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Food & Drink

10 top San Francisco chefs on where they go for cheap, quick, satisfying sushi

A smiling woman with red hair is eating sushi in a restaurant. The restaurant is decorated with photos of artists and has a modern, patterned wall in the background.
Melissa Perfit, of Popi’s Oysterrette and Top Chef Season 15, dines at her go-to sushi spot, Ace Wasabi. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

Every night is not a $150 omakase night. Sometimes, it’s about a $15 hand roll and a game of bingo, according to Top Chef alum Melissa Perfit. Or grocery store sushi enjoyed from a park bench, as recommended by James Beard Award-winner Nicole Krasinski of State Bird Provisions. David Barzelay of Lazy Bear may have two Michelin stars, but he maintains a fondness for the sushi of his youth.

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It was our hunch that just because a person makes their living in the restaurant industry doesn’t mean they don’t have a go-to spot for an easy-going, affordable sushi night out—and we were right. Here’s where extraordinary chefs go for perfectly ordinary sushi in SF.

Melissa Perfit, Popi’s Oysterette

Favorite sushi spot: 📍Ace Wasabi, 3339 Steiner St., Marina
“Ace Wasabi is a party place. They do a bingo night and everybody is always having a great time with the bartenders pouring sake for everyone at the bar. Their happy hour is great. They have a spicy, really tasty version of edamame and instead of regular rolls, they offer hand rolls, which is nice too.”

Two people are using chopsticks to eat various sushi dishes arranged on a table, including sushi rolls and nigiri, with dipping sauces and beverages.
Melissa Perfit and her husband, Michael Logan, getting their happy hour on at Ace Wasabi. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions 

Favorite sushi spot: 📍Nijiya Market, 1737 Post St., Japantown
“This [Japanese grocery store] has a massive section of sushi. You can get a California roll or go really Japanese and get pickled mackerel. I get the umeboshi rice ball a lot too. Alamo Square, Lafayette and Alta Plaza are close, so sometimes my family brings the sushi to a park. It’s a really special San Francisco experience.” 

Packages of maguro tuna sashimi are displayed in plastic-wrapped trays with price and weight labels, showcasing the deep red cut of fish.
You can get prepared maki or the fish to make it with yourself: Maguro (bluefin) tuna on display at the Nijiya Market. | Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Anthony Strong, Pasta Supply Co.

Favorite sushi spot: 📍Sasa Japanese, 22 Peace Plaza Suite 530, Japantown
“Sasa does a four-piece toro tasting that’s so amazing. We’ve actually gotten two per person there before. I dream of that toro tasting. On top of that, get the unagi kabayaki—the grilled eel plate with rice—plus chawanmushi and miso soup. For dessert, go downstairs [to Uji Time] and get one of those bad-ass cones shaped like fish and filled with ice cream.”

Josh Harris, Trick Dog

Favorite sushi spot: 📍Kibatsu, 400 Haight St., Lower Haight
“This spot has great ambiance, like a cool, city-meets-Japanese-country-cabin vibe. Plus the ceramics are beautiful—like different plateware every time. My wife and I always just ask the chef, ‘Hey, what do you like? What’s delicious?’ Sometimes we ask for spicy scallop hand roll as our last thing—it’s like our dessert.”

Laura Seymour, Damn Fine Pizza

Favorite sushi spot: 📍Shoshin Sushi, 2450 Clement St., Outer Richmond
“This tiny place only has a few tables—it’s a perfect little date spot, an exceptional meal without a lot of fuss. You will definitely want to do the Daigo shooter, which is a quail egg with a truffle ponzu and a little yellowtail that is absolutely insane. It’s the most amazing mouthful I’ve ever had at any sushi restaurant.”

Laura Ozyilmaz, Dalida

Favorite sushi spot:📍Ariake, 5041 Geary Blvd., Inner Richmond 
“My husband and I love this family-run sushi spot so much. The dad, mom and son are always very welcoming and the food is fresh and delicious. We love the 49er, a roll with salmon, slices of lemon and shiso, and the Firecracker appetizer made with tempura shiso, tuna tartare and seaweed.”

David Barzelay, Lazy Bear

Favorite sushi spot:📍Ebisu, 1283 9th Ave., Inner Sunset
“I find this SF classic to be utterly unpretentious, casual, and affordable. It’s kind of like the spots I went to in college. You can treat it like an izakaya or like a sushi place depending on what you’re in the mood for. I get some rolls, along with a good katsu don, and then pick and choose my favorites for nigiri.”

Alejandro Rodriguez, 20 Spot

Favorite sushi spot:📍Saru Sushi Bar, 3856 24th St, Noe Valley
Really good people run this place. I used to go for lunch all the time and they even let me stage with their chefs once so I could learn how to break down and cure fish in the Japanese way. I like the fried nori that they top with chopped tuna and a little avocado. And when they have the collar or fish bones that they fry up, they always ask me if I want them. I like oily fish, too. They always have a lot of different mackerel.”

Andrew McCormack, Early to Rise

Favorite sushi spot:📍Tekka, 537 Balboa St, Inner Richmond
“Tekka is an intimate spot with just 10 to 12 seats, run by a wonderful couple, Yoshimi and Noboru Shimizu. It’s steps from my home, making it a convenient option. You need to arrive early to secure a seat since they only serve a limited number of diners at set times. Their BBQ eel nigiri is a favorite. For drinks, I like a range of sakes, from earthy to fruity ginjos.”

Shelley Lindgren, A16

Favorite sushi spot: 📍 Kabuto, 5121 Geary Blvd., Inner Richmond
“My husband Greg [Lindgren] and I have raised boys who love to eat. And they love sushi. We bring them to Kabut, which has been around for so, so long—before there was the boom of all the great omakase restaurants. I love the mackerel nigiri. It’s so good. Gyoza indicates how handmade everything is at a sushi restaurant—and we love theirs. The toro tartare with deep-fried shiso and avocado is good, too.”