The Best Cities for Sushi in America
Akami and Saba. Kampachi and tamagoyaki. Rainbow rolls, Philadelphia rolls and spider rolls. There’s no doubt that sushi’s popularity has been on a roll for decades in the U.S. now. It’s become a ubiquitous food find, and the rare food synonymous with a meal itself. To ask, “Feel like going out for sushi?” has become as American as asking the same about pizza or tacos.
While the delicacy is millennia old in Japan, the first modern sushi restaurant in America didn’t open until 1966. That was a place called Kawafuku in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. Today, there are 16,000 sushi restaurants in the nation. In all, it’s grown into a $22 billion industry in the U.S.
Rating the best sushi cities
As with many imports, sushi’s seed in America grew in California and was then popularized in New York City before spreading to other parts of the country. But which are the best cities for sushi in the nation now, and which give you a raw deal?
We scoured the nation’s 100 biggest cities and documented every sushi restaurant in each. We then calculated the number of sushi spots per capita and the number per square mile and ranked them high to low. Upon combining the two rankings, the final total determines each city’s overall sushi score. Below are the results and the top 10 finishers.
For the purposes of this survey, we only considered restaurants that primarily serve sushi, America’s true sushi-yas, izakayas and omakase joints. This, therefore, excludes generic chain restaurants and other outlets that serve cuisine unrelated to sushi. Saki and wasabi for all!
Looking for the best city for sushi on the entire northeast corridor? It’s not New York or Washington, D.C. It’s, maybe surprisingly, Boston. Known for regional fares like baked beans, cream pie and Italian food, the Hub City is also a seafood lover’s paradise. So, why not the city on Massachusetts Bay has a thriving sushi culture?
The closest thing Boston has to Little Tokyo is a small area around Porter Square Mall in Cambridge. But there are several concentrations of Japanese restaurants and shops in the city proper. South of Chinatown are sushi spots like Oishii and Fuji at Ink Block in South End. Downtown offers authentic cuisine from Tora and O Ya. And over in trendy Back Bay, you can find great sushi spots like Douzo, Uni and Zuma.
Boston finds its way to this list with the fourth-most sushi restaurants per square mile of any city in the U.S. That’s despite ranking a low 24th in sushi restaurants per capita.
While Boston is high on sushi-ya density and low per person, Atlanta is just the opposite. The sprawling city ranks just No. 19 in sushi restaurants per square mile. But Atlantans have the seventh-most resutorans (Japanese restaurants) per person. That’s how this southern charm city became a sushi hub.
Over the last two decades, Atlanta has become the South’s leading culinary city. So it’s no wonder that it has adopted sushi so easily. As with most cuisines in Hotlanta, sushi has found a way to get Southernized. Fusion between Japanese and Southern cuisine has made for interesting combinations such as barbecue beef-wrapped sushi and the pickled okra thick roll.
Whether looking for traditional or American sushi, Atlanta has you covered. Some of the most popular spots include Sushi Huku just inside the Perimeter, Budi’s Downtown and RA Sushi in Midtown. But no sushi experience is complete without a trip to Nakato on the edge of Buckhead, Atlanta’s oldest Japanese restaurant. Nakato celebrates 50 years in business in 2022.
With over 125 sushi restaurants, San Diego has the fourth-most of any city in the nation, and second-most among the top 10 best cities for sushi. That’s a lot of Japanese influence for a city less than 20 miles from Mexico. Sushi is, of course, plentiful and popular up and down California.
But there’s no better seafood and fresh fish city in the Golden State than San Diego. That’s what makes for great sushi in this sushi-crazed city. San Diego combines the freshest fish and seafood, spectacular year-round weather for outdoor dining, a laid-back vibe and a traditional food scene.
That’s good news, as high-level sushi is available nearly everywhere. On your San Diego sushi bar and izakaya tour, be sure to check out Ikiru, Soichi, Ken Sushi Workshop, Hidden Fish, Nobu and Taka Restaurant. Looking for incredible vegan sushi? Don’t miss Yasai by RakiRaki or Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub.
There’s a Japanese restaurant tradition dating back ages called Omakase. It’s Japanese for “I leave it up to you,” letting the chef choose the elements of your meal. And there’s nowhere in the nation that takes sushi Omakase to heart more than Seattle. For many, that means Sushi Kashiba, where customers have been leaving it up to chef Shiro Kashiba for half a century.
