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Chicago’s Essential Japanese Restaurants

Find some of the best tonkatsu, kushiyaki, and okonomiyaki in town

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Explore skewers, hot pot, noodles, and more.
| Neil Burger/TenGoku Aburiya

Between springy udon noodles, smoky grilled skewers, and juicy katsu sandwiches, there’s so much to love about Japanese cuisine beyond the usual suspects of sushi and ramen. Fortunately for locals, the Chicago area is seeing a slight influx in spots featuring both creative and nostalgic takes on heartwarming homestyle fare, regional hits that change with the seasons, and umami bar snacks that go well with booze. Explore Eater Chicago’s picks for the best spots from Arlington Heights to Bridgeport.

The city’s sushi scene, which has flourished in recent years, has its own map available here. Ramen is covered here.

As of June 11, Chicago restaurants have fully reopened and the city has lifted restrictions on capacity, masking, and social distancing. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following safety guidelines. The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is available here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Mitsuwa Marketplace

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100 E Algonquin Rd
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(847) 956-6699
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This venerable market opened its doors in suburban Arlington Heights in 1991, quickly garnering a reputation as one of the top Japanese food emporiums in the Midwest. The grocery section is a true delight for home cooks, but there’s plenty of grab-and-go items like onigiri and a diverse food court with everything from Japanese crepes and bubble tea to yakitori and udon. The whole mall underwent a massive facelift in 2019.

2. Tensuke Market and Food Court

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3 S Arlington Heights Rd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
(847) 806-1200
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Tucked inside a blink-and-miss-it strip mall in suburban Elk Grove Village, Tensuke is an unfussy treasure trove of Japanese ingredients, snacks, and candies, and includes a cozy food court. Sushi and sashimi usually get the most attention but don’t overlook comforting favorites like gyu don (beef and onions over rice) and curry rice.

3. Bokuchan's Japanese Curry House (Temporarily Closed)

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3517 N Spaulding Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(312) 730-4418
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Originally launched as a virtual pandemic pivot from chef Shin Thompson (Furious Spoon), this Japanese curry house has accrued a following with pork cutlets coated in crispy panko, traditional brown curry, Japanese fried chicken, and more. The to-go operation shut down in June but Thompson and his team aim to reopen Bokuchan’s in the fall as a dine-in restaurant.

4. Yoshi's Cafe

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3257 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 248-6160
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A neighborhood institution in Lakeview for four decades, Yoshi’s has evolved from its original Japanese-French fusion identity to a platform for chef Ken Katsumura (son of trailblazing founder Yoshi Katsumura) to explore seasonal cooking. The restaurant’s noteworthy Gochiso Sunday menu often integrates nods to Japanese ingredients with options like roasted kabocha (red bell pepper, mushrooms, tofu, sweet and spicy apricot) and tonkatsu (sautéed Brussels sprouts, polenta).

5. Izakaya Mita (Temporarily Closed)

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1960 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 799-8677
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This lively Bucktown restaurant has one of the largest sake selections in the city, rounded out by a carefully chosen selection of shochu, Japanese whisky, and beer. It all accompanies classics ranging from takoyaki and chawanmushi to zaru soba and natto with rice. There’s so much more to Japanese culinary culture than sushi and ramen, and Izakaya Mita can be a boisterous gateway for the uninitiated. The restaurant is temporarily closed due to the pandemic but chef Brian Mita aims to reopen in August.

6. Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill

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1751 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 666-4100
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This neighborhood hit in West Town is known by many for its enormous and colorful maki, but there’s also a robust robata selection. Skewer options range from yakitori to squid karaage to nasu (eggplant) with ponzu and teriyaki sauce. There are no losers here, especially when paired with a Japanese highball.

7. Gaijin

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950 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 265-1348
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Decorated chef Paul Virant (Vie) made a splash in 2019 when he opened the first Chicago restaurant dedicated to okonomiyaki, Japan’s savory regional comfort food cooked on a griddle like Western pancakes. Though he is admittedly a gaijin — a Japanese term for “outsider,” or non-Japanese — Virant did his homework to produce delectable versions of Osaka-style and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Other options include several types of yakisoba and chewy mochi doughnuts.

A round pancake covered in sauce and powdered seaweed on a round black plate
Gaijin specializes in okonomiyaki, a kind of savory Japanese pancakes.
Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

8. Momotaro

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820 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-4818
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Boka Restaurant Group’s elegant Fulton Market destination from chef Gene Kato touts strong sushi and nigiri menus but wise diners know not to skip over the list of robata yaki, succulent skewered bites of nigima (chicken thigh), Alaskan king crab (shiso ginger mayo), and Berkshire pork loin. Other delights include a cold, delicate shiso soba (shiso buds, bottarga, white tensuyu), an Itameshi-style spaghetti (spicy beef curry, scallion oroshi, black garlic oil), and crispy fried sea bream collar (lemon, sea salt, scallion). Downstairs, patrons will find the subterranean Izakaya at Momotaro, a casual space with low lighting and an East-meets-West menu of burgers, noodles, maki, and more.

