Sushi Hall, a new sushi restaurant in Lincoln Park, opened this week, finalizing the transformation of a vacant storefront tavern into a cozy and contemporary neighborhood retreat.
Tucked inside a 150-year-old building at 2630 N. Clark Street, Sushi Hall aims to offer Lincoln Park residents a middle ground between Chicago’s array of ultra-casual all-you-can-eat sushi spots and splashy, spendy omakase dens.
“The neighborhood is so important to us,” says partner Jacob Ringer, who in 2019 ran for 43rd Ward alderman. Though he didn’t win the election (a family tradition, it turns out — in 1967, his father also lost his bid for alderman in the same ward) Ringer did knock on 10,000 doors in the area and says that experience gave him a deeper understanding of the Lincoln Park community. “My restaurant inspirations are something like Gemini — a neighborhood staple forever — or the Willow Room: it’s very local, very inviting, but instead of a cheeseburger, you’re grabbing a roll of sushi.”
The novice-friendly menu goes into intricate detail, listing each component in its signature maki, as well as its location inside or atop each of the eight rolls. There’s also a collection of classic maki and sashimi, as well as a plethora of playful starters like togarashi fries with yuzu aioli and Spicy Poppers (tempura-battered jalapeños served with spicy tuna and unagi sauce).
Sushi Hall patrons can also order off an “I Don’t Eat Sushi” menu, designed to provide options for those who’d rather not eat raw fish. It includes izakaya-style dishes such as chicken katsu and garlic pork udon alongside vegetarian maki and rolls with cooked proteins. The latter options are, in fact, still sushi — the Japanese word refers to rice seasoned with vinegar and sugar, not seafood — but operators want to make sure all kinds of diners feel comfortable.
While Ringer and his partners are all first-time restaurant owners, Sushi Hall is also the start of a new chapter for chef Mitch Kim, who spent 17 years leading the kitchen at Toro Sushi, the tiny Lincoln Park spot where he fostered a loyal following in the area. It was there Kim met Ringer and Jimmy Vetrano, both neighborhood residents and Toro Sushi regulars, and forged a friendship that has now evolved into a business partnership. The trio have also brought on Dao Chanthabane, who spent six years as Kim’s sous chef at Toro, as a general manager and co-owner.
Well-known Chicago interior design firm Siren Betty Design (also behind the look at Segnatore and Nine Bar, among others) crafted the 2,700 square-foot space, which includes a front dining room that seats 16; a chef’s counter for four; a six-seat sushi bar; and a rear dining room (also available for private parties) with chairs for 16. In lieu of the more conventional escapism-fueled aesthetic seen at plenty of sushi restaurants, designers rooted the space firmly in Chicago with exposed brick walls, neat blue and yellow subway tile, and an enormous wall mural of a fish skeleton inspired by a tattoo on Kim’s forearm.
Despite accruing more than two decades of experience behind the sushi bar, Kim remains humble, claiming — erroneously — that he is “not a professional,” but says he could see that Ringer is a nice person who loved his food. He also shares his fellow partners’s devotion to the neighborhood. “I said, ‘Jacob, let’s open another restaurant. I’d love to stay in Lincoln Park and keep my customers,’” he says. “I didn’t want to leave for another location.”
Look around inside Sushi Hall in the photographs below.
Sushi Hall, 2630 N. Clark Street, Open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.