1. Travel
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

A Spotlight On Chicago’s Best Sushi

Roll Into Fashionable Finds & Chef-Driven Destinations

By

Chicago boasts a thriving sushi scene, and locals obsess over their favorites. But unlike the city’s hot dog and pizza fanatics--where it’s all about sticking to tradition--the sushi crews pay more attention to chef-driven techniques and the more inventive the better. From quaint and understated neighborhood hangs to flashier spots in the heart of downtown, we gather some of the very best sushi restaurants that you’ll want to check out during your trip.

Coast Sushi

Photo courtesy of Coast Sushi
Always on the hit list for BYOB enthusiasts, Coast’s more than 60 maki roll selections are the biggest draw. Top priority goes to generously sized signature rolls like “Maine” (cooked lobster, ginger mayo, scallion, salmon roe, cucumber) and “Po’Boy” (white fish tempura, unagi, cream cheese, masago, spicy sauce, scallion, avocado, tempura crumb, eel sauce). Coast is a great starting point for the sushi novice, who won't feel intimated when ordering. Choices also abound for sashimi and nigiri, and non-sushi lovers should warm up to starters like sesame-crusted salmon, fried soft-shelled crab and steamed wasabi pork dumplings. Both locations thrive in trendy neighborhoods filled with independently owned boutiques, stores and spirits shops so you can grab a few bottles of vino before heading over. Bucktown (2045 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-5775) and South Loop (1700 S. Michigan Ave., 312-662-1700)

Japonais by Morimoto

Photo courtesy of Japonais
Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame takes over the glossy River North eatery with signature maki rolls, a host of Japanese delicacies and more. The 10,000-square-foot space space, of course, gets a complete overhaul under his watch, making it brand new again. Among the additions are a sushi bar backed by an open kitchen where Chef Morimoto’s signature omakase menus will be prepared. Guests will also find private tasting rooms and a shochu/sake bar featuring Morimoto’s signature line of shochu, sake and craft beers. 600 W. Chicago Ave., 312-822-9600

Jellyfish

Jellyfish-sushi.jpg
Photo courtesy of Jellyfish
The fashionable pan-Asian eatery settled in Chicago’s glamorous Gold Coast neighborhood in 2012. Located directly across the street from the famed Gibsons Steakhouse, Jellyfish specializes in luxurious sushi offerings such as the lobster mango roll (lobster, mangoes, avocado, flying fish roe) and Asian-inspired cocktails. 1009 N. Rush St., 312-660-3111

 

Kamehachi

Photo courtesy of Kamehachi
The Old Town eatery debuted in 1967, making it the first sushi restaurant to open in Chicago. Kamehachi now boasts five locations in the city and suburbs, but it’s the original that has maintained a traditional Japanese vibe. The restaurant offers a number of signature, classic and vegetarian rolls, but one of the highlights is the sushi “boat,” which serves anywhere from six to 20 people. Chef-selected sashimi and maki rolls are served in a decorative boat, and prices range $60 to $350. It’s a best bet for those with larger parties to satisfy. The adjacent Tokyo 21 is a younger, clubbier alternative to Kamehachi. The late-night spot serves a few traditional maki rolls, plus Asian “pub grub” like bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, ramen, and meat stuffed into fried wonton shells. 1531 N. Wells St., 312-664-3663

Katsu

If you can get past the unfortunate dated décor of this far northwest side restaurant, you’ll discover why Katsu is a true foodie destination. Its name pays homage to owner Katsu Imamura, a former fashion designer who traded sewing for sushi mastering. It’s best to experience the restaurant omakase-style at one of the eight sushi bar seats where Imamura’s preparations are unconventional and unpredictable. You’ll see Japanese businessmen dining alongside adventurous gourmands, so take note that Katsu is not one of the trendy venues serving typical sashimi and maki rolls. Grab a car, get a map and navigate your way to this side of town. 2651 W. Peterson Ave., 773-784-3383

Naniwa

Photo courtesy of Naniwa
Bob Bee made a name for himself at long-time Lincoln Park sushi fave Sai Café before breaking out on his own with Naniwa in River North. He’s also behind Wicker Park’s über-hip Bob San, but Naniwa is his best work to date. An impressively long list of classic and signature maki rolls at moderate prices makes this sexy dining destination a popular one among couples. If you’re at a loss, trust the hand-rolled chili spicy scallop roll and Crabby Dragon--with soft-shelled crab on the inside. 607 N. Wells St., 312-255-8555

Ora

Photo courtesy of Ora
The tiny Andersonville BYOB only seats about 30 guests, including the sushi bar. As with similar offerings in Lakeview and Lincoln Park, Ora attracts a clientele for its unique signature rolls. Some of the more offbeat finds in this awesome neighborhood gem include a spiced blue crab roll topped with a tangy, yuzu tobiko and a “surf and turf” roll of seared beef, shrimp tempura and sweet soy reduction. Have no fear. There’s a store for wine and beer at the end of the block. 5143 N. Clark St., 773-506-2978

Sushi Dokku

Photo courtesy of Sushi Dokku
The intimate and sleek spot may be a newcomer to the West Loop dining scene, but Dokku’s owners, Angela Hepler-Lee and Susan Thompson, are no strangers to this area--or sushi. In 2012, the duo shuttered the extremely popular Sushi Wabi, which was located directly across the street from their current venture. They’ve smartly incorporated some of the old signature rolls (e.g. Hot Daisy of Albacore, masago, spicy mayonnaise and cucumber on soy paper) on the new menu, which includes "dressed nigiri bites" of smoked Atlantic salmon, arctic ocean mackerel and South Pacific Sea Bream accompanied by sauces. 823 W. Randolph St., 312-455-8238

Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar

Photo courtesy of Union Sushi
Those watching their waistlines should nosh on “black rice” rolls, and Chicago's Union is one of the few places you can find them. The flavorful, pillowy rice thankfully does not have the nutty flavor and texture of brown rice, which can sometimes ruin an otherwise tasty maki roll. Just so you know, black rice is higher in antioxidants than blueberries, contains the same amount of fiber as brown rice and only 160 calories (one cup of black rice is 160 calories, compared to 204 calories in white rice). For skeptics, Union offers a $27 black rice “sampler” comprised of four rolls. Additionally, diners can order any maki roll on the menu with black rice for an extra $1. 230 W. Erie St., 312-662-4888

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.