9. Kumiko

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630 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 285-2912
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Kumiko, the nationally acclaimed cocktail hotspot from star bartender Julia Momose and her skilled team in Fulton Market, has rocked Chicago’s storied bar scene with smart, inventive Japanese-inspired drinks and bespoke flights. As she prepares to reopen for indoor service, Momose is applying the philosophy of a “dainingu bā,” a Japanese dining bar where there’s a strong connection between food and beverage offerings. That means patrons can expect thoughtful pairings like a rosu-katsu sandwich (complete with Kumiko’s adored milk bread) and a Seaflower (Nikka Coffey gin, yuzu-kosho, blanc vermouth, kabosu juice, lime).

10. TenGoku Aburiya

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651 W Washington Blvd Suite #101A
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 846-6633
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This cozy, casual izakaya-style restaurant doesn’t always get the press afforded to its Michelin-starred sister restaurant Omakase Yume, but its menu from chef Sangete Park is a nostalgic wonderland of Japanese hits to accompany beer or cocktails. Standouts include juicy kaki fry (fried oysters), hamburg steak (ground beef, bean sprouts, onion, fried egg, demigras sauce, cabbage), and “sea yosenabe,” or Japanese seafood hot pot. There’s also tons of kushiyaki (skewers), plus some nigiri, maki, and sashimi.

11. Mom’s Chicago (Marz Community Brewing)

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3630 S Iron St
Chicago, IL 60609
(773) 579-1935
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Chefs Kelly Ijichi and Randi Howry have fostered a loyal following with Mom’s, their Japanese comfort food spot inside Bridgeport’s Marz Community Brewing. Biting into their crispy katsu sando or slurping up their tan tan udon (spicy miso, ground pork, sesame, Hinata Farms mustard green), it’s easy to see why. Fun and satisfying, the menu is also an ideal companion for Marz beers. Don’t overlook habit-forming inarizushi or a rotating assortment of doughnuts (only available on Sundays).

12. Arigato Market

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1407 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 265-0966
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During the pandemic, Arigato Market closed to the public as owner Brett Suzuki turned the storefront into a ghost kitchen where he’s making tacos using homestyle Japanese food and selling them at breweries across Chicago. Each brewery has a different menu, but Japanese yasai and katsu curries power many of the items. Diners can find Arigato tacos at Goose Island Fulton Market, Metropolitan, Midwest Coast, and On Tour breweries. Also, look for bento box specials.

1. Mitsuwa Marketplace

100 E Algonquin Rd, Arlington Heights, IL 60005

This venerable market opened its doors in suburban Arlington Heights in 1991, quickly garnering a reputation as one of the top Japanese food emporiums in the Midwest. The grocery section is a true delight for home cooks, but there’s plenty of grab-and-go items like onigiri and a diverse food court with everything from Japanese crepes and bubble tea to yakitori and udon. The whole mall underwent a massive facelift in 2019.

100 E Algonquin Rd
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

2. Tensuke Market and Food Court

3 S Arlington Heights Rd, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

Tucked inside a blink-and-miss-it strip mall in suburban Elk Grove Village, Tensuke is an unfussy treasure trove of Japanese ingredients, snacks, and candies, and includes a cozy food court. Sushi and sashimi usually get the most attention but don’t overlook comforting favorites like gyu don (beef and onions over rice) and curry rice.

3 S Arlington Heights Rd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

3. Bokuchan's Japanese Curry House (Temporarily Closed)

3517 N Spaulding Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Originally launched as a virtual pandemic pivot from chef Shin Thompson (Furious Spoon), this Japanese curry house has accrued a following with pork cutlets coated in crispy panko, traditional brown curry, Japanese fried chicken, and more. The to-go operation shut down in June but Thompson and his team aim to reopen Bokuchan’s in the fall as a dine-in restaurant.

3517 N Spaulding Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

4. Yoshi's Cafe

3257 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657

A neighborhood institution in Lakeview for four decades, Yoshi’s has evolved from its original Japanese-French fusion identity to a platform for chef Ken Katsumura (son of trailblazing founder Yoshi Katsumura) to explore seasonal cooking. The restaurant’s noteworthy Gochiso Sunday menu often integrates nods to Japanese ingredients with options like roasted kabocha (red bell pepper, mushrooms, tofu, sweet and spicy apricot) and tonkatsu (sautéed Brussels sprouts, polenta).

