For the 9-5ers, sometimes happy hour is the only thing that can us through the day. Finding a great setting for this isn’t always easy, but when you find one you’ll know it. Let me point you in the direction of Sake Tumi (714 N. Milwaukee St.).
According to Foursquare, I’ve been to the establishment 22 times, but I’d say it’s more like 30. The first time I tried out the contemporary Japanese and Korean joint was last February during a job interview. At the time I couldn’t tell you anything more than my future boss offered me a sake shot, but now I can say it is one of my top picks for happy hour.
In case you haven’t visited Sake Tumi in the eight years it's been open, let me set the stage. Nestled next to Umami Moto, Distil and Carnevor, Sake Tumi has big company to keep on North Milwaukee St. Upon entering, you’ll notice a full wall of seating to the left and the bar that runs the entire length of the wall on the right. There are eight or so seats at the standard bar, and roughly 10 at the connected, but slightly elevated sushi bar.
Happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m., and offers patrons half-priced drinks and small plates. Normally when I head tot he restaurant shortly after 5 p.m., finding a seat at the standard bar isn’t an issue, but on my latest visit our group had to sit at the elevated sushi bar. One of the sushi chefs greeted us as a waitress passed food and drink menus from behind.
The wine list is quite extensive with roughly 40 bottles for purchase and 17 by the glass. Prices by the glass range from $7-$10, which (for those non-math majors like me) means $3.50-$5 during happy hour.
The bar's shelves are not cluttered with a million types of liquor, but instead have a decent selection of dark and light offerings including Johnnie Red and Black labels, Crown Royal, Maker’s Mark, Tanqueray, Beefeater, Bombay, Stoli and Patron.
If sake is your thing, you’re in for a treat. The menu boasts 14 kinds. I’m not a sake person, but the Banzia Bunny Blueberry-flavored sparkling sake has made it on my 2013 bucket list.
Carafes are priced from $8-$28, and bottles run from $16 all the way up to $140 for the Wakatake “Demon Slayer.” Watch out.
There is a simple pricing structure for the martinis ($12) and specialty cocktails ($9), many of which include citrus vodka and sake. I’m a sucker for Malibu rum (blame - or credit - my college years!) so trying the Mango martini (citrus vodka, Malibu Mango, pineapple juice and mango puree) was a must during one of my first visits. It's a more than safe bet. Heck, it might even transport you to the islands, if only for a moment.
You won’t find any beer on tap, but the bottled selection is stocked with Japanese and Chinese offerings for $4.50. This includes Sapporo, Asahi, Kirin Ichiban, Kirin Light, Tsingtao, as well as domestic offerings like Lakefront IPA ($4.50), Spotted Cow ($4.50), Miller Lite ($3.50), Heineken ($4.50), Sprecher Special Amber ($6) and High Life ($3.50).
This particular happy hour I opted for the Raymond Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($8); the rest of my party went with Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($7), a Spotted Cow ($4.50) and a Tsingtao. During previous visits my friends and I received a few glasses of wine that must have come from a bottle that was open for too long. This time, however, our wine was fresh and the beer was cold.
I've noticed on more than one occasion that the only bartender is slammed with not only orders from the bar, but also those from diners in the rest of the restaurant. So if you’re a deal-loving imbiber who loves happy-hour pricing, I’d suggest ordering another drink before you reach the bottom of your first. I don’t know about you, but the thought of losing another 10 minutes of happy hour trying to flag down the bartender leaves me with nothing but sadness.
If the main bar area and restaurant look busy, try opting for the sushi bar. The very friendly sushi chefs are more than willing to take your drink orders.
Speaking of friendliness, the staff is a huge reason why I visited Sake Tumi 30 times in 2012. Expect to be greeted by the hostess and hear “thanks for coming” or “have a nice night” by at least two people on your way out.
In addition to the stellar happy hour specials, the restaurant offers half-price bottles of wine on Sunday and Monday evenings. And this week they announced the ever so popular half-price sushi menu is coming back on Sundays from 5-8 p.m.
Visit Sake Tumi on Facebook for the latest specials and news.
Images courtesy of Sake Tumi.