The world of food mash-ups ranges from total smash hits (like the actually super-delicious cronut) to Frankenfoods that shouldn't exist whatsoever (thankfully the doughnut burger didn't stick around). The latest mash-up is the sushi burrito, basically a burrito-sized sushi roll. It's been available on the coasts, at San Francisco's Sushirrito, New York's Uma Temakeria and LA's Jogasaki Sushi Burrito food truck, and now it's in Chicago.
You'll find sushi burritos at Sumo Restaurant in Lincoln Park, How Do You Roll? in the Palmer House, and at Freshii locations around the city. And because I live by the rule "Don't knock it till you try it," I ate them all. The takeaway? While not quite as bad as I was envisioning, none are a substitute for eating the best sushi in Chicago.
I started at How Do You Roll?, a chain that sells build-your-own sushi rolls, salads and bowls, as well as composed dishes and "Asian burritos," ($9.45) filled with sushi rice and other ingredients, such as beef teriyaki. Two offerings more closely resemble sushi rolls, at least on paper—the hamachi roll stuffs jalapenos, cilantro, avocado, lettuce, sprouts and white rice into a warm toasted flour tortilla and comes with a side of ponzu dipping sauce. I opted for the spicy tuna, which includes rice, spicy mayo, avocado, edamame, pico de gallo and a wasabi mayo dip. With peppery cooked tuna, creamy mayo and a warm tortilla, it's more reminiscent of a tuna melt than a sushi roll—not bad, exactly, but it didn't quite capture the spirit of the idea.
Next I headed to Freshii for a "Sushiirito," ($8.99) which is wrapped in nori and filled with brown rice, veggies like carrots, cabbage and cucumber, and a choice of chicken teriyaki or kimchi, tofu and lemongrass sauce. The smallest in size, they're also the hardest to eat, since nori is chewy—trying it rip it with my teeth made the whole thing fall apart. As for the fillings, the kimchi provided little heat or piquancy and the lemongrass sauce didn't make much of an impact. If you swap out the wrapper, this isn't far off from Freshii's other burrito offerings, and you'd never mistake it for sushi.
I ended with Sumo's sushi burrito, ($7.50, or $5 before 2pm) the closest to what you'll find at sushi burrito spots on the coasts. Choose from spicy tuna, salmon, shrimp and veggie filling, which joins rice, a cucumber spear, tempura sweet potato, creamy crab salad, a crab stick, avocado and sauces inside rice paper. While the rice paper is easier to eat than nori, it stuck to the foil wrapper and was difficult to remove. All the toppings overwhelmed the salmon, so the spicy tuna is a better bet. It's basically a supersized spicy tuna roll combined with a California roll—it's probably not what you want to eat every time you get sushi, but I'd rather eat it than that damn ramen burger that won't go away.
04/13/16 Edit: A new sushi burrito spot has opened, the aptly named Sushi Burrito, located at 2904 N Broadway.