Outsiders might not expect to find phenomenal sushi in the Heart of Dixie, but it’s here and it’s fabulous! Birmingham’s sushi chefs are serving up mouthwatering traditional Japanese sushi, as well as inventive culinary creations of their own.
From melt-in-your-mouth mackerel, yellowtail and salmon sashimi topped with rich red and orange jewel-like fish roe to fresh water eel, crisp vegetarian rolls, crunchy tempura rolls and the beginner’s California roll, there is something for everyone in the local sushi scene. Often served up alongside other Japanese fare, Thai cuisine, Tibetan delicacies, Vietnamese sandwiches, rice bowls, noodle dishes and more, the Magic City’s sushi offerings can be enjoyed as appetizers or as indulgent dinners on their own. Let’s check out seven of Birmingham’s top sushi spots!
11 Birmingham Sushi Spots to Check Out
300 Summit Blvd., Birmingham, AL 35243 • (205) 969-6858
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Celebrated local chef Abhi Sainju is passionate about creating perfect sushi and Asian cuisine. In the early 2000s, Abhi’s one-man sushi show, Everest Sushi, immediately cultivated a loyal foodie following, which extolled the virtues of his to-die-for sushi creations all over social media. Everest Sushi’s fans wanted to see the late-night chef bring his culinary talents to the light of day. And with his self-named eatery, Abhi at the Summit, that dream became a reality.
Abhi features not only the chef’s genius sushi rolls, but also momos, Nepalese dumplings stuffed with ground turkey, vegetables and spices, steamed and served in an Alabama tomato vinaigrette-infused broth. (You can also find these bad boys at mo:mo, Abhi’s food stall at the Pizitz Food Hall.) Enjoy shareable starters, Thai-style salads and grilled skewers or grab a poke bowl, curry bowl or noodle bowl. At Abhi, you can taste the authentic flavors of Nepal, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and more.
1830 29th Ave. S., Homewood, AL 35209 • (205) 802-1440
Hours: Opens seven days a week from 5 p.m. until close
Birmingham native John Cassimus opened this stylish sushi eatery nine years ago as a way to bring the forward-thinking Japanese fusion cuisine that he experienced in New York City’s NOBU and similar West Coast hot spots back home. And when you walk in the door of this SoHo spot, it’s like you are not in Birmingham. The sharp, modern interiors feature a cozy lounge and a lively energy with great music playing. And Jinsei’s spot in bustling downtown Homewood is surrounded by other fun businesses, including the Aloft Hotel, which brings all walks of life into the eatery. When the weather is good, guests can be found enjoying the neighborhood from the patio.
Jinsei is famous for its signature dish, the Kadoma Tuna. It’s a tempura-fried rice cake topped with spicy tuna tartare, scallions, eel sauce, jalapeño slivers and tobiko. The inventive Hamajiku combines hamachi, avocado, cucumber, rum raisins, crispy lotus root, fig sauce and serrano. The Jinsei team says it’s not ordered as much, but once people taste it, they are blown away. And rumor has it that some of Jinsei’s die-hard fans are the WWE crew, who book private parties at the sushi spot after each match in town.
Surin West, 1918 11th Ave. S., Five Points South, AL 35205 • (205) 324-1928
Surin of Thailand, 64 Church St., Mountain Brook, AL 35213 • (205) 871-1836
Surin 280, 16 Perimeter Park S., Hoover, AL 35243 • (205) 968-8161
Hours vary depending on location.
Surin of Thailand, located in the quaint and walkable Crestline Village of Mountain Brook, and Surin West, located in downtown’s historic Five Points South neighborhood, have been serving sushi and Thai cuisine to Birmingham’s adventurous epicures since the mid ’90s. Surin 280 joined the Magic City food scene in 2007. Among Surin’s most popular rolls are the Super Crunch roll, a smoked salmon roll with crunchy tempura and a heavenly Japanese sauce; as well as the Volcano roll, which includes spicy tuna and refreshing, crunchy cucumber on the inside with fresh tuna, avocado and eel sauce on the outside, served with a wasabi dipping sauce. We are partial to the Spicy Shrimp roll — shrimp tempura, cucumber, snow crab, avocado, spicy sauce and masago. You really can’t go wrong here, and if you’re not in the market for sushi, choose from a wide array of mouthwatering Thai dishes!
