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As the calendar year turns over, we’ve grown accustomed to the barrage of lists telling us where to travel during the next 12 months. Oftentimes these places are a country or even a whole region – you could spend an entire year exploring just one of the locations listed and still barely make a dent.

We like to travel on a smaller scale. Forget countries and cities, for us the neighborhood is the ideal unit of exploration. Celebrating neighborhood life and businesses is, of course, essential to what we do as Culinary Backstreets. Since our founding in 2012, we’ve been dedicated to publishing the stories of unsung local culinary heroes and visiting them on our food walks, particularly in neighborhoods that are off the beaten path.

Last January, we declared 2018 as “The Year of the Neighborhood,” and what a fruitful year it was. We had our fair share of fresh experiences and were also able to contribute to the economies of neighborhoods otherwise neglected by the tourism industry. Tourism is an important economic force in many cities, as it should be, but if it is not dispersed responsibly, it can devastate the urban ecosystem, one that’s based on the sound health of all of a city’s neighborhoods.

With that in mind, we are happy to again focus on neighborhoods off the main tourist trail in 2019, as well as the people and places that keep them going. Below is a compilation of the less-visited areas that our correspondents are planning to explore this year:

Athens: Petralona

Southwest of the Acropolis, starting from the foot of Filopappou Hill and stretching west to Pireos Street, Petralona is a large residential neighborhood that is split down the middle by rail tracks, forming the picturesque Ano Petralona, which is closer to the Acropolis, and Kato Petralona (Upper Petralona and Lower Petralona, respectively).

Settled since ancient times, the area has had a long and winding history: it was abandoned and later re-inhabited, and renamed several times (at one point, Kato Petralona was known as Katsikadika – from the word “katsika,” which means goat – due to the large number of goat herders in the area). Later, a part of Ano Petralona came to be known as Assyrmatos or Attaliotika after 1922, when around 800 families of Greek refugees from Asia Minor settled here. Over time, some of their impoverished homes were replaced by a large, drab apartment block built for workers and, alternatively, at the behest of Queen Frederiki in the 1950s, beautiful stone houses. Some of the ramshackle sheds remained and were later romanticized by the film Dream District (1961), which was shot here.

Since then, this formerly working-class area has steadily morphed into a bohemian enclave beloved by Athenians, which is what makes it so appealing. This is partly because Petralona, despite its proximity to the Acropolis, never became overrun with tourists. As a result, long-established businesses catering to locals like the legendary old-school taverna Oikonomou, the historic open-air cinema Zephyros, and the affordable meze joints Aster and To Tsipouradiko tou Apostoli have flourished. Moreover, planning restrictions on buildings above a certain height have helped to preserve Petralona’s interesting mix of architecture, which range from prewar neoclassical buildings to modernist apartment blocks.

Many Athenians have chosen to live here, or at least spend their free time in the neighborhood, because of its unpretentious and bohemian vibe. You will find locals of all ages whiling away their days at Lola, Klouvi, Vraziliana and Kyrios Chou, a few of the popular all-day café-bars that provide an antidote to the hectic pace of Athens’ city center. And while development in Petralona may not be fast-paced, that hasn’t stopped (relatively) newer places from opening, like the modern tavernas Xrysa Xrysa and Kappari, the punk bistro Theio Tragi, which provides contemporary fine dining with a twist, and Blue Bamboo, famed for their Thai food and cocktails. For a sweet end to the day in this laidback neighborhood, we always make sure to visit Alice Cakewitch for one of their mouthwatering handmade cakes. – Carolina Doriti

Barcelona: El Clot and Poblenou

Northeast of Barcelona’s polished Modernist center and rebuilt Gòtic alleys, the Sant Martí district straddles the line between past and future. It represents a fascinating spectrum of Barcelona, a place charged with tons of real power: some of the most exciting projects in the city like [email protected] district, a hub for tech companies and start-ups, sit alongside traditional markets and long-standing modest homes. Yet this range is best experienced in two adjacent neighborhoods, El Clot and Poblenou.

Originally a rural village whose life centered around a medieval religious order, El Clot is perhaps the oldest area in the district. The neighborhood has somehow retained this village feel, even in the face of large-scale industrialization that transformed the area in the 19th century – farms and fields were replaced by factories and workshops of all sizes. The subsequent influx of workers led to the creation of municipal markets like Mercat del Clot and a flourishing of workers’ taverns, many of which eventually morphed into restaurants like the great Can Pineda.

