to pubs to pass a little under an hour of time. The downside to pubs is they are they are filled with non-Japanese people. Visitors usually don’t want to go to places that are accessible back home. But a pint at a pub is a better option than standing around outside for a table to free.

Believe it or not, Tokyo is a home to pubs. Irish pubs, British pubs, I shit you not, there may be as many pubs in Tokyo as there are in NYC. And these pubs, are actually owned by Irish and Brits. Some of them feel more authentic than some random Irish pub in the Theater District (for those in NYC, Dempsey’s is my favorite. Brendan the bartender, is the one who taught my how to properly pour a Chimay. Their sister pub Slàinte, is where I go when Brendan isn’t there).

In Ebisu, there are several casual bars to kill time. The first place I looked this night, is Buri. Buri, is a standing bar and very close in proximity to the Snack Bar. The crowd is terrible, the bar a meat market. People go there for one reason and one reason only: to get laid. When I first arrived to Tokyo, I didn’t know any better and had some pretty memorable nights there. (Like this one.) I ran around the corner to check out the crowd. Since it’s the start of Golden Week (national holiday) who knows, there could quite possibly be a pretty decent crowd but nope. Douchebag central as always.

The 500 yen (appx $5 USD) wine bar is another local go-to. It’s a standing wine bar, home to a lot of media types. I’ve met people from all the major television networks (Fuji, NHK, Asahi, Nittere, etc., etc.) and even some magazine writers (Vice, etc.) there. I usually fork over a few extra yen for a nicer glass of Malbec, Syrah or Rioja (my default safe reds) but I think about it and it’s about a five minute walk. There are other options seconds away from the Snack Bar.

I make the executive decision to corral everyone to What the Dickens, a British pub. I prefer it over my local Hub , another pub a lot of Tokyo people default to. Hub is a chain with locations in all major Tokyo neighborhoods. If you are visiting and need to catch a football game (not American football) Hubs are definitely the place to go. As for me, I outgrew Hub since I was introduced to What the Dickens by dear friends. They are part of a comedy-improv group: Pirates of Tokyo Bay and hold a show there once a month. What the Dickens has a creamy Ebisu stout on tap that is super delicious. They also have great pub food; their meat pie and fish and chips are highly recommended. What the Dickens has different events every night from live music to comedy shows, even open-mic for spoken word, poetry, etc.

That night I’m guessing a quite popular band was holding a show as the bar was jam packed. As we grabbed a beer, Luis, Adrian and I think Graeme too pulled out their notebooks and started sketching. I watched them, as they captured as much as they could in less than 15 minutes. Everything and everyone seemed to prose as an inspiration — their hands wouldn’t stop drawing! I was almost sad to tell them our table was ready at the Snack Bar.

To be cont…

What the Dickens

HUB Tokyo — the pub to watch football (soccer). Their garlic popcorn is to die for.

500 yen Wine Bar (Casablanca Vin Vino, what do you know. It actually has a name.)
Sorry. This one is Japanese only.

Buri — the meat market

Pirates of Tokyo Bay

Dempsey’s NYC


Header photo is my train station!

Ragini, Shu, Christine, Peter and 4 others said thanks.

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Mona Nomura

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