148 Wildwood Pkwy., Homewood, AL 35209 • (205) 917-1111
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday: noon to 9:30 p.m.
For the freshest and best deals in sushi, look no farther than the 5-year-old Okinawa Sushi & Hibachi Steak House. Located off of Wildwood Parkway in Homewood, this hidden jewel has much to offer, including their most popular deep-fried special rolls, as well as the Tuna Amazing roll and the Yummy roll, which both include crunchy spicy tuna and avocado on the inside and are each topped with either tempura crab meat or tempura fish and special sauces. Owner and manager Linda Lin, a native of China, always wanted to open a restaurant, and is passionate about Okinawa. “We have a lot of regular customers that come here two times a week to enjoy the sushi and the lunch specials, and people really like the hibachi grill. We make sure everything is really fresh,” says Linda. “Even though I’ve worked here for so long, I still enjoy the food. I prefer the toro sashimi, nigiri and the Fantastic roll.” The Fantastic roll includes tuna, salmon and yellowtail, topped with spicy scallop and crunchy tempura. Stop by and try their unbeatable sushi-sashimi lunch specials, hibachi lunch specials or their bento box lunch specials!
700 Montgomery Hwy., #178, Vestavia Hills, AL 35216 • (205) 978-7775
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday noon to 9:30 p.m.
This lofty space in the heart of Vestavia Hills features a bar with TVs; a sushi bar for front-row sushi-making enjoyment; regular dining tables, booths and an outdoor patio; as well as a traditional Japanese chabudai table where adventurous epicures can get the full-on, shoeless Japanese dining experience. Samurai’s most popular sushi is the salmon, yellowtail and Uni sashimi and nigiri. The chef’s special rolls, of which there are nearly 40 creatively named sushi creations, are the highlight of this restaurant, such as the Samurai roll — tuna, salmon, white fish, jalapeño and avocado wrapped with pink soy bean paper and salmon roe with chef’s special sauce. Then there’s the Naruto roll with tobiko, avocado and your choice of tuna, salmon or crab meat, wrapped with cucumber and served with ponzu sauce. And if you’re looking for non-sushi items Samurai Japan has teriyaki, tempura, katsu and hibachi dinners, as well as Japanese noodle bowls served by an extremely attentive staff. Swing by for a quick lunch special or a group dinner at the chabudai table!
420 20th St. N., Birmingham, AL 35203 • (205) 458-4040
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
2800 Cahaba Village Plaza, Birmingham, AL 35243 • (205) 970-3242
Hours: Seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“Maki Fresh is a fast-casual, Asian-inspired restaurant started by John Cassimus, founder of Zoes Kitchen,” says Carter Adams of Maki Fresh. “The unique menu offers quality sushi for the enthusiast of authentic Asian cuisine, as well as burger sliders and onion rings for the more traditional palate.” With locations in Cahaba Village and downtown, where professionals form lines out the door for this deliciously diverse menu, Maki Fresh has won over throngs of loyal lunch fans. In addition to their most popular Crunch Crunch, Spicy Tuna and Kadoma Tuna rolls, Maki Fresh prides itself on also having irresistible non-sushi offerings, like the rice bowls, sliders and salads, and customers often pair a roll with a side, such as the sweet potato fries or the crispy Brussels sprouts. While Carter acknowledges that the sushi is out of this world, he says his favorite dish is “the Hibachi rice bowl that I could literally eat every day!”
