Some parents could devour spicy tuna maki every day, but some kids don’t always want to roll with it. So, here are sushi restaurants in the Chicago area that not only serve great sushi, but also unique dining experiences or other options for the non-raw-fish-eating folks.
In Japan, sushi is often served Kaiten style, meaning the food travels around the restaurant on a conveyer belt. Sushi Station has adopted this fun concept, making the dining experience both interactive and entertaining for kids (who needs coloring books when you have constant plates of food flying by?). The Kaiten concept may seem a little intimidating at first, but it helps that plates are color-coded for different price points. Each sushi plate ranges from $1.25 to $6.25 so there are no surprises when your bill is tallied at the end (just make sure to keep curious hands from grabbing everything in sight!).
1641 Algonquin Rd., Rolling Meadows; 2486 N. Randall Rd., Elgin
Sea Ranch is part Japanese grocery store, part restaurant and, according to reviews, all delicious. The set up may be confusing (there are literally shelves of green tea Kit Kats and dried seaweed amongst the tables), but this no-frills cafe still manages to serve up a tasty selection of sushi. Adventurous eaters will appreciate the restaurant’s more elaborate rolls, like the Hokkaido, which features pineapple and seared scallops, but those with blander taste buds can keep it simple with California rolls and vegetarian sushi. The market part of Sea Ranch makes a great distraction for antsy kids while you’re waiting for food to be served, and you can even grab sushi to go if you don’t feel like dining in.
518 Dempster St., Evanston
Conveyor belt sushi is a concept out of Japan that makes for quick and easy eating and an exciting experience. More than 90 dishes, including salads, dessert and sushi, rotate around the restaurant and diners can choose what they’d like to eat immediately or order from the tablet, which will send a car to deliver the grub. Plates are color coded by price. Try sushi sandwiches and tacos. Kids’ meals are served in little cars that include fruit and French fries.
4430 Fox Valley Center Drive #106, Aurora; 3219 N. Broadway St., Chicago
Sushi + Rotary Sushi Bar, Photo Credit: Cortney Fries
Who knew that $1 sushi was a thing? This low-key Lincoln Square spot serves up one piece nigiri for just a buck, perfect for when your kid wants to try something, but you’re not sure they’ll like it (or if they’ll end up chucking it on the floor). And hesitant sushi eaters will appreciate offerings like the Sushi Nachos and Joon’s Sushi Burrito, which present all of the flavors of Japanese cuisine in a familiar form. As an added bonus, the restaurant offers free parking at the auto shop across the street during the day, making a quick lunch with kids easy and convenient.
5503 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
If you’re in need of a quick bite while hitting the museums downtown, Osaka is the place. The restaurant is about as unpretentious (not to mention un-touristy) as you can get, and has a large menu that ranges from Philli Rolls to Octopus and Cucumber. Osaka also labels items with symbols to indicate if they’re spicy, cooked or vegetarian, which helps simplify ordering for picky eaters. Top off your meal with one of the cafe’s famous fresh fruit smoothies.
400 Michigan Ave., Chicago
This hibachi-style restaurant (think flying knives, flipping food, flames and a whole bunch of fun) specializes in Teppan Yaki (hot steel cooking). They also serve seafood, steaks, salads and sushi, with many rolls named after Chicago Bears players. Find locations in Vernon Hills and Kildeer. Expect veggie slinging and egg flipping as fried rice, shrimp and other favorites are prepared at the table.
561 N. Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills
Hub 51, Photo Credit: Christina Slaton
The phrase “all you can eat” can conjure up some unsettling images of sub-par food sitting under heat lamps, but that is not at all the case at this North Center gem. For just $22 ($17 at lunch), you can order as many appetizers and sushi pieces as you want, so kids can try a large variety of fish. Ice cream is also included in the AYCE price and serves as good motivation (aka a bribery tool) for little ones to finish their food. For those not interested in trying sushi, the restaurant offers a kids menu that includes Chicken Teriyaki and Shrimp Tempura.
4337 N. Western Ave., Chicago
This Japanese, Latin and American fusion pub is connected to Shaw’s Crab House in Schaumburg. It’s famous for its Hot Rock appetizers (sizzle your own filet mignon or ahi tuna on a very hot rock) and Ramen Burgers (yup, a burger served on ramen fried into circular-shaped buns). Tokio Asian Fusion recently launched a new kids’ menu, with a variety of healthy and indulgent options. Kids can order Cucumber & Avocado Rolls, Steak Tacos, Sweet & Sour Chicken Bites and even that Ramen Burger as a slider. The Tokio Spicy Tuna Roll is a favorite and the Red Dragon Roll looks super snazzy. At the end of the meal, try the beignets that burst with warm, melted chocolate in your mouth.
1900 E. Higgins Road, Schaumburg
Think Shakou when you’re craving a swanky, loungy vibe. The sushi is inventive and while it can be pricey, we recommend bringing the kids every now and then. Locations in Libertyville, St. Charles, Barrington, Park Ridge and Arlington Heights. Bento boxes, mac ‘n cheese, chicken teriyaki and cheese pizza grace the kids’ menu. Milk, soda or Ramune, a Japanese soda, is included with each kids’ meal.
Various locations in Chicagoland
If the idea of a floating sushi bar floats your boat, then you are in luck. This cozy Buffalo Grove restaurant features all-you-can-eat sushi that travels around on little wooden boats. See something you like, grab it. Sides like edamame and egg rolls come around too or you can order dishes like chicken teriyaki off the menu.
The Grove Shopping Center, 159-163 McHenry Road, Buffalo Grove
When you think of Hub 51 in Chicago you might not think of sushi; but its maki game is awesome for families with half-price sushi 3-6 p.m. daily. Order a Tuna & Thai Basil, Spicy Shrimp & King Crab or a handful of other options for less than $10 each. Plus, the new “Happiest Hour” promotion gets your group free Pulled Chicken Nachos when you pay $20 per adult for two drinks of choice.
51 W. Hubbard St., Chicago
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