Enrique Fernandez and Jose Llangari, co-owners of Volcano Express Japanese Grill and Sushi at 6011 W. Irving Park Road, smile for a photo on Jan. 6, 2023. Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago

PORTAGE PARK — A new sushi and Japanese restaurant is bringing life to a storefront that’s been vacant for more than a year near a busy Portage Park intersection.

Volcano Express Japanese Grill & Sushi opened at 6011 W. Irving Park Road in late 2022. It offers traditional sushi and hibachi dinner combos, as well as ramen, soups, salads and more. The restaurant also offers catering, and the owners plan to get back to hosting private events this summer.

The restaurant used to be Luna Empananda Shop, which closed in August 2021 because of financial strains and family issues. Volcano co-owners Enrique Fernandez and Jose Llangari took over the spot in September and opened in late October.

Fernandez and Llangari started Volcano as a private event and catering endeavor in 2021.

“We started doing private events and going to people’s houses and doing hibachi-style cooking,” Fernandez said.

That business quickly became Volcano Express. The two friends wanted to take their business a step further and decided to open a physical restaurant, Fernandez said.

“We want to get to know our new neighbors and offer them high-quality food,” Llangari said in Spanish.

Volcano Express Japanese Grill and Sushi at 6011 W. Irving Park Road offers sushi plates and Japanese grill items. Credit: Volcano Express/Facebook

Fernandez, who lives in Avondale but often drove by the storefront, liked its location and proximity to other businesses. He connected with Luna’s owner to inquire about buying the spot, he said.

The owners, who collectively have more than 20 years of experience working in sushi and hibachi restaurants, said they want to bring more food options to the Portage Park strip.

“We saw that around here, there were not a lot of sushi options or hibachi,” Fernandez said. “I think we are going to do well here.”

Chef Enrique Fernandez (right) cooks hibachi at a private birthday party in summer 2022. Fernandez is a private chef for inside and outside events during warmer events. Credit: Volcano Express/Facebook

Originally from Ecuador, Fernandez and Llangari have called Chicago home for more than 20 years, they said.

Volcano Express is not connected to Volcano Sushi Restaurant in Logan Square or Volcano Sushi 90 in the Near West Side.

Business has been slow but steady since opening, the owners said. They are excited about the adventure, even though it’s more responsibility, Fernandez said.

As the restaurant grows, the duo hopes to partner with nearby businesses for events and with schools and nonprofits to provide discounted meals, they said.

The restaurant is also in the process of obtaining a liquor license to serve alcohol, the owners said.

Volcano Express is open 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

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