Japanese Elixir: The Top 5 Sake Joints in Chicago

The origins of sake are unclear; however, the earliest written reference to use of alcohol in Japan is recorded in the Book of Wei of the Records of Three Kingdoms. This 3rd century Chinese text speaks of the Japanese drinking and dancing. People used sake for spiritual functions because people who had it got a fever. And man do we got the fever. Sake it to me.


Japanese anime clouting the ceiling, this “izakaya” is a type of Japanese drinking establishment, which also serves food to soak up the alcohol. The acclaimed Sommelier comes from L2O and if you’re adventurous will recommend the shochu (basically Japanese vodka served warm).

3056 N. Lincoln Ave. 773.697.4725. http://www.chizakaya.com/


Offering weekly Sushi & Sake 101 classes; the restaurant’s signature sushi and sake tastings are led by Sake Sommelier Hayes Swope. The unique experience will allow guests the opportunity to sample a variety of SUSHISAMBA’s 60 plus sake offerings paired with delectable bites by Chef Dan Tucker. The eventful evening concludes with a guided “do-it-yourself,” lesson led by Sushi Chef Shigeru Kitano, who will demonstrate a step-by-step tutorial for making sushi at home. Catch the class October 12 or November 9 from 6:30-8:30 pm.

504 N.Wells St. 312.595.2300. http://www.sushisamba.com/

Mana Food Bar

This vegetarian dining spot from the creators of Sushi Wabi created a cocktail list focused on sake-tinis. Between the coconut water and fresh lime, pineapple and fresh ginger, and cucumber sakerita, we’re happy campers.
1742 W. Division St. 773.342.1742. http://www.manafoodbar.com/

Sushi Mura

One of the only legitimate establishments in the city that encourages “Sake Bombing,” the head chef and staff will usually come join in the fun with you. They also provides each guest a custom sake box, a gift from the owner to decorate and drink sake out of and store the signature sake boxes for each time you come in. Now that’s customer service.

3647 N. Southport Ave. 773.281.9155. www.sushimura.com

Mitsuwa Marketplace

Though a hike out in the ‘burbs, Mitsuwa is the largest Japanese grocery store in the entire Midwest and probably has the best selection of specialty sakes under the sun. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped right off the tarmac into Tokyo duty-free.

100 E. Algonquin Rd. Arlington Heights, IL 60005. 847.956.6699. http://www.mitsuwa.com/english/