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CHI

Kitsune Restaurant and Pub

Perfect For: Date Night Dinner with the Parents Girls' Night Out
PHOTOS: Sandy Noto

My best friend growing up in Detroit was a guy whose dad had been born and raised there, and whose mom is from Japan. We both had uneventful suburban childhoods. We TP’d houses in high school before drinking too many Natty Lights in college while rooting for mediocre Big 10 football teams. But then he studied abroad in Tokyo, got serious about his Japanese, and decided to move there after graduation to become a “salaryman” and spend time with his Japanese family. He still lives there today. And if you metaphorically turned him into a restaurant, Kitsune would be the result.

Kitsune describes itself as a Midwestern restaurant and pub influenced by homestyle Japanese cuisine. It’s a little American, a little Japanese, and a little bit of a combination of the two. But they’re not shoving a Chicago-style hot dog ramen down your throat here - Kitsune mixes American ingredients into traditional Japanese dishes in a subtle way. Take the sashimi with rice and miso broth, where they use Carolina gold rice, rather than the Japanese white rice you’d most typically see with sashimi. It’s a small but noticeable difference that gives the whole dish a new texture, and these types of little wildcards will pop up throughout your meal.

The Japanese-Midwestern thing is also part of the ambience at Kitsune. The restaurant is small with only about four bar seats and ten tables, all within earshot of an open kitchen. It all makes this a very welcoming place with a combination of North Center neighborhood pub meets traditional Japanese izakaya vibes.

Overall, we’re into Kitsune - the food and atmosphere are both enjoyable, and even more importantly, there isn’t anything else in Chicago like it right now.

Food Rundown

Wild Rice and Koji Porridge Bread

You want bread on the table. Adding the optional pickles supplement will only make things better.

Oysters

The prettiest little oysters with a flower in them you’ve ever seen. Tasty too with a bit of rice wine vinaigrette.

Gomae

Gomae is typically a spinach salad made with a sesame or peanut sauce, but Kitsune’s take is more like a Midwest spinach potato salad. At least that’s the feel we get from the sauce.

Clams

Excellent clams in a buttery sauce with some toasted koji bread. Order it.

Okonomiyaki

A savory Japanese pancake topped with katsuobushi and mayo. You need to make it one of the big dishes you get.

Sashimi With Rice

The Carolina gold rice used here isn’t what you’d normally see with sashimi, but it works as an interesting twist. But still - the fresh fish is the highlight of the dish.

Fried Smelts

These are little fish, fried and served whole. Sprinkle some lemon over the top and dip it in the kewpie mayo. They’re a fun little small plate to snack on, but skip them if you need to narrow down your order.

Tonkotsu Ramen

A super rich and tasty tonkotsu ramen with egg, pork belly, green onions, and house chili. It’s difficult to share, but it’s worth looking like an idiot while you slurp and splash broth all over the place just for a taste.

Miso Honey Chicken

A nice plate of roasted chicken with spring onion, a little bit of sweetness from the honey glaze, and just crispy enough skin.

Steelhead Roe Temaki

A bowl of rice topped with steelhead roe and a little egg on top. The roe is salty and delicious, and it also comes with a side of lettuce cups to make little wraps.

Japanese Whiskey Glazed Dougnut

This dessert is a throwback from one of our all-time favorite spots, Bunny The Micro Bakery, the now-closed spot from the same owner as Kitsune. This looks like your standard doughnut, but there’s a very noticeable whiskey glaze once you take a bite. If you like whiskey and donuts, which seems like a no brainer, you’ll like these.

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