Even before sushi got popular in America, Seattle was a Japanese restaurant mecca. Local icon Maneki, just one example, is nearly 120 years old. That’s still reflected today. Seattle has the highest percentage of Nikkeijin (Japanese descent) residents of any continental U.S. city, with nearly 9,000 representing 1.6 percent of the population. That’s a big part of why there are over five dozen sushi restaurants in the Emerald City.
Concentrated mostly around Downtown, Pike Place and Belltown, Seattle has an inordinate number of top-level sushi houses. Some notable spots include Japonessa Sushi Cocina, Maneki, Tsukushinbo, Umi, Shiro’s and Aburiya Bento House. Not to be outdone is Señor Carbón Peruvian Cuisine. Don’t let the name fool you. Japanese immigrants have made themselves at home in Peru for over two centuries, creating their own cuisine called Nikkei, blending Peruvian ingredients and Japanese cooking styles.
Despite its more bohemian/less elegant vibe, Portland bests spots like Seattle and San Diego as the best cities for sushi.
Japanese culture has deep roots in Portland. Right in Old Town on the river, you’ll find the Japanese American Historical Plaza. Nearby is the newly-renovated Japanese American Museum of Oregon. The city houses two stunning Japanese Buddhist temples. As well, Japanese and Oregonian cultures both share a love of mountain hiking, sportswear and outdoor gear. Portland brands like Snow Peak and Columbia are casual-chic around metro Tokyo.
And of course, there’s the food. Truth be told, Portland is a ramen town. But the sushi is equally outstanding. In fact, Shigezo, a well-known chain in Japan, opened its first shop in North America in Portland over a decade ago. The authentic favorite has since spun off Yataimura Maru on Southeast Division and Kichinto on North Russell.
Another Japanese-based izakaya, Afuri, now has more Portland locations than it does in Japan. Other notable izakayas include Kazumi, Sho, Yoshi’s, Fish & Rice and Rip City staple Bamboo Sushi with a location in each quadrant.
With high rollers, thrill-seekers and families traveling in from all over the world, you would expect no less than seeing Las Vegas high on the list of best cities for sushi. And that’s just what you get.
And like most international cuisines available in Vegas, sushi is found in high-end restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints alike. Some are in the heart of the Strip, some are at the edge of town. Many are for tourists and others are local gems. And, since it’s Vegas, more than a few are all-you-can-eat buffets.
You will, of course, find a variety of sushi restaurants right inside most of Vegas’ two dozen casinos. Some of the best include Mizumi at the Wynn, Nobu at Caesars Palace, Yellowtail at the Bellagio and Morimoto at the MGM Grand. Off the strip, check out Sen of Japan at The Lakes, Kaiseki Yuzu in Chinatown and Yu-Or-Mi in the Arts District.
Still thinking about those endless buffets? For one low price, stuff yourself with all the sushi you can eat in “AYCE” spots like Oyshi on Rainbow Boulevard, Sushi Way at The Park Mall, Jjanga by Spring Valley and Sakana near UNLV.
At around 1.6 percent of their populations, Sacramento and Seattle both report the highest percentage of residents with Japanese ancestry of any mainland U.S. city. Off the Pacific Coast is an entirely different story. Honolulu, 2,500 miles from California, counts Nihon ancestry among nearly a quarter of its entire population. That’s 86,000 total, two-and-a-half times more than Los Angeles, which has the most in the continental U.S.
In Hawaii, Japanese cuisine is ubiquitous. Japanese food is just food. So, of course, that lands Honolulu very high on the list of best cities for sushi in the nation. It offers the second-most sushi restaurants per capita and third-most per square mile. And like Japan, in a location surrounded by the ocean, sushi is plentiful, fresh and good.
To be among the best in Honolulu means you’re among the best in the nation. Some of the most renowned sushi houses in the city that have received national acclaim include Morio’s, Maru, Kin Chan, Sushi Murayama and the world-famous Sasabune.
Not New York. Not Los Angeles. Orlando is No. 1 with the most restaurants per capita of any in America. The reason? Tourists, tourists, tourists. Visitors flock in from around the globe. It’s one of America’s top five most visited cities. And like other major tourist cities, Orlando offers cuisine from nearly every international destination.
Orlando’s influences from around the world reflect in its restaurant culture, including from Japan. And that means sushi. Paralleling all restaurants, Orlando also has the most sushi restaurants per capita of any city in the nation. The obvious spot to get your sushi is right at Disney World. Japan is one of 11 nations represented at EPCOT’s World Showcase. And inside the Japan Pavilion are no less than five spots for sushi, including favorites Kabuki Café and Teppan Edo.