Similarly, the neighborhood of Poblenou swelled with residents in the 19th century, as people from all over Catalonia and Spain came to find work. In addition to its own municipal market, many local spots continue to speak to this industrial past, like the restaurant Els Pescadors, a former tavern where textile workers and fishermen – who were often one in the same, as many factory workers earned a little extra by fishing along the nearby beaches – met over plates of seafood, and the classic bodega, La Pubilla de Taulat, which has sold bulk wine for over a century.

But as close as the past can feel, there’s still quite a bit of distance between the steam engines and carbon pollution of the 19th- and 20th-century factories and the eco-efficient architecture of the Media-TIC building, designed by Enrique Ruiz Geli and built in 2010, and the changing colored lights of Jean Nouvel’s Glòries Tower, built in 2015. Many forward-focused bars and restaurants have also sprung up, like Els Tres Porquets, a contemporary restaurant specializing in an ambitious menu of small plates intended for sharing.

Perhaps no place better bridges the past and present in this area than L’Artesana. The restaurant’s name pays tribute to an old workers’ cooperative, while their contemporary takes on traditional recipes appeal to the 21st-century workers looking for a satisfying and affordable lunch – in some ways, not much has changed at all. – Paula Mourenza

Istanbul: Samatya and Yedikule

Nestled side by side along the Marmara Sea coast, the Samatya and Yedikule neighborhoods have long been among our favorite places to explore in the city. Charming century-old buildings built by Greeks and Armenians, even older wooden houses that have managed to remain upright, numerous churches, the 1,600-year-old Theodosian Walls, and the area’s proximity to the city’s ancient sea provide signposts to distinct periods of Istanbul’s unparalleled history.

Yedikule, meaning “Seven Towers,” begins with its namesake, a fortress built around a corner of the ancient city walls that was later used as a dungeon. Nearby are the magnificent Yedikule bostanları, historic urban gardens on the outer edge of the walls that have come under threat in recent years, another potential victim of a hackneyed development scheme, which are so common in today’s Istanbul. Just a few minutes up the main street is Safa Meyhane, a classic Istanbul establishment run by the same family for 70 years. It has become one of our favorites in the city, due to the excellent meze and exquisitely maintained interior.

Nearby Samatya is a picturesque Armenian quarter that ranks among the best places in Istanbul to drink rakı and enjoy a dinner of fresh fish and meze. Until 2013, a suburban train line took visitors right up to the edge of the main square, which is packed with fish restaurants and meyhanes. The closure of that line has been bad for business, though Samatya’s establishments have managed to stay afloat as loyal customers continue to make the trek to the area. When the weather is nice, the delightfully casual Kücük Ev, in the heart of the square with its plastic tables and chairs, is our pick, while Küçük Paris is the place to hunker down during the colder months. – Paul Benjamin Osterlund

Lisbon: Graça

Sitting on a hilltop, the highest in Lisbon, right next to the picturesque Castelo de São Jorge, Graça could sell tickets as the neighborhood with the best panoramic views in town. Two of the city’s most beautiful miradouros (viewpoints) are here (Graça and Senhora do Monte), and there’s nothing that the other six hills of Lisbon can do about it.

Sadly the tuk-tuks, those motorized, three-wheel vehicles whose colonization of the city coincided with the tourism boom, have also found them, so gone are the days when you could leisurely sip a drink in Esplanada da Graça or contemplate a peaceful sunset in Senhora do Monte. Now it’s even a struggle to find a place to take a photo. Yet if you venture deeper into the neighborhood, there are still corners that remain untouched by mass tourism.

Most of the area dates back to the 18th century, but it was only after the 1755 earthquake that its population began to grow. Perhaps the biggest change to the urban landscape came in the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution: the old working-class villas (villas operárias in Portuguese), now a distinctive feature of Graça, were built to lodge the factory workers coming from different parts of Portugal. Villa Berta (from 1902) is the most beautiful but Estrela d’Ouro (1908) might be the most original.

The renewed attention on Graça is not surprising: artists and poets have long been fascinated by this hilly neighborhood. Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, one of the most important Portuguese authors of the 20th century, used to contemplate the river and the city from the Graça miradouro, which now features a bust of the author. City hall has also invested in sprucing up the area. The main square and the garden (Jardim da Cerca da Graça) descending towards Mouraria have been renovated, while the controversial Graça-Mouraria funicular is currently under construction.