3257 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60657

5. Izakaya Mita (Temporarily Closed)

1960 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

This lively Bucktown restaurant has one of the largest sake selections in the city, rounded out by a carefully chosen selection of shochu, Japanese whisky, and beer. It all accompanies classics ranging from takoyaki and chawanmushi to zaru soba and natto with rice. There’s so much more to Japanese culinary culture than sushi and ramen, and Izakaya Mita can be a boisterous gateway for the uninitiated. The restaurant is temporarily closed due to the pandemic but chef Brian Mita aims to reopen in August.

1960 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

6. Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill

1751 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

This neighborhood hit in West Town is known by many for its enormous and colorful maki, but there’s also a robust robata selection. Skewer options range from yakitori to squid karaage to nasu (eggplant) with ponzu and teriyaki sauce. There are no losers here, especially when paired with a Japanese highball.

1751 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

7. Gaijin

950 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607
A round pancake covered in sauce and powdered seaweed on a round black plate
Gaijin specializes in okonomiyaki, a kind of savory Japanese pancakes.
Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

Decorated chef Paul Virant (Vie) made a splash in 2019 when he opened the first Chicago restaurant dedicated to okonomiyaki, Japan’s savory regional comfort food cooked on a griddle like Western pancakes. Though he is admittedly a gaijin — a Japanese term for “outsider,” or non-Japanese — Virant did his homework to produce delectable versions of Osaka-style and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Other options include several types of yakisoba and chewy mochi doughnuts.

950 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607

8. Momotaro

820 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607

Boka Restaurant Group’s elegant Fulton Market destination from chef Gene Kato touts strong sushi and nigiri menus but wise diners know not to skip over the list of robata yaki, succulent skewered bites of nigima (chicken thigh), Alaskan king crab (shiso ginger mayo), and Berkshire pork loin. Other delights include a cold, delicate shiso soba (shiso buds, bottarga, white tensuyu), an Itameshi-style spaghetti (spicy beef curry, scallion oroshi, black garlic oil), and crispy fried sea bream collar (lemon, sea salt, scallion). Downstairs, patrons will find the subterranean Izakaya at Momotaro, a casual space with low lighting and an East-meets-West menu of burgers, noodles, maki, and more.

820 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607

9. Kumiko

630 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661

Kumiko, the nationally acclaimed cocktail hotspot from star bartender Julia Momose and her skilled team in Fulton Market, has rocked Chicago’s storied bar scene with smart, inventive Japanese-inspired drinks and bespoke flights. As she prepares to reopen for indoor service, Momose is applying the philosophy of a “dainingu bā,” a Japanese dining bar where there’s a strong connection between food and beverage offerings. That means patrons can expect thoughtful pairings like a rosu-katsu sandwich (complete with Kumiko’s adored milk bread) and a Seaflower (Nikka Coffey gin, yuzu-kosho, blanc vermouth, kabosu juice, lime).

630 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60661

10. TenGoku Aburiya

651 W Washington Blvd Suite #101A, Chicago, IL 60661

This cozy, casual izakaya-style restaurant doesn’t always get the press afforded to its Michelin-starred sister restaurant Omakase Yume, but its menu from chef Sangete Park is a nostalgic wonderland of Japanese hits to accompany beer or cocktails. Standouts include juicy kaki fry (fried oysters), hamburg steak (ground beef, bean sprouts, onion, fried egg, demigras sauce, cabbage), and “sea yosenabe,” or Japanese seafood hot pot. There’s also tons of kushiyaki (skewers), plus some nigiri, maki, and sashimi.

651 W Washington Blvd Suite #101A
Chicago, IL 60661

11. Mom’s Chicago (Marz Community Brewing)

3630 S Iron St, Chicago, IL 60609

Chefs Kelly Ijichi and Randi Howry have fostered a loyal following with Mom’s, their Japanese comfort food spot inside Bridgeport’s Marz Community Brewing. Biting into their crispy katsu sando or slurping up their tan tan udon (spicy miso, ground pork, sesame, Hinata Farms mustard green), it’s easy to see why. Fun and satisfying, the menu is also an ideal companion for Marz beers. Don’t overlook habit-forming inarizushi or a rotating assortment of doughnuts (only available on Sundays).

3630 S Iron St
Chicago, IL 60609

12. Arigato Market

1407 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

During the pandemic, Arigato Market closed to the public as owner Brett Suzuki turned the storefront into a ghost kitchen where he’s making tacos using homestyle Japanese food and selling them at breweries across Chicago. Each brewery has a different menu, but Japanese yasai and katsu curries power many of the items. Diners can find Arigato tacos at Goose Island Fulton Market, Metropolitan, Midwest Coast, and On Tour breweries. Also, look for bento box specials.

1407 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60642

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