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Nobu
Photograph: Courtesy Nobu

Where to find the best sushi in Chicago

When raw cravings hit, find the best sushi in Chicago at these top-rated restaurants

By Amy Cavanaugh, Morgan Olsen and Emma Krupp
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We might be hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean, but Chicago is a true beacon for sushi dining amid the otherwise seafood-starved reaches of the Midwest. Whether you're craving cheap rolls at BYOB spots or want to ball out on high-end omakase menus, you'll find something for every type of sushi appetite (and budget) among the best Japanese restaurants in Chicago and other local seafood joints. Want to nab enough nigiri and maki to feed a small crowd? Head to Lawrence Fish Market to find massive, inexpensive platters. Craving tuna imported straight from Tokyo's Toyosu Market? Visit Sushi-san for ultra-fresh fish offerings shipped over daily from Japan. Your options are bountiful and bountifully creative: There's even a secret, speakeasy-style omakase spot hidden within a Chicago hotel on this list. Here's where to find the best sushi in Chicago.

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The best of the city under one roof

sushi, arami, maki, fish, seafood
Photograph: DLM Photography

Arami at Time Out Market Chicago

Restaurants West Loop

There are few things on this planet that are more satisfying than pristine raw fish. We’re talking about the kind of stuff that practically melts on your tongue and tastes like fresh, open waters. At Ty Fujimura’s sushi palace in West Town, the menu revolves around that level of quality. The seafood here is wrapped in warm, toothsome rice and crunchy, toasted nori—creating the perfect mélange of texture and temperature. For Time Out Market, Fujimura pored over Arami’s past and present menus to create an all-star lineup of fish-filled rolls to cure all your sushi cravings.

Best sushi in Chicago

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Photograph: Martha Williams

1. Kai Zan

Restaurants Japanese River West/West Town

Although you can order a la carte, the affordable omakase menu at Melvin and Carlo Vizconde's restaurant is the way to go, and includes more food than you can eat—rich oyster and uni shooters doctored up with ponzu sauce and egg yolks disappear in seconds, seared tuna maki adorned with truffled scallions and takoyaki, a fried dough ball with a nugget of octopus inside. While these are all fun, utterly delicious takes on Japanese food, the decadence stops short of overwhelming the great fish in the maki and sashimi. Tuna and salmon are packed into a balanced roll with jalapeño, avocado, cilantro, masago, chili and lime, and the omakase ends with a generous plate of sashimi.

Kyōten
Photograph: Courtesy Kyōten

2. Kyōten

Restaurants Japanese Logan Square

One of Chicago's most extensive (and expensive) omakase experiences can be found at Kyōten in Logan Square, where chef Otto Phan offers upwards of 20 courses at his eight-seat sushi counter. Right now the omakase menu is only available for private reservations, which give guests access to the entire restaurant for a night to nosh on oceanic treats like kanpachi, uni, ebi and maguro. Priced at $600 per person for a group of two, $550 per person for a group of three and $500 per person for a group of four, it's an expensive meal—even more so than usual—but the menu pulls out all the stops, with dishes catered individually to each guest. For a more economical option, try the restaurant's Bento Boxes to-go, loaded with Phan's selection of nigiri, oshizushi, rolls, tamago and soup.

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Chef’s choice sashimi at Juno.
Photograph: Martha Williams

3. Juno

Restaurants Japanese Sheffield & DePaul

Want the best sushi deal in town? It's at Juno, where sushi chef BK Park is doing God's work when it comes to raw fish. The chef’s choice sashimi, perfectly sliced, spread over ice and adorned with shells and orchids, is $42 for 18 pieces of fish (two each of nine different kinds). This is a steal, and while it's enough for a solo diner, there are more great things to eat, like the smoked hamachi, which arrives under a glass dome with two spoons cradling lightly smoked pieces of fish. The Juno King consists of two single bites of tuna wrapped around rice and topped with spicy crab—they're delicious. Even the spicy tuna roll is elevated, with a thick piece of tuna and scallions, and a trace of sriracha and chili oil.

Mako
Photograph: Brad Danner

4. Mako

Restaurants West Loop

Celebrated sushi chef BK Park serves an extensive omakase menu at this small West Loop restaurant, which fetches $175 a head for 23 courses. The menu, which is sprinkled with pieces of sashimi and nigiri, fluctuates with the seasons and includes indulgent morsels like king crab with uni miso, A5 wagyu butter and potato chip. The sushi counter boasts just 12 seats (there are an additional 10 seats behind it in the dining room), and each seating is limited to two hours. No need to rush: The chefs are trained to keep things moving at a comfortable pace.

