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Cities throughout the U.S. are discovering the allure of izakayas, traditional Japanese pubs known for their casual atmosphere, chalkboard specials and inexpensive tapas-size eats such as seaweed salads and sashimi, or thin slices of raw fish.

The izakaya trend is especially popular in the San Francisco Bay Area, where several pubs have opened shop in the last few years. In the city’s foggy Inner Sunset neighborhood, the cozy Izakaya Sozai (1500 Irving St., www.izakayasozai.com) lures patrons with tastings of fried oysters and bacon-wrapped enoki mushroom skewers, and pitchers of Sapporo draft beer. However, the menu’s true highlight is its tonkotsu ramen, a creamy pork broth with noodles that are consistently hailed as the area’s best. Arrive early to guarantee a bowl: Tonkotsu takes more than two days to make, and orders are limited. Across town at the larger, more boisterous Nombe (2491 Mission St., www.nombesf.com), guests can choose from more than 75 sakes and a list of tapas made from locally sourced ingredients. Along with items that come pickled, fried and skewered, the menu features nearly a dozen house plates, including a perfectly grilled, grass-fed beef strip loin with yuzu kosho and a grilled pork belly with shichimi. For a full bar selection and Japanese offerings infused with international flair, don’t miss Sasa (1432 N. Main St., www.sasawc.com), an upscale izakaya in Walnut Creek, in the East Bay. Sasa gets much of its seafood delivered fresh daily from Japan’s Tsukiji fish market and Oahu’s auction block, and its vegetarian dishes are created predominantly with ingredients from local farmers markets.



Additional Izakayas Across the U.S.
EN Japanese Brasserie, New York (www.enjb.com)
Izakaya Fu-Ga, Los Angeles (www.izakayafu-ga.com)
Shoya, Atlanta (www.shoyaatlanta.com)
Nobuo at Teeter House, Phoenix