Sure, there are flashier spots with craft brews on tap and Starbucks-sterile, reclaimed-wood decor that'll give you a measly dollar off your overpriced pint. But there's only one place where, from 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays, an old-school bartender will hand you an ice-cold glass of $3 Sapporo and a $5.50 plate of spicy calamari, and say arigato with a big smile. At Nirvana Sports Bar in Little Tokyo, step back into the pricing, hospitality and atmosphere of the early '90s. The bar is always filled with a mix of out-of-town businesspeople, locals just off of a shift and a couple of sports fanatics watching the game, and I've never once been there when all those strangers didn't become fast friends. When it's close to happy hour last call, the bartender will let you buy extra drinks at the discounted price, placing a turned-over shot glass in front of you like a drink ticket you can redeem when you're ready. This is how bartenders of old used to do it before they were called “mixologists.” No frills, good drinks, great people-watching — Nirvana is the least pretentious happy hour you'll find anywhere in L.A.
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