Despite the crowds that are trickling in, we’re drawn to this residential neighborhood because it’s bursting with interesting new spots, like the restaurant Taberna do Mar, the craft beer bar Taproom Oitava Colina, the clubs Camones and Damas, as well as a new café in A Voz do Operário (The Worker’s Voice), an association that’s more than a century old. What’s exciting and refreshing is that these newcomers coexist with older spots, rather than pushing them out. Like, for example, the tascas O Satélite and Cardoso da Estrela, the restaurants O Pitéu da Graça and Via Graça, and Botequim, a bar originally founded in 1971 by the poet Natália Correia, one of the iconic women who railed against the dictatorship and whose name was given to a street in Graça.

The famous American street artist Shepard Fairey has painted two murals in Graça and celebrities are said to be fleeing up the hill from Alfama, yet residents still shop in traditional grocery stores, often walking millimeters from the nostalgic (and tourist-packed) tram 28, whose track slowly winds up through the neighborhood. These are the kinds of contrasts that you don’t see everywhere. Yet they also suggest that now is the time to visit Graça, before the crowds fully erase its charm. – Célia Pedroso

Mexico City: Colonia Juárez

Mexico City’s Juárez neighborhood, with its central location along Avenida Reforma, is one of the city’s oldest. Yet successive waves of residents and businesses have changed the face of the neighborhood many times over. Nowadays, despite being small, Colonia Juárez encompasses the vast diversity of Mexico City.

The neighborhood was originally created in the late 1800s by the Chapultepec Land Improvement Company – the American businesspeople that owned the company divided up the lands of a former hacienda. The area was subsequently named Colonia Americana when it was formally recognized in 1898 (it was renamed Colonia Juárez in 1906 to commemorate the centenary of President Benito Juárez’s birth). Some of Mexico City’s richest families settled here in palatial homes along streets named after European cities: Berlin, Barcelona, Turín. Yet Juárez was hard-hit in the 1985 earthquake, leading many residents to abandon the neighborhood. During the 1990s, Juárez, specifically Zona Rosa, earned a new reputation as a haven for the city’s growing LGBTQ community.

Today Insurgentes, the longest avenue in the city, cuts the neighborhood in half, east-west, and the two sides couldn’t feel more different. You can still find vestiges of the old Juárez in historic homes on the neighborhood’s eastern edge and traditional eateries near Mercado Juárez, which is tucked in the southeastern corner. We often find ourselves at Gabi’s Café for chilaquiles and panque (pound cake), and to soak up its old school feel, which manages to endure even as new restaurants, like Café Nin, one of the neighborhood’s upscale breakfast spots, and high-end condos pop-up around it. (For its proximity to the business district of Reforma and the hip enclave of Roma, Juárez is one of the city’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, making it a popular spot with entrepreneurs and restaurateurs.) We also frequent the fondas, or lunch restaurants, near the market that still offer full meals for as little as 40 pesos ($2), a rarity as cost of living in the neighborhood creeps upward.

But if you head west to Zona Rosa, the neighborhood’s heart, you’ll find Japanese and Korean restaurants, sometimes in the shadow of skyscrapers. Mapo Gal Bi, with its cozy wooden booths, offers the best Korean barbeque in the area; for Japanese food, we head to Kaminari Tonkotsu for delicious ramen and Tokyo Restaurant for affordable set lunches. The Japanese community in Mexico City goes back generations, but since trade cooperation expanded between South Korea and Mexico in the 1990s, the Korean community has grown; both have largely settled in the area.

Sometimes, though, the new and the old stand side by side. Like La Nature, an organic food store that sells all its products in reusable containers to cut down on waste, which is located across the street from Mercado Juárez. It’s this unique combination of trendy and traditional that makes Juárez one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in Mexico City. – Martha Pskowski

Naples: Materdei

Until a few years ago, the neighborhood of Materdei, “middle ground” as Neapolitans like to call it, was known for being just that: an unremarkable district squeezed between the ancient city center and the upper part of the city, the hillside neighborhood of Vomero.

That’s not to say it’s necessarily unattractive; built mainly after the Second World War, the area is home to appealing buildings and urban parks in the Liberty style (the Italian Art Nouveau), typical of Neapolitan construction in the early 20th century.

