I love walking down St. Marks at night. There’s this liveliness that lingers in the air under the musky yellow streetlights, and all the yakitori and izakaya signs bring back good memories of the time I spent in Japan a couple of years back. Just seeing the street puts me in the mood for a night of drinking Kirin Ichiban and eating meat skewers to my heart’s content.
Enter Kenka: a wild, feudal-sex themed Izakaya that boasts loud Japanese signage and graphic flowing banners. It fits right in with all of the other Japanese spots on St. Marks, but is definitely… unique. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the banner depicting a woman getting her crotch swallowed by an octopus. Yeah, an octopus. Kenka is all kinds of weird and is definitely NOT a good choice for a first date. It is, however, a great place to do sake bombs after work.
The menu is a clusterfuck of food photos, cartoon bondage, and this boisterous font that has the spirit of a Japanese man yelling at you. I had a great time ogling over how cheap the drinks were and skimming through what felt like an endless amount of choices. Kenka definitely has the cheapest beer I’ve found in the city ($1.50 glasses, $8 large pitchers), and the food was pretty cheap too ($8 for a okonomiyaki).
The best part about the food at Kenka was ordering it. We ordered the yakitori platter, okonomiyaki, agedashi tofu, and salmon chazuke. We were starving and tipsy, and we couldn’t even get through a third of the skewers on the platter. The chicken was rubbery and unseasoned, the meatball things tasted like cat food, and the squid was sickeningly fishy. The okonomiyaki was okay at best, and the agedashi tofu was slimy and tasteless. In hindsight, the red flags were obvious. The expansive menu and cheap prices should have tipped us off, but I guess we were just too hungry and excited to realize.
The general consensus on Yelp is that you don’t go to Kenka for the food, you go for the drinks and the atmosphere. Now that I’ve been, I wholeheartedly agree. The food sucks, but you really can’t argue with $1.50 beers. There’s also an atmosphere that seems like it can lead to some rambunctious nights, so if that’s what you’re after, Kenka is a great choice. If I was to rate Kenka on the food alone, they’d get a 0/5 from me, but overall they get 3/5 stars because I’ll definitely be going back for the drinks and atmosphere.