Hatos Bar: An American BBQ Oasis In Tokyo
Get a Heaping Dose of Smokey Goodness at this Funky Meguro Gem
If you're ever feeling the mundane suck of a weekday get to you, entering Hatos Bar is the surefire way to whet your palate and give you the refreshing dose of eclectic enjoyment you may need... not to mention an oasis of mouth-watering ribs, craft beer, good tunes, and good people watching.
With summer days upon us, the smoky charred flavors of “good ol’ fashioned” American BBQ may sound nostalgic to some, but foreign to others. Either way, you slather it, it’s a flavor that pleases any food lover with a big appetite. It just so happens that tucked away on a tiny side street of Nakameguro, Hatos Bar is serving near perfect American BBQ and craft beer (a lot of it!) to satisfy your needs.
From Texas to North Carolina: Real USA BBQ
Any American BBQ connoisseur will tell you that the varieties of BBQ are vast. Depending on where you are in the South, you can expect to find entirely different flavors and styles. That being said, Hatos Bar seems to have combined the best of the best serving all the staples, from the meanest and messiest North Carolina style pulled pork sandwiches, to Kansas City style baby back ribs so tender, you don’t even have to chew them.
In the hands of Japanese Chef Sou Ieki, who lived in the US for four years, baby back ribs get smoked for hours upon hours, continually brought out tray after tray for the hungry expats who fill up the restaurant.
Walking into this place feels like a scene of see and be seen within the expat community. Artists, hipsters, businessmen, and families alike all come here for the same thing: the ribs. At times, Tokyo can feel a bit uniform, but this colorful little BBQ joint feels like a genuine melting pot of people coming together for the simple pleasures of good BBQ and good beer.
Artists, hipsters, businessmen, and families alike all come here for the same thing: the ribs.
“Our concept for this restaurant is a watering hole in the middle of the savannah,” Ieki explains. “In the desert, there’s an unspoken rule between animals that everyone drinks from the same water source, peacefully. Tokyo can get pretty wild sometimes so both carnivores and herbivores gather here together in order to get what they need to survive. We wanted Hatos Bar to be a place where all kinds of people can hang out together without worrying about labels.”
“There are a lot of communities in Nakameguro. You have skaters, street artists, and musicians. Of course, there’s a big bar community, an art community, and a foodie community too. There’s a lot of crossover in these communities and you can definitely see that all come together here,” Ieki says.
Good Tunes Always Get the Juices Flowing
Music is a big part of the ambiance when dining at Hatos Bar. With its disco ball hanging proudly, you get an immediate sense that you’ve walked into some secret hidden disco gem. The staff are all big music lovers and take turns adding personal favorite tracks to their never-ending playlist. On any given night, you can expect to hear a cool eclectic mix of music so it seems fitting that Ieki and his partner Dubrai met through music.
“We didn’t wanna work for anybody so we made the decision to work for ourselves,” explained Ieki. “In order to keep the music going, we had to support ourselves, so we figured being self-employed was the best way to go. It was this goal, which led us to create Hatos Bar.”
[T]his colorful little BBQ joint feels like a genuine melting pot of people coming together for the simple pleasures of good BBQ and good beer.
Ieki surprisingly never trained under any professional chefs, but he does seem to share the same perfectionist mindset most Japanese chefs tend to embody. Completely self-taught, Ieki honed his skills by taking a tiny slow cooker out to the mountains alone where he would slow cook meat slathered in BBQ sauce for hours in order to find the winning formula to slow cook the ultimate ribs. The only other training was helping out his friend’s father on the grill when he lived in the U.S.
Tops On Taps, Too!
Hatos Bar opened close to nine years ago and is still going strong. It’s packed nearly every night, so with only a few tables and a tiny bar, be sure to make reservations well in advance. Solo diners can usually get lucky at the bar on any given night and it’s a great way to try the continuously rotating craft beer menu.
From the likes of Shiga Kogen to Gigantic, Hatos Bar has beer from many small-scale regional microbreweries, both bottled and on draft. Also worth noting, not only does Hatos rock the hottest hops, but it has a complete full bar as well. Dubrai typically handles the bar and is known to make awesomely strong Negronis — always a good thing after a long day of work.
Aside from the beautifully paired craft beer and ribs, the rest of the menu may appear small, but every other dish listed on it carries just as much of a wow factor. Additional sides and staples include a bubbling rich mac n’ cheese dish, fluffy cornbread, surprisingly non-greasy chili cheese fries, a lovely light carrot salad, and homemade ranch to dip your fries in like a true American.
The curry sausage (pictured below) is the only dish that deviates from traditional American BBQ, but is also worth trying.
If you’re ever there on an extra lucky night, you just might find Ieki slow cooking some BBQ brisket — a rare occasion, which I highly recommend you either skip the ribs for… or get both!
Address: Prince Kopo 106, 1-3-5 Nakameguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Business Hours: Open: Mon-Sat 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. Closed: Sun and holidays
Average cost: ¥3,000-¥6,000. Ribs: (Half) ¥3,200, (Full) ¥6,200; Side dishes from ¥600, Beer: Half Pint from ¥600.