Sushi Hole, a new sushi restaurant in Lincoln Park, opened this week, putting the finishing touches on the transformation of a vacant storefront bar into a cozy and trendy neighborhood haven.
Located within a 150-year-old building at 2630 N. Clark Street, Sushi Hall aims to provide Lincoln Park residents with a middle ground between Chicago’s collection of casual, all-you-can-eat sushi spots and cheerful and fun omakase dens.
“The neighborhood is very important to us,” says partner Jacob Ringer, who ran for the 43rd member of the House of Representatives in 2019. Although he did not win the election (a family tradition, it turns out that in 1967, his father also lost his bid to get an alderman in the same ward) Ranger knocked on 10,000 doors in the area and said the experience gave him a deeper understanding of Lincoln Park community . “My restaurant’s inspirations are something like a Gemini—a forever essential neighborhood—or the Willow Room: it’s very local, very inviting, but instead of a cheeseburger, you’re eating a roll of sushi.”
The beginner-friendly menu goes into intricate detail, listing each ingredient in its signature maki, as well as its location within or above each of the eight menus. There’s also a range of classic maki and sashimi, as well as a plethora of fun appetizers like togarashi potatoes with yuzu aioli and spicy poppers (tempura-covered jalapeños served with spicy tuna and unagi sauce).
Sushi Hole diners can order the “I don’t eat sushi” menu, designed to provide options for those who prefer not to eat raw fish. It includes izakaya-style dishes such as chicken katsu, pork and garlic, along with vegetarian maki and cooked protein wraps. In fact, the latter options are still sushi—the Japanese word refers to rice marinated in vinegar and sugar, not seafood—but operators want to make sure all kinds of diners feel comfortable.
While Ranger and co are all first-time restaurateurs, Sushi Hall is also the start of a new chapter for Chef Mitch Kim, who has spent 17 years leading the kitchen in Toro Sushi, Lincoln Park’s small spot where he cultivated a loyal following in the area. It was there that Kim met Ringer and Jimmy Vetrano, both neighborhood residents and Toro Sushi regulars, and struck up a friendship that has now developed into a business partnership. The trio also brought in Dao Chanthapani, who had spent six years as Chef Kim in Toro, as general manager and co-owner.
Popular Chicago interior design firm Siren Betty Design (who was also behind the theme for Segnatore and Nine Bar, among others) designed the 2,700-square-foot space, which includes a front dining room that seats 16; chef counter for four; six-seater sushi bar; And a back dining room (also available for private parties) with chairs for 16 people. Instead of the traditional escape-fuelled aesthetic seen in plenty of sushi restaurants, designers anchored the Chicago space with exposed brick walls, chic blue and yellow subway tile, and a massive mural of a fish skeleton inspired by a tattoo on Kim’s forearm.
Despite his more than two decades of experience behind a sushi restaurant, Kim remains humble, claiming – wrongly – that he is “not a professional,” but says he can see that Ranger is a nice guy who loves his food. He also shares his fellow partners in their devotion to the neighborhood. “I said, Jacob, let’s open another restaurant. I would love to stay in Lincoln Park and keep my clients.” “I didn’t want to leave for somewhere else.”
Look around inside the sushi hall in the photos below.
sushi hall2630 N. Clark Street, open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.