Happy Hour Hound: Kimura 

click to enlarge Fill up inside SA's best izakaya. - MELANIE ROBINSON
  • Melanie Robinson
  • Fill up inside SA's best izakaya.

An izakaya, the Japanese equivalent to a pub or speakeasy, should be a casual eatery with plenty of after-work drinking opportunities — with an emphasis on the drinking opportunities. On East Pecan beneath the Exchange Building apartments, Kimura is San Antonio's best izakaya and a unique dining experience in general.

You've no doubt walked past the unassuming bamboo covered windows of the restaurant and speculated at its contents as you carefully sidestepped the VIA bus stop. Kimura is a quaint little spot complete with stringed lights and an open kitchen that, from the looks of it, can only hold about 40 diners max. Its interior is cozy, but can border on cramped depending on the day. Kimura has already gained some local attention for its ramen creations, to the credit of chef Michael Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn. He has been hard at work crafting this authentic neighborhood noodle shop.

I appreciate the longer happy hour hours, considering I look tore up after a long workday and most definitely want to go put on more makeup. You can imagine my joy at a happy hour that runs Monday to Friday, 4 to 7 p.m. During that time, Kimura serves specialty cocktails for $6, house wines for $5, bottled beer for $6, draft beer for $4 and half-off on appetizers. To boil it down, you can toss back a few and make a meal of the small bites — all for under $25.

The bartenders are spending quality time with these drinks and making them right. The Gonzalez is a sweet and aesthetically pleasing cocktail made with tequila, green chartreuse, yellow chartreuse, maraschino, grapefruit and Vietnamese coriander. Another drink to splash on your palate if you're feeling like something a bit stronger is the Ginger Geisha with bourbon, lemon, honey, ginger and cherry. Honorable mentions include the Green Lady and the Vanilla Fig Manhattan.

The appetizer selection is substantial and hovers around the $6 happy hour price range. The gyoza, a plate of four pork dumplings with a tangy house-prepared soy sauce sprinkled with diced scallions, is a must-have. Grilled chicken skewers, or yakitori, are delectable and the baby bok choy with black garlic sauce tasted as if coming straight off the grill. For my vegetarian comrades, the nasu offers one of the few eggplant dishes I have found not only edible but actually enjoyable. It's tossed with a not-too-spicy soy glaze.

So, go ahead, get all dolled up for this happy hour — it's worth it.

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