Tachinomi, literally “stand-and-drink,” are izakaya that serve up small bites and quick drinks. As standing-only bars, it’s assumed that customers are just stopping by for a few sips before going on to another spot for the night—or finishing up with one last round before heading home.
Tachinomi are friendly, easygoing affairs where customers may be asked to squeeze in or move around to accommodate new guests. Some very casual spots are self-service with food already dished up on the counter. While most have you pay when you leave, some are pay-as-you-go—usually identifiable by a small container on the counter where you can leave your yen. The staff will take out money as needed as the night goes on. If you’re new, not to worry—just watch the other diners to figure out the lay of the land.
The menu at a tachinomi depends on the kind of drinks served. Places featuring beer and sake will serve up yakitori, while wine bars typically feature cured ham, cheese and other Western nibbles. If you’re not sure what order, a simple, “O-susume wa nan desu ka?” will get your started with some house specialties.
What makes them so popular? Perhaps the simple fact that they’re easy on the wallet. If you’re so inclined, you can even make a whole evening of going from one standing bar to the next—with Shimbashi and Ebisu particularly well suited to this purpose. Here are a few standouts:
A short walk from Ebisu station, the walls of Buri (1-14-1 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3496-7744. Nearest stn: Ebisu) are lined with cup sake glasses. Be sure to order a slushy mizore-sake for a cool start to the night.
Shimbashi’s Tonko (2-9-17 Shimbashi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3508-1122. Nearest stn: Shimbashi. www.torishige.com/tonko) specializes in pork, and is staffed with friendly girls who take good care of the area’s salarymen.
Maru (3-22-10 Hatchobori, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3552-4477. Nearest stn: Hatchobori. http://maru-miyataya.com) is next door to Miyataya liquor shop in Hatchobori. Pick up a bottle of wine and the tachinomi staff will open it for a ¥500 corkage fee, mating your chosen beverage with jamón serrano, prosciutto and cheese.
New Kayaba (2-17-11 Nihonbashi-Kayabacho, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3664-7315. Nearest stn: Kayabacho) is a “men’s only” tachinomi opened in 1964. Women can come in, but only when escorted by a man. The nihonshu is pay-as-you-go from an old-school dispenser, and you can grill your own yakitori.
The genki staff at Saiseisakaba (3-7-3 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 03-3354-4829. Nearest stn: Shinjuku Sanchome. http://meturl.com/3b) call out as you walk by—as if the smoke from the yakitori wasn’t already an enticing invitation. If you’re game for some intense dishes, the menu includes brains and genitals. By the way—the jars on the counters are for your used skewers folks.