Recently, however, Materdei has experienced a cultural and artistic rebirth. Many buildings are covered with murals and street art – the young Argentinian street artist Francisco Bosoletti’s large-scale work “Parthenope,” which was inspired by the legend of the siren who allegedly gave her name to Naples, has become a symbol of the area and is particularly beloved.

Moreover, community organizations have sprouted up, turning disused buildings into thriving cultural centers and meeting points for the local community. Je So’ Pazz has occupied an abandoned psychiatric hospital, which they have turned into a community center open to all, while a group of neighborhood associations founded the Liberated Garden of Materdei in an overgrown former convent.

One benefit of being overlooked, though, is that a number of gastronomic gems catering to locals have flourished in Materdei. Some of them are well known, like Pizzeria Starita, one of the city’s most famous pizzerias. Serious pizza eaters arrive from every corner of the region to try their exceptional pies, like the pizza with zucchini, zucchini flowers and provola cheese, the pizza with radicchio and Gorgonzola, and the baccalà pizza (our favorite). Others are not quite as popular but no less tasty, like Cantina del Gallo, an old country winery near the famous Fontanelle Cemetery that prepares the legendary pizzicotti (small rolls stuffed in six different salty ways). Or the lovely Caseari Cautero, a tiny wine shop where a Neapolitan doctor fond of French Champagne will guide you on a tasting journey through various types of local meats and cheeses, all paired with excellent wine.

With so many delicious options on offer, it’s no wonder that curious eaters from all over Naples have begun visiting the “middle ground.” – Amedeo Colella

Porto: Fontainhas

One of Porto’s best-kept secrets is Fontainhas, a residential neighborhood that rarely appears on postcards or guides. When walking across the Luis I Bridge, the iconic metal arch spanning the Duoro River, towards the tourist zone of Ribeira, the eye always turns to the left, where the sun goes down and everything seems to shine more brightly. But just as not everything that glitters is gold, one can find some of Porto’s greatest riches on those less shiny streets to the right.

Even though they’re facing the dual pressures of unabating tourism and real estate development (its prime location on the banks of the Duoro River is both a blessing and a curse), the locals in Fontainhas are not being pushed out without a fight. They resist, even when parts of the escarpment, the precipitous slope separating the river from upper Fontainhas and onto and around which roads, rail tracks and makeshift houses and gardens have been built, collapse, threatening the security of the many structures piled atop it. We recommend getting lost in the steep streets in and around the escarpment (assuming you’re not afraid of heights), where you can experience the truest Porto there is: people who speak very loudly, neighbors who shout from window to window, house doors left wide open, the smell of wood fires and cooking food, fishing rods in action along the river bank, the trains that pop in and out of the tunnels. There are the remnants of old buildings everywhere, but the scenery and the calm – we’re far away from the stress of downtown – make up for everything.

One potential route begins at Jardim de S. Lázaro, the oldest municipal garden in Porto; from here, you can walk down the street to Ponte do Infante – to the left of the bridge is what many call “the balcony over the Douro,” Alameda das Fontainhas. This long, wide avenue used to host the Vandoma Fair (antique fair) and where, every year, the city’s most popular party to celebrate São João, the city’s patron saint, takes place, with sardines being cooked on large grills and wine flowing freely.

The charm of the neighborhood continues below. Just follow the sound of female voices singing and you will find, just under the bridge, the Lavadouro das Fontainhas, a public laundry. A bit further on is Shiko, a Japanese restaurant on Rua do Sol with the welcoming feel of a tasca, and Guindalense Futebol Clube, a perfect spot to watch the sunset with a fino (beer) and peanuts.

But to really eat well in Fontainhas, say hello to a stranger on the street or to ask where they like to eat. Perhaps they will send you to the fancy restaurants near Jardim de S. Lázaro, like Eskalduna or Pátio do Duque. Or suggest that you try the codfish fritters with Portuguese rice and beans while listening to fado at Páteo da Mariquinhas, the spicy snacks at Catitas, or the feijoada at Roma. Wherever you go in Fontainhas, it will feel like home. – Cláudia Brandão

Join our Porto culinary walk for a deeper dive into Fontainhas.

Queens: Murray Hill

Ask New Yorkers for directions to Murray Hill, and most will point you toward the tony East Side of Manhattan. It’s there that Robert Murray, scion of a prominent family of Quaker merchants, built his home in the 1760s. But the family also owned a nursery of more than 100 acres, filled with trees and other plants imported from around the world, in what was then the Town of Flushing. In the late 1800s, when the nursery gave way to residential development, a second neighborhood was named for the Murray family.

