Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Midwest Archive >
Apr 7, 2007 11:28 AM

Best places for Japanese options in MidWest?


My family's contemplating relocating from SF Bay area (grad school) to the mid-west, but am having difficulty assessing options for Japanese dining -- can knowledgeable chowhounds weigh in, please?

Since Chicago suburbs (Arlington Heights, IL) is the only place with a Japanese market (Mitsuwa) in the Mid-West, I realize there will be limited number of Japanese nationals and/or Japanese-Americans compared to, say, LA, OC, NY-metro. (No izakaya or hand-made udon, I know.) But I think I'd be happy with a few authentic places serving home style meals and sushi when I don't feel like cooking....

Cities under consideration are as follows (in current order of preference):

Lake Forest, IL (Chicago metro)
Detroit metro (Ann Arbor or Royal Oak)

Thank you, in advance, for your help!

Palo Alto, CA

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hi ... there are reasonably large numbers of Japanese in metro Detroit, including Ann Arbor, owing to the relationships between the U.S. and Japanese auto companies. For example, Hino, the big-truck arm of Toyota, has its U.S. headquarters in Farmington Hills. There are sushi bars and Japanese restaurants of every description, from big places with weird innovative rolls to small places that seem quite traditional to me and where I often see Japanese diners. An example of the latter in Ann Arbor would be Yamato. I can't speak to markets so much (I'm a terrible cook), but I know that there lots of Asian markets and that at least a few are specifically Japanese. There's a place called Noble Fish that serves sushi in Clawson (very near Royal Oak), and it's in the back of a Japanese grocery. (I can't recall whether the grocery has the same name.) The Detroit area has its problems, for sure, but it's a more diverse and interesting place than it's often perceived as being. Ann Arbor is a community with a long tradition of interaction with Asian cultures, and even one of the local supermarket chains, Hiller's, carries Japanese foods including frozen sushi-grade fish. Coming from Palo Alto, the weather would be a bigger problem than the availability of Japanese food, I would think. As one local poet wrote, "Some try to love it but leave bitter, partially broken by our endless gray." Welcome to the Midwest! Some Californians find they like it here and stay.

    1. I'd like to provide a few words about the Chicago area, where I live. There are substantial Japanese national and Japanese-American populations all over the Chicago area (particularly the north side of the city and the north and northwest suburbs), which is one reason we have quite a few Japanese restaurants and food markets. Keep in mind that this forum on Chowhound (Midwest forum) is not generally browsed by people in the Chicago area, because Chicago has its own forum. If you are interested in finding out more about Japanese food options in the Chicago area, you should ask your question on the Chicago forum.

      From the Chicago forum, here are a couple of recent discussions about authentic Japanese food in the Chicago area:

      1. (pointed here by "Erik M", cuz I normally wouldn't reply but to say: "search is your friend")

        There's a huge distance between Ann Arbor vs. Royal Oak (45+ miles?). You aren't going to drive into Farmington Hills on a week nite just to eat udon. Royal Oak to Farmington Hills is obviously much more viable. Considering I'm an UMich alumi, I can honestly say the Japanese dining experience is lousy. There are more Bennigans/TGIFs than Japanese restaurants. While the situation in Detroit may be better, besides Yamato, one would be hard pressed to find anything actually Japanese owned/operated in A^2.

        That said, Chicago NW suburbs, tho completely pathetic relative to LA/NY, holds its own in Japanese food in the Midwest.

        Izakaya Sankyu (next to Pusan KBBQ house, which, btw, is also great)


        Udon house:

        Katsu house:

        There are at least 2 Japanese supermarkets (Tensuke and Mitsuwa) with 1 Korean super-supermarket (H-mart) which carries many Asian sustenance.

        The best place to start discovering Japanese restaurants in the suburbs is this page:
        (note, Hirano was purchased/remodeled by Korean family last year


        g'luck w/ your move.... my fiance was doing a rotation in Palo Alto and we went nuts eating Taiwanese food nearby.

        1. well clevo is no chicago & i am out of the loop, but as i recall they have some decent japanese spots. i believe generally the best is SHUHEI. fairly new is SHUJIRO. SHINANO, MATSU & PACIFIC EAST are others that are noted. OTANI is definately the old favorite from my youth and still going strong far as i have heard. KIMO and SUSHI ROCK are the hip/fun sushi spots. i dk anymore about a japanese grocery, but there is a real deal chinatown in cleveland and pan-asian staples are fairly readily available. this is the best i can say, maybe others can chime in with more recent reviews, but until then good luck w/ your choice. of course all that said, i am sure clevelanders at stanford or in your area would pine a bit for hungarian and eastern european food!

          ps-- here is a recent thread:

          pss-- re columbus, which is a couple hours south of clevelandia, besides HAMA, the new to me place mentioned in that thread, i believe KIHACHI on the nw side is still open. they had some homestyle japanese food and i enjoyed it back when i lived in columbus. the honda plant in marysville and gigantic osu give columbus a small, if steady japanese population. they definately have several all japanese-only groceries down there as well.

          1. > Since Chicago suburbs (Arlington Heights, IL) is the only place with a Japanese
            > market (Mitsuwa) in the Mid-West,

            Oh my -- there are other Japanese markets in the Midwest besides Mitsuwa! Mitsuwa may be the largest, supermarket style one, but a lot of the stuff there is both of questionable necessity and outrageously expensive (baby wipes imported from Japan for $10, anyone?), so one could make do with a smaller store. And I do like Mitsuwa, mind you.

            1 Reply
            1. re: willownt

              My folks (1st gen immigrants from Japan) live in Skokie (near north Chicago 'burb) and have been shopping very happily at the Sea Ranch Grocery in Wilmette for a long time - at least 15 or 20 years. They do like to trip over to the Mitsuwa, natch, but they live ~10 minutes from Sea Ranch and find that it satisfies almost all of their grocery needs. A quick search of the Chow archives shows numerous positive reviews, particularly for the quality of the sushi.