There are countless sushi spots in Chicago. Dozens of them are located close to downtown and offer an upscale atmosphere. Plenty of them are even popular with locals. But only one sushi restaurant in Chicago has Mitch. Lincoln Park’s Toro Sushi (2546 N. Clark, north of Fullerton) is by no means a “hidden gem” among locals. Unless you arrive by 6:30, you can expect to wait at least 30-45 minutes for a table in the tiny storefront, which only seats about 30 people. But don’t worry, they’ll take your cell number and call when a table opens up, and the food and warm welcome you’ll receive is very much worth the wait, thanks mostly to Mitch.
Mitch is the proprieter of Toro and the sushi chef you’ll see behind the counter on any day of the week. He says hi to every customer, knows all the regulars, and (if you sit at the bar and make friends) has been known to try out new creations on willing patrons. Mitch is the reason why basic sushi and nigiri like salmon, tuna and escolar (super white tuna) are made of only the highest quality fresh fish and practically melt in your mouth. He’s also the reason why, if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s no better place to sample some unusual rolls than at Toro.
With names like the Oh My God Roll (complete with sparklers on top), the Trixie, Southern Galz, and the Crazy Horse, you know these aren’t your average roll. Try spicy tuna with mozzarella, battered, deep-fried and topped with siracha; crab meat with avocado topped with tuna; and even bbq chicken rolls. Of course, you also can’t go wrong with classics like the Spider Roll, Alaskan or California. Even the plain and simple fish rolls are excellent due to the quality of the fish.
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Service is generally slow, but the quality of the food and the reasonable prices more than make up for it. Two pieces of nigiri are about $5 and most rolls range from $5-$8, though there are some more pricey rolls that go up to $12 or so. Two people sharing a few nigiri and 2-3 rolls can expect to pay about $30-$35. And Toro is BYOB, so you can save even more on your booze consumption (there is a grocery store just south on Clark). For the great fish, inventive rolls, low cost, and BYOB policy, Toro gets my vote for best sushi in Chicago.
Photo by dmitrybarsky