It’s easy to pick a fight with friends in Chicago about the best tacos, burgers, or pizza in the city. But best sushi? That’s an entirely different debate. Ask for the ten best sushi joints, and you’ll get 25 different answers. And then there’s the price to consider—because sometimes you just can’t drop $150 on a Wednesday night yellowtail nigiri outing. So what affordable places are actually great? And which expensive spots are worth the price of admission? We’ve got the answers.
Sometimes you don’t appreciate a place until it gets taken away from you. That was the case with Juno, which closed after a fire in 2014. Thankfully it reopened a year later, and since we’ve only grown to love it more. It’s laid-back, and although it can get expensive (they’re small pieces starting around $5 and it can add up), it doesn’t feel overpriced. This is mainly because of how great everything is, but also because everything is creatively plated—like the smoked fish nigiri that’s presented tableside under a glass dome. Focus on the sashimi and nigiri when you come here, and make sure to order one of the signature maki, like the crispy sake which is filled with fried unagi and topped with spicy salmon.
Along with their a la carte options, Q Sushi in Ravenswood has a great 15-course omakase for $125. It’s a relaxed (and expensive) meal that will be full of uptempo hip-hop, charismatic chefs, and a parade of nigiri and small plates. The frequently-changing menu has pieces like fatty toro with garlic perched on fluffy rice, innovative options like honey truffle salmon, and a dessert unagi dressed in a chocolate banana glaze that sounds like a bad idea, but combines sweet and savory flavors perfectly.
Momotaro is an upscale Japanese restaurant in the West Loop with a very long menu full of small plates, robata, and (as you probably suspected since it’s on this guide) sushi. Everything is very good, but the sushi is excellent. They have usual suspects like hamachi and salmon to harder-to-find selections like purple sea urchin. And the nigirzushi (their more creative options) are always interesting and delicious. Momotaro is on the more expensive end of the sushi spectrum, but their chef’s choice is a pretty good deal. It comes with about nine pieces for around $80.
Sushi-san in River North has wooden tables, loud rap music, and the menu is a mix of sushi and Japanese small plates. Sure, it’s a laid-back spot with a poop emoji instead of a bathroom sign, but the sushi here is quite serious—and really really good. Order one of the “San-sets” (an assortment of nigiri, sashimi, and rolls) which are perfect for sharing and range in price from $20-$99. Make sure you get the Japanese pancakes for dessert too.
Kai-Zan is a BYOB sushi spot that’s been around since 2012, and it has one of the best, most affordable omakase options in the city. For $75 you get 10 courses of delicious sushi and Japanese small plates, including dishes like scallop shooters that you probably won’t see on other menus. If you’re someone who prefers controlling their own destiny, you can order from a separate a la carte menu of sashimi and nigiri instead.
This casual sushi spot is located in 88 Marketplace on the border of Chinatown and Pilsen. There are several restaurants inside this giant supermarket, but 312 is the only one that has its own seating, which includes a sushi counter. And considering that this place is from a former chef of Sushi-san, it’s not surprising that all their maki, sashimi, and nigiri are really good(and also pretty affordable). You can order one of their platters that has an assortment of everything for takeout, or just sit down and grab a bite during the middle of your weekly grocery shopping. Whatever you do, be sure to get the konbujime medai—the cured snapper has a ton of rich seaweed flavor and is topped with a pop of citrus to round the bite out.
Raisu is a small restaurant in Albany Park, and its fish offerings vary depending on what’s available that day. If you want omakase, they’ll tailor it to your budget, starting at $50. But a la carte is also a great option, with pieces starting at $2.50. If you’re into rolls, they have a few of those, too (the omega maki with fried salmon and shrimp tempura is great), and we’re big fans of their signature nigiri and sashimi. They come with delicate toppings (like shaved apple or fried garlic chips) that enhance the flavor of the fish.
Before Tanoshii Sushi Mike’s popped up in the West Loop, it was a restaurant in Andersonville. And while both have great sushi, the one in the West Loop is our favorite location. The space is large but quiet, the menu is longer, and the service is exceptional. Try one of the chef’s choice rolls or nigiri, which is completely customized based on your likes and dislikes. It might feel like a roll of the dice, but the same could be said about ordering sushi when you’re roughly 1000 miles away from the nearest ocean.
You probably either love Sunda or find it obnoxious, because—late at night or on the weekends—it’s tourist overload. And we respect both sides of that argument. Sunda is basically one giant River North scene. But we also stand firm in our belief that it has great sushi. From elaborate rolls to escolar wrapped around perfectly seasoned rice and topped with truffle and potato chips, it won’t disappoint.
You won’t find a better spot than Lawrence Fish Market in Albany Park for an affordable sushi feast. This seafood market has been around for over 40 years, and has an incredibly long menu filled with delicious (and reasonably priced) nigiri, sashimi, rolls, and trays. Many pieces are less than $2 and most rolls are $3-$7. But the trays are the best value. There are about 30 to choose from, ranging from $24 for 28 pieces to $300 for 88. Just know that it’s cash-only and they only do takeout. So make sure you stop by an ATM beforehand and clear some room on your kitchen counter for the 5,000 pieces of fish you’re about to consume.
This is the omakase-only sushi bar in the basement of Ramen Takeya, a very busy ramen shop in the West Loop. The small, quiet space is a nice respite from the crowded upstairs, and the constantly-changing menu of nigiri and Japanese small plates is fantastic. Just don’t plan on eating here without a reservation—there are only seven seats, with four seatings per night. Your meal will be $99 for 15 courses, and the experience is worth it.
Omakase Yume is another omakase-only sushi spot in the West Loop. And it’s also a calm oasis among the crowds and pervasive clip-clopping of heels that dominate the West Loop. This is where you come for a relaxed but still fancy special occasion dinner. The space is simple, the atmosphere is quiet, and the sushi menu is full of expertly prepared usual suspects (i.e. pieces of sake, hirame, and otoro). It’s $185 for around 16 courses, but dinner here is almost all small pieces of nigiri. This means that unless this is your second dinner, you’ll probably still be hungry at the end. If that’s the case, just order more a la carte.
This place is from the same chef as Juno and charges $185 for around 15 courses of delicious nigiri, sashimi, and small plates (like a buttery sea bass with charred frisee and seaweed). Compared to the other omakase-only spots in the West Loop, Mako is the largest (it seats 22 people, with 12 at the bar and the rest at tables), and dinner here is long—about three hours. Plan on a very expensive and enjoyable experience. It’s also worth noting that they offer omakase to-go if you prefer to have that experience on your couch.
Kyoten is omakase-only, and it’s one of the best sushi restaurants in Chicago. It’s also the most pricey, starting at $440 for 20 courses. The omakase here involves a lot of delicious nigiri made with heavily-seasoned large-grained rice—plus a number of creative small plates, like rendered beef fat poured over rice, or fried tilefish with caviar and creme fraiche. If you’re looking for a special occasion restaurant, put this place at the top of your list. Just book far in advance—reservations are hard to come by.