The first obstacle to overcome if you have not been to this place before is to find it. The photo above shows the extent of its exterior signage, which is dwarfed by its upstairs neighbors, which also happen to be Japanese restaurants. But duck under the sign and follow the stairs down to this subterranean izakaya and sake bar.
With grilled meats and many fried items, it is hard to go wrong in an izakaya as even the things that do not wow you are still very tasty. Sake Bar Hagi is no exception to this rule, but gets extremely packed for dinner, so you have to time your visit strategically unless you do not mind waiting for extensive periods for a table. Before 17:30 or after 23:00 are best, when the after work crowds (earlier for westerners, later for Japanese) have cleared. Even late at night you are sure to share the space with a good number of drunken salarymen, but that just adds to the charm.
A small A Set ($10, above) will whet your appetite for more meat on a stick, with portions of chicken, chicken meatball, garlic, and pork belly, among others. These meats do not need to be sauced, but feel free to douse them as you wish with soy, vinegar, and spicy sauces.
One person eating here alone is almost unheard of, and probably not recommended so that you can order as many small plates as possible. I settled on the tako yaki ($6.50, below) on my most recent solo visit, an average rendition of the doughy octopus balls.
The bartender told me that they do eggplant well and recommended the grilled eggplant with beef miso sauce ($7), but only after my order was put in. This was on a specials board, which seemed to be populated with interesting items and probably the direction I will steer towards on the next visit.
152 West 49th Street, New York NY