Are you in Niigata and looking for a place to have a drink and a chat with someone who speaks English? I’d been told since my arrival in Niigata that there’s no better place than the “Kiwi Tavern: The Local” for feeling like a local. I wasn’t misinformed.
The Kiwi owner of the Local, Craig Smith, is a carpenter by trade, and has applied his skill to great effect. The gorgeous black woodwork, on the exterior walls and windows, the red terra-cotta window sills, the beautifully stenciled white “The Kiwi Tavern” lettering and kiwi logos, and the black metal and glass lantern shaped lights over the entrance have turned the entire bottom floor of a generic concrete apartment building into something that resembles a fantasy novel inn. Craig’s work continues inside of the Kiwi Tavern: the floors, the bar, the stage, the paneling, the darts area - if it’s made of wood chances are it was built by Craig. The woodwork gives the Local a warm feeling unmatched by any pub that I’ve visited in Japan. With drink prices starting at a very agreeable ¥500 (the lowest in Niigata), a night out at the Kiwi Tavern won’t leave you with a hurting wallet.
Hungry? The Kiwi Tavern recently took on a professional chef and expanded its menu. No ordinary pub grub here. The Kiwi tavern makes the best fish and chips I’ve found in Niigata using fish fresh from the local fish market and a delicious beer batter prepared in house. Pizzas with seasonal vegetables and toppings, lamb skewers, pastas, a salad, and a special that rotates with the availability of ingredients and the imagination of the chef round out the menu. The portion sizes are also large enough to satisfy any eater.
Looking for a party? The most swinging parties in Niigata happen the last Saturday of every month at the Kiwi Tavern’s monthly appreciation party. They feature live music performed by many local Niigata artists, dancing, and free food. We’re not talking two or three bowls of chips and salsa and and a plate of cookies, The Kiwi Tavern serves up a full hearty meal in proportions generous enough to sate anyone. Best of all? No cover! Come at Thanksgiving weekend and you can enjoy a full turkey dinner; come on Christmas for another equally hearty and fun party with the foreign residents of Niigata; and come on New Year’s Eve for the best countdown party on the Sea of Japan Coast. If your trip to Niigata isn’t happening at any of those times don’t worry! Local Niigata artists are frequent visitors and often bring their instruments to play for whoever is there and most guests are always up for a round of darts. Finding yourself at the Kiwi Tavern means finding yourself a good evening. Happy travels!