Those are just a few of the dozen or so places to grab sushi at Disney World. Others include Kona Island at the Polynesian, Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs and Kimonos at Swan Resort, Orlando Magazine’s Top Sushi Restaurant. Down the street at Universal Orlando? Try Sushiology I-Drive, Orchid Court Lounge or Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.
The city of Miami is known for its expansive and diverse cosmopolitan food scene. But it leans very heavily on Latino and Caribbean cuisine, particularly Cuban food. It wasn’t that long ago that good sushi was difficult to find in South Florida. But that’s all changing as Japanese culture is taking more hold, particularly in food.
Despite just a couple hundred residents of Nikkeijin ancestry, sushi is booming. Sushi is becoming as commonplace in Florida restaurants as Cubans and cafecitos. In a city where seafood and fresh fish are so important, sushi became an easily-adopted low-carb option across Miami’s ethnic backgrounds.
Reflecting other Miami fare, everyday sushi is found in places like South Beach or Coral Way, all the way to upscale omakase in Brickell or Downtown. Notable spots include Wabi Sabi, Itamae, Uchi and Kosushi.
San Francisco’s Japantown is not just the oldest and largest Japantown or Little Tokyo in America. In fact, it’s one of the oldest and largest ethnic enclaves of any kind in the world. Four by five blocks in the heart of the Western Addition. Out of San Francisco’s over 11,000 Japanese-American residents, 1,400 live in Japantown.
But Nihon culture and cuisine thrive in many places throughout San Francisco. That’s why it ranks among the best cities for sushi in the nation. San Francisco squeezes 141 sushi specialty restaurants into its 47 square miles. That’s the highest density of any city in America. And, as the second-largest city in the top 10, it still offers the third-most sushi-yas per capita, as well.
And, of course, San Francisco’s best is consistently named among the top sushi houses in America. Time Out calls out Omakase and Kusakabe as two of the preeminent in the U.S. Thrillist loves Akiko’s and Hashiri, while Travel & Leisure highlights Sushi Ran and Koo as national standards. And the New York Post ranks Tataki and Maruya as two of the country’s finest.
The 50 best cities for sushi lovers
Outside of the top 10, great sushi restaurants and districts are nationwide. Of course, a full dozen of the top 50 best cities for sushi are in California. But there are some surprises, as well. Look for plentiful and delicious sushi houses in places like Pittsburgh, PA, Baton Rouge, LA, Boise, ID and Chandler, AZ.
Looking for New York City? It’s way down at No. 23. The population is too high and condensed to place any higher. This is despite 221 sushi restaurants, the most of any city by far. And, down at No. 44 is Los Angeles. Too much competition to rank better, even with 144 sushi joints throughout the city proper.
|Rank||City, State||Land Area (sq mi)||Population||Sushi Restaurants||Per capita (100k)||Density (per sq mi)||Per Capita Score||Density Score||Total Score|
|1||San Francisco, CA||47||881,549||141||15.99||3.00||35.07||50.00||85.07|
|5||Las Vegas, NV||136||651,319||104||15.97||0.76||35.01||12.61||47.62|
|8||San Diego, CA||325||1,423,851||126||8.85||0.39||18.95||6.30||25.25|
|12||Long Beach, CA||50||462,628||30||6.48||0.60||13.62||9.85||23.47|
|15||Baton Rouge, LA||77||220,236||19||8.63||0.25||18.45||3.94||22.39|
|20||Saint Petersburg, FL||62||265,351||19||7.16||0.31||15.14||4.94||20.08|
|21||Saint Louis, MO||62||300,576||19||6.32||0.31||13.25||4.94||18.19|
|23||New York, NY||303||8,336,817||221||2.65||0.73||4.97||12.02||16.98|
|33||San Jose, CA||177||1,021,795||48||4.70||0.27||9.59||4.35||13.94|
|44||Los Angeles, CA||469||3,979,576||144||3.62||0.31||7.15||4.95||12.10|
|48||Virginia Beach, VA||249||449,974||22||4.89||0.09||10.02||1.29||11.31|
To determine the best cities for sushi, cities were ranked based on the number of non-chain sushi restaurants. Restaurants serving sushi in addition t0 other cuisines were also eliminated. Calculations were made for per capita (100,000 residents) and per square mile. Per capita and per square mile calculations were scaled and scored on an evenly weighted system. Rankings are based on a city’s total score.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory as of April 2022. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.