Springfield, IL 62704
Parking: Free Parking lot, we love it!
Days: Monday Night
Times: All Night Long
Drink Deals: $4 Martinis
Food Deals: Nada, but $4-6 regular sushi rolls = cool by JB
Who says you can never go home again? We say you can, just make sure a Happy Hour is involved! During this year’s Christmas pilgrimage back to the mecca – Springfield, IL – my folks were all aboard the Happy Hour Tour, taking me to both Sonic’s Happy Hour (no shit) and Osaka, a lively sit-down restaurant complete with sushi bar, hibachi bar, and liquor bar!
You may recall my old pal AP from our Santa Monica and Tahoe tours. Well, it was her last night in Springfield, so our ma’s and pa’s and my little sis all headed to the village of Jerome in Springfield. Time-out – I once read that Springfield has more incorporated districts, like Jerome, per capita than any city in the nation. Time-in. A couple years back, the area where Osaka now sits was seriously damaged by a pair of F2 tornadoes, so it’s heartening to see the area spring back so quickly.
Besides being happy to support local businesses in Tornado Alley, I was also very interested to see how Springfield sushi might fare… And I was pleasantly surprised to find that Osaka does a pretty good job! Not only were the sushi and other pan-Asian entrees pretty tasty, the joint was jumping with people waiting for seats. Maybe it was due to it being Osaka’s $4 Martini Monday, but I’ve had other friends tell me they’ve waited on other nights as well. I say, just try the “hibachi-style” section, but as AP’s dad admonishes, “you have to sit with strangers there!”
Now, let me back up for a minute. Here’s a sad fact about JG’s and my home state: there are no actual Happy Hour specials. Seriously, a “Happy Hour Law” was passed in the 1980’s that basically said bars have to keep their liquor-drink prices the same all day and offer the same deal to everyone. My Springfield Bar Expert friend, Ed, says that Mothers Against Drunk Driving was a driving force behind the law as they thought that Happy Hour deals encourage large amounts of drinking in limited times. Maybe that’s true; JG and I always plan our Happy Hours carefully – we know we gotta get home safe so we either take public transpo or make sure to have a designated driver.
Even though Illinois doesn’t offer daily or Monday-Friday Happy Hours, luckily for its citizens and visitors, the lack of Happy Hour just means more specific daily specials – hence $4 Martini Mondays at Osaka! On this trip, we managed to sample 11 different martinis between us 6 adults of drinking age. In addition to specialty martinis, Osaka also offers simple martinis created with their own infused liquors. Amongst our 11 martinis, we tried selections from the specialty and infusion lists, such as:
• XXX Martini – glowing vodka-based martini (seriously, a glow stick was involved) with a fruity grapefruit flavor
• Lake Springfield Martini – sweet and sour w/Midori liquor and pineapple juice (leptospirosis optional)
• Blackforest Martini – chocolate w/ hints of cinnamon, vanilla, and blackberry (a perfect dessert drink!)
• Key Lime-Tini – key-lime flavoring and pineapple juice in a glass rimmed with graham cracker crumbs
• Cucumber Martini (infusion liquor)
• Desert Pear Martini (infusion liquor)
• Habanera Dirty Martini (infusion liquor)
I did find the food options quite funny – here in LA, we have such niche markets for every kind of Asian cuisine that you might find five Korean restaurants on one block. So, to see Osaka offer several different Asian cuisines in one restaurant seemed a little silly, albeit practical. We basically stuck with Thai and Japanese cuisine at our table – choosing selections of edamame, fried tofu, calamari, pad thai, shrimp tempura udon soup, and a butt-load of sushi rolls. You gotta love dining with a big group when there are so many fun food options to sample!
The food prices were pretty reasonable, though not quite as cheap as one might expect. They were basically on par with the same goods found in an LA restaurant, which is usually not the case – $4-7 regular sushi rolls, $10-16 specialty rolls, $11 udon soup, $9 pad thai. I guess that the commonality of sushi and other Asian joints in LA drives down the higher prices that can be found in communities with fewer options. Not a put-down, just an observation. Thankfully, we can always count on the hometown for its cheaper drinks!! Besides the $4 Monday Martinis (regularly $8), Osaka serves $4 imported beers, $3 domestic beers, and $5 glasses of wine daily.
Tempura Udon Soup ($11) - shrimp tempura not pictured :)
So, I liked the drinks, the food was swell, I didn’t run into anyone I know (which could be a blessing or curse!). All-in-all, I was happy to see Springfield embrace a new and different cuisine(s) and I’m glad to know I can go home again – just making sure to schedule at least one Monday in town cos I know just where I wanna be!
Rating: 4 Martinis for $4 Martini Mondays (but we wish they were able to offer a nightly special!)