LINCOLN SQUARE — A family-owned sushi restaurant has opened in Lincoln Square After years in the Northwest suburbs.
Owners Won Jang and Joy Kwak operated Wajo Sushi out of suburban Wheeling for about 10 years. The married couple opened their second location about two months ago at 5437 N. Lincoln Ave., said Wajo manager Jake Araiza, who spoke on behalf of the owners.
“We have a core fanbase here in Wheeling, but with the new location we’re still getting people learning about us, and that just takes some time,” Araiza said.
That suburban fanbase exists because of the unique sushi rolls on Wajo’s menu, Araiza said.
“We have a bunch of different crunch specials. Joy is the artsy one and very good at coming up with these different creations,” Araiza said. “Like our cheese crunch special roll, where we basically take Cheeto Puffs and then we crunch them up and then layer our sushi with Cheeto Puff crunch.”
That dusting of crunch sits on a roll filled with salmon and crab, Araiza said.
Another fan favorite is the snow salmon deluxe roll, which features salmon, avocado, cucumber, onion, lemon and mayo, Araiza said.
The menu also features nigiri combos, including four to eight balls of rice with fish on top served with a special Wajo roll and miso soup.
Before moving to Chicago, Jang and Kwak sold their pre-packaged sushi inside the food courts of three grocery stores in New Jersey, Araiza said. The couple relocated about 10 years ago to Wheeling and switched to operating a dine-in restaurant.
The couple started eyeing locations for a second Wajo in Chicago before the pandemic. They settled on Lincoln Square because they didn’t see nearby restaurants offering the kind of unique sushi rolls they have on their menu, Araiza said.
“They weren’t really going to have to compete with other sushi places nearby, and it’s kind of a breath of fresh air for that area,” he said.
The couple began renting the North Lincoln Avenue about a year ago but postponed opening because of the pandemic, Araiza said.
“He was just waiting on the right time to dive into the second location, because when COVID hit they buckled down and prioritized the Wheeling location,” Araiza said. “Once they kind of got everything rolling again they decided to open up the second store. They’re really excited to have that second location open.”
Wajo replaces another sushi joint, Ocean Sushi. It joins other businesses, including a popular Colombian restaurant and a bakery, along a long-overlooked stretch of Lincoln Avenue that Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) wants to revive as a bustling arts and commercial district.
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