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Nobu Hotel Chicago
Photograph: Henry Hargreaves, courtesy Nobu Hotel Chicago

5. Nobu Chicago

Restaurants Fusion West Loop

The posh Nobu Hotel—co-owned by Robert De Niro—opened in the West Loop last summer, with its equally stylish flagship sushi restaurant arriving a few months later. Inside the 10,000-square-foot space you'll find a dining room, lounge, two private dining areas and 28-foot sushi bar inspired by a jewelry box, where guests can feast on chef Nobu Matsuhisa's signature dishes like black cod with miso and yellowtail jalapeño sashimi. (There's also an omakase-style tasting menu available if you don't feel like sorting through the myriad seafood options.) Want to take advantage of the good weather? Head up to the 11th floor for nigiri, sashimi and maki at the Rooftop at Nobu, a sprawling outdoor terrace with Japanese-inspired design.

sushi, sushi-san, nigiri, maki, sashimi, fish, seafood
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

6. Sushi-san

Restaurants Seafood River North

You're in good hands with sushi star Kaze Chan (Kaze, Momotaro), who's crafted a menu of hits using super-fresh ingredients and wildly simple techniques. For a full understanding of Chan's skills, splurge on a San-Set, consisting of portioned collections of nigiri, sashimi and rolls that are designed to share. For a totally different experience, grab a seat at the hand roll bar, where fresh pockets of crispy seaweed, warm rice and pristine fish are served directly to you from the chefs behind the counter. Chan argues that this type of sushi should be gobbled up as soon as it’s constructed; even a 30-second delay in service could spoil the experience.

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7. Sushi Suite 202

Restaurants Pan-Asian Lincoln Park

As if omakase menus weren't fancy and intimate enough, Sushi Suite takes things to the next level by transforming a 500-square-foot hotel room (located within Hotel Lincoln) into a secret, six-seat sushi speakeasy for private feasting. The 75-minute, 17-course menu from New York chef Kin Wangchuck serves up artfully arranged sushi topped with shrimp, uni and other seafood delights for $155 per person—for an even luxer experience, pair your meal with a trio of pairings from the suite's self-serve sake vending machine.

Live uni is on the menu at Momotaro, one of the best West Loop restaurants.
Photograph: Martha Williams

8. Momotaro

Restaurants Japanese West Loop

There are more than enough good things at Momotaro to have an entire meal without even glancing at the sushi menu, but that would be a mistake. Toss in individual nigiri or sashimi pieces or go all in on sushi rolls, like the Momomaki with big eye tuna, octopus and pickled daikon. There are several meatless options for the vegetarians at your table, including rolls stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and gourd.

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Photograph: Chris Lake

9. Tanoshii Sushi Mike's

Restaurants Japanese Andersonville

Look for the loyal following of Mike-heads: sushi foodies who’ve followed chef “Sushi Mike” from Hama Matsu and San Soo Gab San to this sushi bar in the West Loop. If you try the cooked items, you’re likely not to go back. If you order your own sushi, you’re likely to offer up a “So what.” But if you make like the regulars and put yourself in Sushi Mike’s hands (name your price, and he creates a combo), you might just become a believer.

10. Lawrence Fish Market

Restaurants Seafood Albany Park

This takeout-only spot in Albany Park is an unexpected gem for sushi. First, it's insanely cheap—a tray with 16 pieces of nigiri, a California roll and a spicy tuna roll is just $22, and most nigiri are $1 apiece, with six-count maki rolls starting at $2.50. These prices are cheaper than grocery store sushi, and while the maki may not be perfectly wrapped, it tastes worlds better—flavors are clean, from a sweet snapper to supple salmon.

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Photograph: Ryan Forbes for TAO Group

11. Tao Chicago

Restaurants Pan-Asian River North

You've likely heard about Tao because of its 1,000-person capacity club, but the venue's posh restaurant is not to be overlooked. Snag a table in the dining room or saddle up at the sushi counter, where you can order sea-kissed treasures a la carte or through a decadent omakase menu. Sashimi and nigiri pieces are cut with precision, while specialty rolls conceal spicy tuna, buttery salmon and creamy lobster salad.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

12. Yuzu Sushi and Robata Grill

Restaurants Japanese River West/West Town

This BYOB-friendly West Town sushi joint serves monstrous rolls with a side of art. Some of the Yuzu jumbo rolls are served on platters that are decorated with colorful sauces in Instagram-worthy patterns and shapes. Try the unholy Green Habor, which is packed with broccoli and sweet potato tempura, grilled asparagus and cucumber and then topped with avocado, spicy mayo and sweet soy sauce. Open wide!

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Yellowtail new style sashimi - Shaw’s
Photograph: Nick Murway

13. Shaw’s Crab House

Restaurants Seafood River North

Shaw's is one of our go-to spots for oysters and lobster rolls, but the sushi menu is also worth exploring. Given how serious Shaw's is about seafood, it's not surprising that its takes on sushi are simple and well-executed. There are neatly rolled and balanced maki, including combinations like Alaskan King crab, avocado, cucumber and masago, while the slices of salmon, tuna and yellowtail sashimi are precisely cut.

arami
Photograph: Mireya Acierto

14. Arami

Restaurants Japanese River West/West Town

This warm, cozy restaurant seems to encourage you to stay for hours, sipping sake or cocktails like the matcha sour, crafted with gin, lemon, matcha green tea and egg white. Start with the chef's choice sashimi, which includes 14 slices of neatly sliced seafood, including a meaty piece of octopus and salmon that nearly melts in your mouth. The special nigiri section includes treats like rice wrapped with crab and festooned with spicy Alaskan king crab. But sushi at Arami doesn't just benefit seafood lovers—yasai (vegetables) are available as maki or nigiri and include a slice of tender eggplant squiggled with peanut–white miso dressing.

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