Food & Drink

The Best Sushi Restaurants in Chicago

Updated On 11/23/2016 at 06:41PM EST Updated On 11/23/2016 at 06:41PM EST
Yuzu
Courtesy of YUZU SUSHI & ROBATA GRILL

When that sushi craving hits, it can be easy to rely on your go-to neighborhood take-out spot. Hey, we get it, nothing wrong with a little fake crab from time to time, but if you're seeking the best rolls our city has on offer you'll have to break from your bubble. From affordable BYOB spots, to upscale restaurants that make you feel like you’re in Tokyo, here are 12 of the best sushi restaurants in Chicago.

Courtesy of Arami

Arami

West Town

After recouping from a recent fire, Arami is back in business serving fine sashimi, nigiri, and maki, as well as tasty ramen, and other large and small plates. Presentation is not an afterthought here; each dish is beautifully plated. They recently received a Michelin Bib Gourmand nomination for the fifth year in a row.

Juno Sushi Chicago

Juno

Lincoln Park

Juno frequently ranks on top sushi joint lists because of its sleek decor, fish quality, and excellent staff, including sushi chef BK Park. You can opt for an a la carte meal, or splurge on the omakase (chef’s choice) menu for $150 per guest (and an additional $75 for wine pairings).

Courtesy of Kai Zan

Kai Zan

Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park’s Kai Zan is another spot where it’s best to order the omakase menu and trust the sushi chef. This is one of the best places to order uni (sea urchin) which is flown in fresh. Be sure to snag a wooden booth which is designed for ultimate privacy during your meal.

Lawrence Fish Market

Lawrence Fish Market

Albany Park

You’ve probably seen a tray or two of sushi from Lawrence Fish Market on your Instagram feed. The takeout-only and cash-only spot offers affordable sushi every day of the week. Sure, the fish may not be of the same caliber as what you’d find at other restaurants on this list, but if you’re looking for a lot of sushi that won’t set you back a ton of money, Lawrence Fish Market is your place.

Macku Sushi

Macku Sushi

Lincoln Park

Macku Sushi can satisfy your need for a standard spicy salmon roll, but if you want something more adventurous, try the omakase menu. Chef Macku gets very creative not only with his presentations, but also flavor combinations, such as a spoonful of salmon roe with Pop Rocks. Hopefully you won't befall the same fate as Little Mikey from the Life commercials.

Galdones Photography

Momotaro

West Loop

Step foot into Boka Restaurant Group’s Momotaro and you’ll be instantly transported to Tokyo. No aesthetic detail is overlooked, and that same level of detail is translated into each dish on the menu. While Momotaro’s menu is quite broad, its sushi selection is worth focusing your attention on. You can order pieces a la carte, including seasonal nigiri and sashimi, but try the sushi omakase with a selection of chef’s choice nigiri. Each piece is clean, fresh, and simple without heavy-handed aiolis.

Courtesy of Naoki

Naoki Sushi

Lincoln Park

Lettuce Entertain You’s Naoki Sushi is a hidden gem, literally. The intimate restaurant is located behind Intro’s dining room and kitchen. Grab a seat at the sushi bar to interact with Chef Naoki Nakashima while he prepares sashimi plates, hand rolls, and maki including hamachi with yuzu, scallion, and cucumber.

Neil Burger

Roka Akor

River North

The Chicago outpost of Roka Akor features a contemporary dining room serving intricate preparations of fresh fish. You can choose from two omakase options, Signature or Decadent, or order a la carte. Sashimi and nigiri platters are works of colorful art, each piece placed carefully on ice-filled bowls adorned with floral garnishes.

Sushi Dokku

Sushi Dokku

West Loop

Four-time Michelin Bib Gourmand winner Sushi Dokku is located in the heart of West Loop’s restaurant row. The menu features a large selection of standard nigiri and sashimi, as well as chef-driven nigiri, such as the South Pacific sea bream with smoked tomato and black sea salt. After dinner, head downstairs to Booze Box for a sake-based cocktail.

Tanoshii

West Loop & Andersonville

Grab a seat at the West Loop or Andersonville location of Tanoshii, otherwise known as Sushi Mike’s. Chef Mike Ham prides himself on crafting sushi based on each customer’s taste preferences. Many opt for his omakase menu, as well as the fish and chips tuna tartare starter.

