Cafe Furaibo This family-run spot excels at maki and traditional Japanese dishes. Vegetarians are well fed with a teriyaki-sauced grilled tofu steak and steamed spinach in bonito soy sauce, while the best of the rest includes broiled salmon collar, panko-encrusted shrimp with katsu sauce and pan-fried pork dumplings. And if none of that makes you a regular, the textural contrasts and flavor combinations in the Caribbean Secret (yellowtail, gourd, masago, mayo, asparagus and tempura crumbs) will. 2907 N Lincoln Ave (773-472-7017). Lunch (Mon–Fri), dinner. Average maki: $7.
Coast This place knows how to exploit sushi’s sex appeal while maintaining a low-key vibe. Curvaceous morsels of tuna, yellowtail, salmon and more are served in a sultry dining room full of slick minimalist furniture and tableware. The focus is great-quality raw fish, but when it comes to the maki, things get creative: Ceviche maki pairs lime-marinated scallop with mango, cilantro and jalapeño, and salmon gets stuffed in a spring roll, fried and served with green curry dipping sauce. 2045 N Damen Ave (773-235-5775). Dinner. Average maki: $8.
Sushi Pink With its reasonably priced sashimi and imaginative maki, Sushi Pink shakes up the West Loop sushi market (previously cornered by Sushi Wabi). Creamy chunks of lobster mix with spicy salmon and avocado in the heavenly Holy roll, while the Bloody Mary maki spikes raw tuna with Korean red-pepper paste. The Wild Animal maki—featuring roast steak, duck and pork with a touch of scallion—will sate the most voracious carnivore. 909 W Washington Blvd (312-226-1666). Lunch, dinner. Average maki: $7.
Sushi X If you need a reminder that the Japanese are cooler than us, this tiny, minimalist sushi shop should jog your memory. Check out the creative honey roll—which flavors tuna with mustard, wraps it in crunchy tempura flakes and adds just a touch of honey—or more traditional rolls like a creamy spicy scallop or a simple hamachi roll. Too boring? Sides like wasabi mashed potatoes kick things up. 1136 W Chicago Ave (312-491-9232). Lunch (Mon–Fri), dinner. Average maki: $10.
Wakamono This cool-conscious place focuses on small plates such as fresh tofu sprinkled with chili oil and peanuts, and prosciutto topped with ponzu sauce, crunchy toasted shallots and charred asparagus. But that doesn’t mean you should forgo the sushi: the always-fresh fish is simply impeccable. Yet the biggest surprise is the service. Unlike across the street at überstylized sister restaurant Ping Pong, the servers here actually smile. 3317 N Broadway (773-296-6800). Average maki: $9.