I moved to New York City when I was 17. The city was everything a girl from suburbia could dream of and oh so much more, even the air felt electrified with energy. On my first day there, I befriended a Japanese art student who lived 2 floors above my tiny dorm apartment. On our first venture into the nightlife of the East Village, we came across Yakitori Taisho, a bustling, lively Japanese grill and tapas restaurant nestled beneath the stairs of a brown stone building on St Marks street, in the East Village neighborhood. This night marked the beginning of a decade-long love affair. Over the years, I return to Yakitori Taisho over and over again, not only for its excellent food but for its atmosphere. The wafting scent of grilled meat, charcoal, and sweet sauces bring back nostalgic memories of many drunken late nights and joyous celebrations with friends.
The food is not the sushi fare that most westerners come to associate with Japanese cuisine. The menu is filled with fantastic comfort food items such as grilled skewers, rice balls, Japanese style pancake with seafood, roast pork ramen, and a selection of sake, plum wine and other Japanese alcoholic beverages. It is common to find the hip Japanese downtown kids frequenting this unpretentious restaurant. Over the years, they’ve become so popular that they’ve opened up a second location just a few stores down.
The decor is cozy and sticks true to typical eateries you will find in Japan. The space is small so it’s difficult to accommodate large parties, and they do not take reservations. So make sure to go with 4 people or less (they can sometimes accommodate larger parties but you have to go right as they open so they can shift around tables for you).
Little side fact — the little fat man anime character on the menu is a caricature of the original owner/head chef. When I first started frequenting Taisho he was behind the grill every night. He still comes in to cheerfully greet the staff and customers from time to time.
5 St. Marks Pl (between 3rd Ave & Astor Pl)
New York, NY 10003
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