This newer Murray Hill is much less well known. The 7 train that carries hungry travelers from Midtown Manhattan and along Roosevelt Ave., in Queens, terminates in the heart of Flushing’s Chinatown. To venture beyond, and eastward into Murray Hill, requires a bus transfer, a ride on the commuter rail, or perhaps a vigorous walk, which does build the appetite for our destination: Koreatown.

To be sure, not far from the original Murray Hill, Manhattan has its own Koreatown, too; it has the feel of a business district with after-work drinking hours. By contrast, its namesake in Queens is truly a neighborhood, reflecting the growth, in recent decades, of a Korean-American community that has largely supplanted older populations with Irish or Italian heritage. Many of the shops along Northern Boulevard, Murray Hill’s major thoroughfare, display the distinctive Hangul characters; a train station is decorated with a mosaic of traditional pottery remnants imported from the home country; appliance stores carry kimchi refrigerators.

Where the locals gather to eat, the ambiance is generally homey and unhurried. This seems especially true at restaurants and smaller shops that have a narrow focus, and where customers seek out favorite, comforting dishes. (We might know better if only we spoke Korean.) The focus might be on soup with hand-torn noodles, as at Arirang; or on warming bowls of porridge, at Bonjuk; or on steamed black goat, at Bangane; or on massive steamed buns overstuffed with pork and kimchi, at Northern Wangmandoo Dumpling. During the winter, one restaurant, Parksanbal Babs, serves a single dish, a bubbling hot beef-bone soup with all the fixings. (In summer, we understand, there’s a cold-noodle option, too.)

Even the BBQ restaurants – there must be dozens – can be singleminded. Although most if not all serve beef, some proclaim a house specialty with the glow of a neon pig or duck. Another, the soon-to-open Gopchang Story BBQ, is known for expertise with grilled intestines, which it proclaims are a time-honored, alcohol-absorbing companion to soju. We have little experience with that Korean distilled beverage; perhaps it’s time to find out if we have the belly for it. – Dave Cook

Shanghai: Old Town

We often lament the loss of Shanghai’s historic neighborhoods (and the culinary gems hidden therein), so this year we turn to re-exploring Old Town, a 500-year-old area south of the famed Yu Gardens, east of Laoximen (the old West Gate) and abutting the south Bund area.

It’s arguably the fastest changing area in the city due to increasing development encroaching from all angles, and also from within. “What little remains dates from the early 20th century, and these precious last bits are reminders of a way of life that is far from the glass-and-steel reality of today’s Shanghai: narrow lanes, hidden temples, crumbling mansions, generations-old communities and traditions, and a lively street life,” explains Tina Kanagaratnam, one of the founders of Historic Shanghai, a preservation and educational society.

Despite the changes it has experienced, the Old Town in some ways still offers the “purest” glimpse of what life in Old Shanghai must have been like. Truth be told, the old lilong alleyway buildings that surround the Confucian temple are extremely rundown – in spite of their charms and architectural interest, years of deferred maintenance have made it much more economically feasible to start from scratch. The construction marches on, despite increasing concern about preserving architectural heritage and traditional neighborhoods – that is still a luxury that some argue Shanghai can’t (or won’t choose to) afford.

As a result, we’ve had to say goodbye recently to the peanut sauce dumplings at Er Guang, along with all the other late-night stops on Zhaozhou Lu and the nearby Tangjiawan Lu Market, the city’s oldest open-air food market. But a few blocks east at Ninghe Lu and Penglai Lu, a morning market still thrives. Find the intersection on a map, and get lost in the warren of alleyways that snake around the area.

Nearby pioneer Jackie’s Beer Nest, with its ever-increasing selection of local beers on tap, also closed up shop in late 2018, but we rededicated ourselves to drinking even more traditionally at Kong Yi Ji with their tasting paddles of huangjiu (Shaoxing wine) aged five to 30 years in a setting worthy of the Confucius temple it adjoins. Their menu, décor and ambiance are amazing year-round, but especially worth a visit during hairy crab season in late fall.