Flickr/Bing

Toro Sushi

Lincoln Park

Take your patience and a six pack of Sapporo to Toro Sushi in Lincoln Park. The small BYOB sushi spot frequently has a line waiting outside, and for good reason. Toro is not your typical Clark St sushi spot. Specialty and maki rolls are well-packed, such as the Miami roll with unagi, spicy tuna, mango, avocado, and unagi sauce. Owner and Chef Mitch makes everyone feel welcome and prepares consistently fresh food.

Courtesy of Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill

Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill

West Town

BYOB Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill is known for its colorful sushi presentations, as well as its equally colorful sushi roll names, like the #ThugLife2 roll with salmon, jalapeño, avocado, cucumber, and cilantro. Every sushi order is a work of art with chefs using colorful sauces in an array of patterns and shapes.

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Amanda Topper is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, foodservice industry analyst, and food blogger for TheGhostGuest.com. Donuts are her favorite food group. Follow her at @AmandaTopper.

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1. Arami 1829 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642 (West Town)

This West Town Japanese spot serves a carefully selected menu of cooked and raw fish. The sushi-centric menu includes Ă  la carte nigiri, sashimi, and maki rolls, plus grilled robata meats and ramen. The sushi is more creative than what you'd find at a run-of-the-mill Americanized spot but more affordable than a fine dining omakase, and everything is of the highest quality and beautifully prepared.

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2. Juno 2638 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Juno is Lincoln Park’s acclaimed contemporary sushi restaurant from Chef BK Park. The front room is just the bar, with an abbreviated snack menu and a beverage list that flaunts beer, wine, and of course sake, which is the foundation of many of the craft cocktails. Behind the bar you’ll find the dining room, with a menu that is more than just artfully sliced sashimi and signature maki. Start your meal with uni shooters and Toro tartare, and hot dishes like king crab with uni butter and confit chicken wings. Chef Park’s talent and precision are in high demand: if your evening ends with omakase, you’re required to make it known, one full day ahead.

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3. Kai Zan 2557 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Humboldt Park)

With precision and technique, brothers Melvin and Carlo Vizconde create non-traditional, neighborhood izakaya at Humboldt Park’s Kai Zan. The sophisticated Japanese-style dishes and marble countertops -- where you can watch the mesmerizing knife skills in action -- are antithetical to the restaurant’s unpretentious, inviting atmosphere. Kai Zan is a 22-seat space on West Chicago Ave., where the seats fill up fast, no small thanks to the playful, composed dishes -- like oyster and uni shooters served in ponzu sauce and topped with a quail egg and caviar -- and $50 omakase menu.

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4. Lawrence Fish Market 3914 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Albany Park)

Don’t let the concept of takeout-only sushi bog you down; Lawrence Fish Market is a popular stop for bargain sushi on-the-go, where the fish is fresh and the maki is made to order. The Albany Park storefront is best for the unpretentious sushi seeker on a budget -- who isn’t deterred by less-than-perfect knife skills on their nigiri and sashimi -- to load up a personalized tray of $1 to $5 maki options. Not that you’ll need a lot of it, but know that Lawrence Fish Market is cash-only (what else would you expect from a bargain sushi joint?).

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5. Macku Sushi 2239 N Clybourn, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Macku Sushi is a small, Lincoln Park-based sushi spot where the modern space is matched by the modern approach to Japanese cuisine. The menu is unrestrained, and Chef Macku Chan’s creativity is expressed through signature maki, sashimi and nigiri with inventive toppings -- like striped bass with foie gras and unagi with Laughing Cow cream cheese -- and entrees like a Japanese flatbread with assorted sashimi, micro greens, tomato puree, mozzarella, and crème fraiche. And for just $65 per person, you can leave the fate of your meal in the hands of Chef Chan for an artistic, authentic omakase experience.

