Irie Cafe – Natural Reggae Bar & Restaurant

What caught my eye first about Irie (pronounced like “eye-ree”, from Jamaican Patois, not like the Japanese name 入江)  Cafe was that it advertised itself as using no preservatives or artificial products in its food. What impressed me was when I stepped inside.

I thought it was going to be your run-of-the-mill Japanese “fresh” restaurant, with good tasting food but a rather bland-ish and slightly hipster atmosphere. This was not at all the case. I had absolutely no idea that it was a reggae bar as well.

When entering, you’re greeted with a big TV on the wall; when I came in the first time, it was a nonstop replay of random underwater scenes–a quirk that made me like it more.

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The reason I first walked into the eatery was because Hot Pepper had given me a coupon for it, so thanks Hot Pepper! Anyways, because of that, I had no plans regarding what to eat. I asked the owner (Ayumi, a young and extremely outgoing, tequila-loving woman who works there every operating day) for recommendations, and she told me the chicken nuggets are a special recipe. So naturally I went for that and also a hijiki salad, which was one of the seasonal dishes offered.

The salad came first along with an automatic starter of sauteed seasonal vegetables. Both were quite good. The hijiki salad could easily be split between two people.

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The chicken nuggets came not a moment too soon–meaning a while later, and I was getting a bit tired of eating straight hijiki salad.

Ayumi wasn’t lying, her chicken nuggets were crazy good. They were perfectly seasoned before being fried in the right amount of batter, and you could taste the freshness and the anti-fake-ness.

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Since I had my fancy coupon, I decided to splurge and get a dessert, since the coffee menu and the dessert menus were both beckoning.

I decided on the flan, which I have nothing to complain about.

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The second time I came to eat was when I was meeting a friend (also a semi-regular, as it turns out) for lunch. This time I ordered the jerk chicken, which was advertised right at the beginning of the menu. It took a while to make, but I was not disappointed. It came on a bed of greens, smothered in a mix of flavored mayo and ketchup. I have to say though that the chicken nuggets still have me won over the most.

I also ordered the Elderflower cocktail, which was made with some sort of fragrant, namesake liqueur. It was unique and something I’d never had before, and I highly recommend it. (Although Ayumi will probably press you to get into one of her many stashes of tequila she has on display at the bar.)

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The restaurant/bar has a very open, friendly atmosphere if you’re looking for a chill place to have dinner with a friend, and a lively party atmosphere if you’re looking for a good place to drink as well. In the summer the front area opens up into a porch right along the Kamagawa River.

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As the inside isn’t too big, I would recommend coming in small groups. Even if you come alone, you will find someone in the bar to chat with, I can guarantee you.

Irie Cafe
宇都宮市中央本町1-4
マルヨシビルⅠ

028-680-6898
Hours: 12:00-4:00 (lunch), 6:00-11:00 (dinner)
https://www.hotpepper.jp/strJ001118526/

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