No one faults Shanghai for developing its inner city core amid decades of unprecedented wealth creation and economic development – it’s only logical that the prime real estate would eventually evolve. Yet given that the city prioritizes progress over preservation, the time to visit is now. – Kyle Long

Tbilisi: Vera

An old Tbilisi neighborhood that stretches up from the Vera River to Mtatsminda Mountain, Vera is a quiet locale of narrow, chestnut tree-lined streets and charismatic brick buildings housing mom-and-pop groceries, hairdressers and second-hand clothing shops. While we monitor an encroaching gentrification with trepidation, we also can’t complain about how much wining and dining is going on here now.

Rooms Hotel, the poster-child of Tbilisi chic lodgings, opened several years ago and inspired a rash of fashionable boutiques, cafés and eateries up Belinski (Chovelidze) Street, like Euro-kitchen, Keti’s Bistro. Nearby, local chef Ramaz Gemiashvili is killing it at Keto and Kote with his classy and original takes on Georgian cuisine. On Zandukeli Street there are now espresso machines, as well as sushi, Mexican, and Italian joints along with Vera’s very own wine bar, Sulico. Obento Express, an authentic Japanese takeaway, relocated to Gogebashvili Street and if that doesn’t satisfy your Asian craving, Pepperboy on Tarkhnishvili Street will positively crush it.

On Vera’s west side, the 19th-century Tbilisi Wine Factory #1 has recently become a complex of restaurants and cocktail bars where celebrated local chefs Tekuna Gachechiladze and Keti Bakradze are plying their craft. Although the sleaze factor has thickened, you can still pub crawl on Perovskaya Street (now Ahkvladeli) in lower Vera or grab some savory eats at Cafe Mukha and Alubali.

Although Vera is accommodating more tourists, they tend to gravitate towards attractions in the old town, leaving the hood mostly for locals. We still have Betsy’s Bar for Friday nights, Rainer’s for its eclectic menu, and no shortage of hair “saloons” offering five lari haircuts. – Paul Rimple

Tokyo: Sangenjaya

Sangenjaya – while largely off the tourist radar – has won the affection of many Tokyoites, who know that its sprawling streets and alleyways promise a hodgepodge of bars, eateries and ramshackle shops.

Its name translates as “three tea houses” and it was indeed home to three of them. Back in the Edo Period (1603–1868), the area was situated where a major road divided into two popular pilgrimage routes, making it a popular place for a rest stop. Nowadays it’s bisected by a major highway and easily identifiable by the orange and aptly named “Carrot Tower” that houses a free viewing platform with good views over Tokyo and further west towards Mount Fuji.

Just a four-minute train ride west of the fashionable Shibuya neighborhood, much of the appeal of Sangenjaya lies in its ability to absorb modern trends from its neighbor while retaining a charmingly scruffy feel of olden times. A stone’s throw from the station is Suzuran Alley with an illuminated sign inviting hungry passers-by to grab a bite to eat. The surrounding area hides a network of alleys where smoky yakitori (grilled chicken) joints abut pokey standing bars with scrawled menus on the walls (try Sai for great sake) and sleek izakaya (a pub-style establishment) with gleaming wooden counters that target courting couples.

Daytime reveals rows of shops selling everything from household essentials to secondhand knick-knacks. Chazawa, the major shopping street, is even closed to traffic between 1 and 5 p.m. on Sundays, allowing pedestrians to amble at leisure, perhaps picking up a coffee at Obscura Coffee Laboratory or a pastry from Boulangerie Bonheur as they go. Tiny family-run set-ups sell traditional matcha bowls only a couple of streets away from where Tokyo Saryo is riding the third-wave tea trend, offering cups of single-origin green tea in a chic minimalist room. Zen is a ramen joint that promises organic vegetables sourced from Kochi Prefecture – perhaps a nod to the more health conscious crowd, although it’s open until 6 a.m., which suggests it also hopes to pull in late-night drinkers.

Regional specialties abound: at Jajaoiken, you’ll find jajamen, miso-flavored noodles from Morioka in the north, whereas the izakaya Gassan focuses on unusual cuisine from Yamagata Prefecture. But there’s also plenty of international fare to be had. There is the ever-popular Indian restaurant Shiva Curry Wara, whose founder regularly goes to India to take part in cooking classes, and the pricier, highly-rated PepeRosso, which serves up Italian fare, including homemade pasta. A short walk from both is Paopao, famous for its takeout Chinese steamed buns.

With such a medley, a simple stroll can easily become a half-day adventure. Ever evolving, Sangenjaya is likely to be your cup of tea – or three. – Phoebe Amoroso

Editor’s note: We will be republishing dispatches from these neighborhoods all week. Stay tuned!

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