300 Hallman Hill E., Ste. 109, Homewood, AL 35209 • (205) 783-5222
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Shiki owner Marty Subrapa decided to open his brand-new Homewood sushi and Thai spot after three years of successfully running Cahaba Heights’ Nori Thai and Sushi and 10 years of being a proud Homewood resident. “I love Homewood. The people are nice, and I like to bring something different to the neighborhood,” says Marty. “Our sushi is different from other sushi. We create our own unique special rolls and dishes based on our ideas.” Among the most popular of their creative sushi rolls is the Crab Angel roll, a crab angel reimagined in sushi form, which includes crab stick, cream cheese, avocado and green onion, deep-fried and topped with eel sauce and spicy mayo. And Marty prides himself on the freshness of the fish he carries, with tuna and salmon fresh from Hawaii and hamachi straight from Japan. Besides the delectable sushi, Marty suggests starting with the Panang curry pot stickers, crispy rock shrimp or the crab angels. Come try this beloved Thai and sushi eatery in the Hallman Hill development in Homewood!
1218 20th St. S., Birmingham, AL 35205 • (205) 933-0999
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Just as the name suggests, Ocean offers a wide variety of seafood dishes, from sushi, oysters and scallops to lobster and a variety of fresh fish. Among the sushi offerings, Ocean’s most popular roll is the Samurai Chalo Roll, a roll created by and named after Chalo, the man who rolls their sushi every night. The roll consists of scallops, tempura shrimp, tobiko, avocado, asparagus and cream cheese. And if you’re not looking for sushi, their Thai Green Curry Bouillabaisse — with lobster tail, gulf shrimp, mussels, clams and grouper, served with pineapple jasmine rice — is a seafood lover’s dream. And if you aren’t a seafood lover, they are well-known for their mouthwatering filet mignon. The servers can expertly suggest a wine pairing that complements the flavors of your desired dish. Executive Chef and owner George Reis says they strive to make an evening at Ocean not only an excellent dinner, but an experience.
IKKO Japanese Ramen and Sushi
1909 11th Ave S., Birmingham, AL 35205 • (205) 203-4833
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“My family loves delicious pork-broth soups with noodles, especially in the cold weather, and we couldn’t find anything that hit quite the right spot,” says Julie Wang, co-owner of IKKO. “So we decided to start a restaurant of our own that would serve just that!” Go for the classic raw rolls — tuna, salmon, the spicy and crunchy versions of the aforementioned, Alaska roll and rainbow roll — or stick with a variety of their cooked sushi rolls. Or dabble in the best of both worlds with IKKO’s signature specialty rolls. The quality of the fish is melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and if you prefer your sushi-grade fish in a poke bowl, they have that too. Or simply delight in a piping-hot bowl of Japanese ramen. And the experience is not complete without one of their creative bubble tea concoctions. Julie’s favorite thing about their new eatery is “the diversity of customers we receive! It’s an amazing way to meet and serve so many unique locals.”
2212 2nd Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35203 • (205) 703-0551
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
This eatery came onto the scene with a bang, and it’s still a happenin’ hotspot. Restaurateurs Sam Fallow and Bernie Smith wanted an intimate eatery and bar that featured the diverse Asian flavors of Japan, the Philippines, Nepal, Thailand and more. Just taste their flavorful dishes, and you’ll understand why it’s hard to get a seat here. The sushi is out of this world. Expect creative rolls like the Rising Sun roll with tuna, mint, sambal and cucumber, topped with seared albacore, orange and eel sauce. Or try a spicier option like the Phantom roll with tuna, avocado and cucumber, topped with red snapper and ghost pepper sauce — not to mention the Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, authentic Japanese ramen, Tibetan-style noodle soup and pork belly skewers. Bamboo On 2nd is a must-visit culinary destination in the heart of downtown Birmingham!
120 Doug Baker Blvd., Birmingham, AL 35242 • (205) 995-0588
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you’re headed down 280 with a hankering for sushi, then stop by Mt. Fuji Japanese Sushi Steakhouse, where the sushi offerings are seemingly endless. They’ve got wildly creative sushi bar specials like the salmon martini, with sliced salmon in a martini glass, served with chili tomato sauce and sake — mind, blown — as well as a la carte sashimi and nigiri; classic sushi rolls and hand rolls of the raw, cooked and veggie varieties; chef’s special rolls; and chef’s sushi, sashimi and combo dinners like the Love Boat for 2! And if you’re also looking for teriyaki, tempura or other classic hibachi-style dinners, this Japanese steakhouse is the place for you.
Let’s raise our chopsticks to these stellar sushi spots that make Birmingham great!