Binchoyaki Makes Sure Everyone Gets a Plate During COVID-19 Crisis
Located in the heart of Sacramento’s Japantown, Binchoyaki Izakaya Dining is a modern Japanese-style barbecue restaurant founded by Tokiko Sawada and Craig Takehara. Together, they offer Japanese comfort food alongside a variety of grilled skewers and artisanal Japanese craft beers. Binchoyaki’s vibrant, social atmosphere is blended with the scent of their delicious charcoal grill, giving their customers a place to unwind and relax with friends and family. The friendly crew balances hard work with humor while serving what they affectionately refer to as Japanese “soul food.”
Nineteen years ago, owners Tokiko and Craig met in culinary school in Pasedena, CA. It had always been a dream of theirs to open a restaurant together. As they kept an eye out for the right opportunity, they continued to develop and hone their skills in the food industry, working at a number of restaurants across a range of cuisines. Tokiko expanded her skills from the kitchen and moved to the front of house to learn business operations, while Craig explored his passion for Japanese cuisine cooking in kitchens all over Japan.
When they moved to Sacramento 11 years ago, they quickly saw an opportunity to realize their dream: the city was missing an Izakaya-style restaurant and they had a perfect location in mind — Sacramento’s historic Japantown. In 2016, Tokiko and Craig launched their dream restaurant: Binchoyaki Izakaya Dining. They chose to open an Izakaya because they wanted to show off the rich variety of Japanese cuisine beyond sushi and teriyaki. Tokiko jokes about customers that still ask for sushi, “One thing [is] clear. We will never serve sushi. [laughs].”
Like many other restaurants, Binchoyaki has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Izakaya-styled dining is a very social and atmospheric dine-in environment, meant to be had surrounded by good company, good food, and sake. Tokiko and Craig had to immediately come up with new methods to keep up with the situation. They shifted their restaurant business into selling bulk orders, minimized their menu to cut losses, and promoted their bento boxes for takeout orders.
Additionally, they are doing their part to give back to the community with their participation in Sacramento’s SHRA food program, working tirelessly to donate hundreds of meals to those in need. They have stayed in contact with the Sacramento restaurant community and have shown their support by ordering family meals from local restaurants. Even though it is tough, Binchoyaki is doing what they can to generate income for the business and their staff, because they know it will be far more difficult to re-open if their restaurant is forced to close:
“Its almost like you need another start up fund to even get yourself off the ground. So, even though it is tough and we are barebones right now, we [have] some income to feed us and our employees.”
Binchoyaki Izakaya Dining is currently open at 11 AM – 8 PM from Tuesday to Saturday. Customers can call ahead or place orders through their website, and pick up at the restaurant when the food is ready. They currently have limited items on Caviar available for delivery. You can also bulk order their famous curry – it is sold in a quart size that serves up to 3 people and freezes well.
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