It’s not quite winter, but the fresh snow on the ground means Chicago’s about to usher in a new season, and the owners of Mana Food Bar are also embracing change. Mana, a vegetarian staple for a decade, closed in September in Wicker Park. Co-owner Susan Thompson hinted she had plans for the space, and now she’s ready to share: Mana has morphed into a “Japanese alley bar.” The restaurant’s website has announced Yokocho should open on Thursday at 1742 W. Division Street.
Thompson’s reluctant to provide full details, as she’s concentrating on relaunching the space. But after 10 years of going meat free, it was time for a change. Yokocho’s menu includes panko-crusted chicken meatballs (tsukune), tonkatsu nuggets, and a burger. But there are also veggie options.
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Bartenders are becoming more comfortable with mezcal, using it in non-traditional ways. One of Yokocho’s cocktails, “Celery and Smoke,” features the Mexican spirit with celery root liqueur. There are eight house drinks and a full slate of sake. Thompson is no stranger to Japanese food as she co-owns Sushi Dokku and Booze Box in the West Loop.
Yokocho means “alleyway” in Japan. An izakaya fits well into the sleek and recently remodeled space that Mana vacated. Customers can check out those changes this week.