Writers are my favorite people. They're usually quick-witted, acerbic, and loose with opinions they know shouldn't be examined too closely or too seriously. And when you pack a few into a cozy booth over some ramen and sake, all the important concerns of the day get laughed appropriately away.
"You're basically a communist now, right?"
"Journalists work in the gutter. You do what it takes to get the story."
"I hate this beer. Why did I order it? I knew I was going to hate it."
"Why would you care about anything as much as you should care about butter?"
If you want to learn about a place and its people, get to know a writer. Or a bartender. It's basically the same perch from which to observe the patterns of the human experience. And if you're lucky, have a writer pour your sake like we did at NanBan in the Brixton neighborhood of London with Will Hawkes (who basically invited himself), Chris Hall, and Matthew Curtis. It'll come with a barb or two you well deserve.