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IWAKUNI, Japan — The “world’s best” BLT seems like a tough title to defend, especially for a tiny diner in Japan.

But Sako Restaurant outside Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni has been doing a brisk business in the American classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich for decades.

Base environmental director Tim Curtin says it’s the bacon that earns the glory.

“It’s the best bacon in the world,” Curtin said. The recipe hasn’t changed one bacon bit in the 15 years that he has lunched there, he said.

“It is very good and very consistent,” Curtin said.

I had to see for myself — only I really loathe tomatoes and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate “Hold the ‘T’” in Japanese. Don’t tell me to “pick it off,” either. My palate is black-light sensitive and if there are any traces of tomato on what I’m eating, my mouth rejects it immediately. Blech.

Armed with the translation, I went to Sako with a friend. It’s cute inside, a bit like walking into a diner time warp — with even a working rotary-dial phone. Inside were several Americans enthusiastically biting into the mile-high signature sandwiches. Stage fright produced a garbled Japanese rendition of tomato-free request, which the waitress translated back as “no tomato.” Whew. That was close.

That bacon was bodacious — thick slabs of greasy goodness that were crispy on the outside, tender in the middle. The toast was fluffy and crisp. The lettuce snapped and the mayo sang. It was delicious, and certainly the best BLT (minus the T) that I’ve ever wrapped myself around.

And, as it turned out, I wasn’t the only high- maintenance BLT order of the day. We spotted another customer practicing “Hold the mayo.”

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to:

Sako Restaurant

Hours: Open for lunch only, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.Prices: The famous BLT is 550 yen, and other dishes range from 400 to 600 yen. Beer is 400 yen, and most soft drinks and coffee cost 200-300-yen.Specialties: BLTs any way you like ’em, and other sandwiches and rice dishes.English menu: Yes.Dress: Completely casual — diner-style.Clientele: Mostly Americans from the air station, but there were several Japanese as well.Location: Leave Iwakuni’s main gate and walk straight a couple of blocks to the “Four Corners” intersection. Look for the “Sako” sign. If you’re facing the base, it will be on your right. The address is Nakatsu 3-1-2.Phone: 0827-22-8998


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