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6. Momotaro 820 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

Momotaro is Fulton Market’s 11,000sqft, three-story, high-end Japanese restaurant from Boka Restaurant Group. And it should come as no surprise that the menu, like the restaurant itself, is enormous: it is a daunting multiple-page list with myriad options (order with purpose) and obscure ingredients (pay attention, heed your server’s advice, and keep your smartphone handy). There are a dozen categories to navigate, among them Kushi Yaki, Rice and Noodles, Nigirizushi, Makimono, and Donburi Bowls. Decisions are best made over cocktails (or sake, wine, or Japanese whiskey), which are available both in the dining room and at Izakaya Lounge, the subterranean late-night bar below the restaurant. Momotaro is a destination for an immersive, modern Japanese experience; go hungry, choose wisely.

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7. Naoki Sushi 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Nestled within Intro at The Belden Stratford, this tiny sushi restaurant from Lettuce Entertain You is just the type of casual dining escape Lincoln Park needed. The menu features signature sashimi preparations, nigiri, and hand rolls, as well as a finely curated selection of sake and Japanese whiskey. The sushi and sashimi options go above and beyond basic fare, but also include familiar spicy tuna and rainbow maki. The 50-seat space is clean, minimalist, and welcoming.

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8. Roka Akor 456 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

Roka Akor is a contemporary Japanese steak, seafood, and sushi restaurant featuring Robatayaki cuisine. The principle Robata Japanese dishes -- primarily steaks and pork -- are prepared atop 1,900 degree mesquite coals on the centrally located 12ft robata grill, providing an engaging and authentic atmosphere for guests. The meticulously grilled meats are accompanied by other classic Japanese menu items like signature sushi rolls, sashimi and nigiri, crispy tempura, and two omakase menus. And the extensive beverage list is leans heavily on Japanese culture as well, featuring sake, Japanese whiskey and beer, and sochu -- the latter offered in traditional form and in house-infused flavors. An evening at Roka Akor is an all-encapsulating, sensory experience in Robata Japanese dining.

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9. Sushi Dokku 823 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

From the team behind Sushi Wabi, Sushi Dokku is a small, modern restaurant in the West Loop offering traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine. The diverse menu features classic cuts of sashimi, signature maki, creative nigiri bites (as well as traditional, for the less adventurous of diners), and grilled fish, chicken, and steak (for the less raw fish-inclined of diners). Their cocktail menu boasts Japanese-inspired cocktails -- many with sake foundations -- and a sizeable sake list, as well. And the Booze Box -- the bonus bar located below Sushi Dokku -- features live music and drinks (and izakaya-style small plates if you’re still hungry) for your after dinner entertainment.

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10. Tanoshii Sushi 5547 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60661 (Andersonville)

Tanoshii, also known as Sushi Mike’s, has a following. Originating in Andersonville and expanding to the West Loop and to the suburbs (this is some high demand sushi), Tanoshii is Mike Ham’s omakase gift to the various neighborhoods of Chicago. Andersonville is BYOB, and slightly more casual than its elegant counterpart on restaurant row, which boasts a liquor license and thus a cocktail program and sake, beer, and wine lists. Sushi Mike is mostly known for his off-menu specialty rolls and omakase, but what sets Tanoshii apart is his penchant for ingredients not native to Illinois, which he crosses state lines to attain for his menus.

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11. Toro Sushi 2546 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Located in Lincoln Park, Toro Sushi is a tiny, BYOB sushi joint that’s notorious for always having a wait. But it’s worth it. Toro is family run -- owned by Chef Mitch Kim -- aiding in its neighborhood feel and welcoming atmosphere. The fish is fresh, the cuts are thick, the maki are signature -- categorized under Mitch’s Special Rolls -- all at an affordable price. And because not everyone likes sushi (we were surprised, too), there’s various tempura options, gyoza, and jalapeño poppers, all of which are equally as popular and affordable.

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12. Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill 1751 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Ukrainian Village)

Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill is a Japanese-inspired BYOB in Ukrainian Village. The izakaya-style joint serves original maki alongside robata-grilled dishes to a perpetually full 40-something seat restaurant (read: there is always a wait). The kitchen is open, adding to the authentic, artistic feel of the space: murals of Japanese comics don the walls, and the bar is comprised of 100-year-old wood. With over 40 rolls -- traditional and signature -- to choose from, robata items, and even Thai noodle bowls, Yuzu is worth the wait.

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