For some folks, it probably sounds like the beginning of a regional joke.

“A guy walks into a sushi bar in Kent …”

But for fans of Kent eatery and nightspot 157 Lounge, it’s likely part of a nice evening out and about.

157 Lounge is nestled in Kent’s active downtown. Despite its stylish but modest storefront, inside you’ll find a nice-sized, cleanly designed space with the de rigueur high ceilings but minus the aggressively bright lighting of many other contemporary spots.

There is a bar near the middle of the room with a couple of televisions, and behind the fish tank is the micro sushi bar off to the left, in front of the longtime sushi chef and some tables. On the other side of the bar is the late(ish)-night “lounge” area with a DJ booth, more tables that can be removed to make a dance floor, and a VIP-style corner couch area in the back, where your crew can pretend they’re rich and/or famous and get bottle service.

The early evening atmosphere is contemporary chill as neither the music, televisions nor patrons are too loud, making it a cool place for a date — assuming you both want to actively communicate — and the bar staff is friendly and knows the menu, although none of them appears to own a pair of pants.

For early evening imbibers, or anyone looking for affordable drinks, 157 Lounge has daily drink specials from 4 to 9 p.m. featuring its signature martinis and $2 domestic bottled beers. The choices among the seven taps and the beer cooler aren’t stellar, but there are seasonal favorites (Christmas Ale for all!), some nonbeer selections and a little something for all but the snootiest of beer drinkers.

Likewise, the liquor selection is a reasonable mix of mid- and top shelf along with a healthy array of wines, nearly 20 martini variations with names such as “Dirty LaLa,” a dirty martini with Bloody Mary mix, some specialty drinks with equally fun names and two kinds of sake.

And the sushi?

Well, 157 Lounge has adroitly made a section of its sushi menu quite affordable on Thursdays, with a good-sized half-price menu from 9 p.m. to midnight. It features basic traditional nigiri (fish on rice) or sashimi (fish, no rice) for under $3, a small selection of vegetarian maki (vegetables wrapped in seaweed or soy paper) for $2.50, and a variety of rolls all under $5, from basics such as spicy tuna to inventive concepts such as the Nina roll, which features tempura sweet potatoes, red peppers and cream cheese.

For the chopstick-challenged, there are chirashi bowls — basically a bowl of sushi rice with a bunch of stuff mixed in it — in the $10-$15 range, including the action-packed Mixed Bowl featuring tuna, salmon, yellow tail, tilapia, albacore, eel, shrimp, and octopus. It’s like having an aquarium in your mouth.

Taylor Laston of Kent has been a Thursday night regular “since I turned 21 and realized they had half-priced sushi” a little more than two years ago, and is a fan of the food and people who make and serve it up.

“The rolls are really good size and then I really like the bartenders. They always come up to us and say hi to us, and they’re really outgoing,” she said.

157 Lounge also has a few innovative variations on traditional sushi including sushi burritos, basically a really, really fat sushi roll with lettuce. Plus, there’s a “make-a-maki” menu that allows sushi lovers to pick a fish, vegetables (or tofu) and sauce, a wonderful concept that more sushi restaurants should consider imitating.

Laston, a psychology major at Kent State who aspires to be an animal behaviorist at a zoo, said she used to hang out for the dancing but “now I’m too old.”

(Go ahead and take a moment for a full lung-clearing guffaw if you need to.)

“I know that’s not really old, but I’m going to be 24 and that’s pretty old in the college world,” Laston clarified.

“But [the dancing] is a lot of fun. We’ve done a couple of the bottle services with a couple of my friends for our birthdays and that’s really nice, to get the little space and listen to the music and not be pushed around and bothered,” she said.

“And it’s about the only kind of EDM music you can actually dance to. It’s usually more listening music, but they have actual dance music,” she added.

On weekends, downtown Kent doesn’t begin to get hopping before 11:30, so if you hit 157 Lounge early, you can have all the sushi and bar and floor space you want, and if you hang around long enough, one of a stable of DJs will spin contemporary hits, and the dance floor will fill quickly.

A guy walks into a sushi bar in Kent … and has a pleasant evening of tasty, affordable sushi in a pleasant atmosphere.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at or on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.