Often disparaged as little more than the gateway to Tokyo's northwestern suburbs, the area of Ikebukuro is still shaking off a reputation for delinquency that it got 16 years ago from the TBS drama "Ikebukuro West Gate Park."

With tourists flooding Shibuya and Shinjuku, however, Ikebukuro is starting to look more attractive to the locals. Between the sprawling department stores, local theaters and ramen shops the area is also known for, trendy new bars and eateries have been quietly opening their doors. If you look in the right place, this neglected corner of the capital offers some top-notch craft beer bars that can easily be strung together for an evening of light fare and cold brews.

Most of these gems are found on the east side of Ikebukuro Station. Tucked away between the curves of the Yamanote Line and a highway (Autobahn?) overpass, Kraft Work Dining is truly a diamond in the rough. I arrive just as the bar is opening, the only time I could get a reservation on such sort notice. Despite its far-flung location, Kraft Work draws a crowd.