Cheap date: Tokyo 21

For RedEye

2 for $25: Tokyo 21
1400 N. Wells St. 312-664-1900

When revered Old Town Japanese restaurant Kamehachi shuttered its doors at the corner of Wells and Schiller in November to move to its current location just a few blocks north, it wasn't the end of its reign over that corner. It's now home to sister restaurant Tokyo 21, a Japanese pub—izakaya, if you want to impress your date with a technical term—where sake and small plates are served in a setting just a notch above a neighborhood tavern. If you can't resist the nearly two dozen sake bombs ($5-$9) featured on the menu, you might be caught with a bit of sticker shock. But mix-and-match a few dishes from the varied menu, and the food tab stays low.

Main attraction: Something for everyone. Fans of the recent yakitori trend can choose from chicken, pork and veggie skewers ($3-$5) while noodle fiends have their choice of Vietnamese pho ($7), Thai pad see ewe ($7) or spicy Japanese ramen ($7). On the barbecue side, the most successful plate is the Korean marinated pork bulgogi ($7), a hand-held bite wrapped in a crisp lettuce leaf.

Best value: Tacos seem like a throw-away option on a Japanese menu, but an Asian twist makes this flavorful sampler ($7) one of the most surprising—and economical—options on the menu. Three crispy shells cradle tender shredded chicken, soy-braised beef and grilled whitefish, ideal with a side of the thin-skinned gyoza dumplings ($5).

Sample tab: Gyoza dumplings + taco sampler + bulgogi = $23.65 including tax and tip.

Kate Bernot is a RedEye special contributor.

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