Dining Reviews

Foodie File: Kauboi

fdfile japaneseJapanese-Western themed unites sushi with whiskey and beefgrill

In Japan, an izakaya is similar to a pub—a casual drinking and dining place. For some reason, izakayas have only recently become popular in the states. Kauboi, a new restaurant in Aptos, follows in the izakaya tradition by offering several different styles of food: grilled meats, small plates and sushi, plus a wide array of drinks (including Japanese whiskey) and a relaxed atmosphere. In their case it’s a Japanese-Western theme, which should dazzle plenty of curious patrons. We interviewed owner Michelle King about her establishment.

GT: You have a good whiskey collection. Is that something popular in Japan?

Michelle King: Yes, whiskey is very popular in Japan. Suntory, a Japanese brewing and distilling group, has actually been making whiskey since 1923, using the fundamentals of scotch whiskey production. The fact that there are now 10 whisky producing distilleries in Japan demonstrates whiskey’s rise in popularity. Japanese whisky has also seen a boom in popularity in the states over the years. We offer 12, 15 and 17-year-old Japanese single malt whiskeys as well as a great selection of traditional bourbons and rye whiskeys.

Yakitori is a particularly popular item. What is it?

Yakitori generally translates to “grilled chicken skewers” in Japanese, and we offer beef and veggie skewers as well (known as kushiyaki). All of our skewered dishes come with our housemade marinades—orange or spicy teriyaki. Typically in Japan you’d find yakitori being cooked in izakayas, small restaurants or street vendors. 

Your kauboi sliders sound delicious. Can you explain to someone who’s never tried kobe beef what it’s like?

This trio of sliders is made with Kobe-style beef which come from Japanese wagyu cattle crossbred with American Black Angus. The flavor of this beef is richer, bolder and melts in your mouth. The patties are set on crispy slider buns and topped with a housemade onion marmalade and our wasabi mayo.  

You have several signature rolls, which do you recommend?

Hands down, the Ivan The Great roll is my favorite, named after our head sushi chef/fastest man alive. Inside this roll you’ll find fresh salmon and cucumber, and on top you have tombo (hawaiian albacore), paper-thin slices of fresh lemon and jalapeno, green onion, and dollops of sriracha hot sauce. The combination of the fish with the acidity of the lemon and the kick of the jalapeno makes this one our very best.


8017 Soquel Drive, Aptos. 661-0449

Contributor at Good Times |

Aaron is a hard-working freelance writer with a focus on music, art, food, culture and travel. In addition to Good Times, he's a regular contributor to Sacramento News & Review, VIA Magazine and Playboy. When he's not working, he's either backpacking, arguing about music or working on his book about ska. One thing's for sure—he knows more about ska than you.

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