Hand rolls haven’t permeated Chicago’s dining scene the same way regular sushi restaurants have, but the owners of Mana Food Bar hope they can educate new customers. They opened Anaba Handroll Bar last week in a remodeled space where Mana, a Wicker Park small-plates vegetarian restaurant, has stood for nine years at 1742 W. Division Street. Diners can grab a seat in one of the 15 spaces at the bar and watch staff take seaweed and fish and roll their selections, which are then placed in front of them on the bar. Customers are meant to grab their rolls with their hands and take their first bite within 20 seconds to ensure maximum enjoyment.
Mana opened in 2008 and with Anaba’s arrival, its operations have shifted to the back inside a new space. Vegetarians and vegans shouldn’t worry. Anaba’s fish are only handled in the front of the house — there’s no threat of cross contamination. Also, customers with sensitive noses won’t smell the fish while walking back to Mana. While there is a side door for Mana, most customers will opt to enter from the main entrance and walk through Anaba.
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The ordering process at Anaba involves marking up a menu using golf pencils and handing it to the chef. There are four set menu options, and 11 rolls available a la carte. The maitake mushroom with garlic soy and seasame-roasted squash rolls are meatless options. There’s also an off-the-menu rotating special roll, like toro tuna, available.
In keeping with the Japanese theme, there’s an assortment of sake and Japanese whisky available. After nine years, Mana owners Jill Barron and Susan Thompson have decided it’s time for change, partnering with Soon Park, a chef with a West Suburban sushi spot.
Check out the menus below. Anaba accepts walk-ins only and is now open.
Anaba Handroll Bar, 1742 W. Division Street, open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m on Monday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.