Sake is a strong alcoholic beverage that hails from Japan. It’s also known as a fermented rice wine, and as such, it’s often supposed to be sipped rather than shot. Traditionally it’s also heated and served warm, at least in the winter. But some versions of sake are best enjoyed cold. Not sure how to consume it? Just go to one of these bars or restaurants with sake and ask your waiter. Then enjoy your night about town, even if you don’t remember much of it the next day. Kanpai!
Murasaki Sake Lounge
211 E. Ontario St.
Chicago, IL 60611
Located on the Near North side, this lounge is all about every kind of Japanese alcoholic beverage possible. Its drink menu includes everything from Japanese whiskey and beer to, of course, high-end sake. Not sure what to drink? Just ask the server and they’ll make sure to serve you something that pleases the tastebuds. After imbibing, join in on the karaoke. (This is a bar through and through; no food is served).
1952 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
While Takashi is a high-end Bucktown restaurant from acclaimed chef Takashi Yagihashi, it serves both stellar Japanese food and more than 10 varieties of sake. In fact, it offers more sake than it does beer. Depending on your thirst for sake, Takashi offers 720 ml, 300 ml and glass sizes. Additionally, the chef’s tasting menu comes paired with a variety of drinks, including wines and sake.
3439 N. Sheffield Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
For a less traditional sake, head to Nisei Lounge. This Wrigleyville bar is a dive bar, but that doesn’t mean it only excels at serving beer. It also serves sake bombs, often for just $5 a pop. That means you get your Japanese shot and a glass of beer all in one go. Just one or two of these and you won’t be shooting straight at the bar’s pool tables.
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3647 N. Southport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60613
Nothing goes better with sake than sushi, especially at this Lakeview hotspot. Pair your caterpillar roll, to name one of many options, with the house sake, or go with a special sake that is served cold. Sake bombs are also available, and when this is served, the sake comes warm, creating a crazy combination of cold beer and hot liquor.
Union Sushi and Barbecue Bar
230 W. Erie St.
Chicago, IL 60654
East meets West at this unique sushi bar in River North that’s been recommended by the 2013 Michelin Guide. While you can get traditional sushi here, you can also get fusion dishes like truffled tuna. No matter what dish you dine on, start your meal off by choosing from the extensive sake menu. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Just ask your server what sake you might enjoy best, and they’ll steer you in the right direction.
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.