The Pennsylvania Sushi Bucket List

Though you can find pre-made sushi in grocery stores (and even at some rest stops and gas stations), that stuff isn’t really comparable to delicately handled, freshly made sushi and sashimi. Prepared with precision and care, freshly made sushi and sashimi is the stuff of obsession, mind-melting bites that stay with you for long after the meal has ended.

There are some incredible sushi spots in Pennsylvania, and while this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, these are our picks for the places to check off your Pennsylvania sushi bucket list:

Northeastern PA

Atami Sushi goes above and beyond other sushi joints in the area to freshly slice fish and meat to order, and to create gourmet-leaning sashimi, like red snapper and uni, gourmet specialty rolls (heads up on the Phoenix Roll, with soft shell crab and cucumber, topped with lobster salad and wasabi mayo). There are also irreverent modern bites, like tempura fried Jalapeno Boats with cream cheese and tuna, and the Naruto Cucumber Wrap, with two kinds of tuna, avocado and masago (fish roe) wrapped in a cucumber. Hibachi entrees, bento boxes and rice and noodle dishes round out the menu, and beer, wine and sake are available. 100 Old Lackawanna Trail, Clarks Summit; (570) 585-1250.


Southeastern PA

Sushi Hatsu is a relative newcomer to the dining scene in Ambler, PA and, as diners realized soon after this contemporary BYOB opened its doors, it offers so much more than sushi. A self-described “Japanese-style tapas restaurant,” Sushi Hatsu’s menu includes sushi and sashimi, of course, but also inventive dishes, like short rib empanadas, duck confit shumai, PEI miso mussels, kanpachi carpaccio and salmon ceviche tartare. A curated raw bar, grilled options and ample vegetarian choices make this an already-popular spot in the quaint suburban town. 51 E. Butler Ave., Ambler; (267) 705-2485.

Chef Patrick Feury’s stylish, scene-y Pan-Asian restaurant, Nectar, is one of the best-known restaurants on the Main Line. And while the hyper-designed interior and posh crowd have their appeals, Nectar is much more than a pretty face. Under the seasoned tenure of Feury, the food – particularly the sushi – is super-well-conceived and executed. Seasonal sushi specials are always available (think: the tempura-fried Baby Banana Roll, with spicy yellow fin tuna, baby banana and papaya), and the regular and specialty rolls keep pace. Standouts include the tea-smoked salmon roll with spicy peekytoe crab and asparagus, and the Nectar soy wrap roll, with tuna, striped bass, salmon, avocado and spicy mayo. Dumplings, noodles and clever snacks (lobster sliders, crispy baby octopus) add to the extensive menu. 1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn; (610) 725-9000.

Hidden behind an unmarked door (look for a red light), Royal Izakaya is a hip cocktail and sake-oriented bar with snack-y Japanese bites, like yakitori, gyoza and karaage chicken wings. Tucked into the back of the space is Royal Sushi, a tiny 10-seat sushi bar where an epic 18-piece nigirizushi omakase menu from James Beard-nominated Chef Jesse Ito awaits. For a fixed price of $130, Ito will serve only the freshest, most expertly prepared products, and the dinner has become stuff of Philly foodie legend. 780 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia; (267) 909-9002.

Dawa, a BYOB in the heart of Philly’s bustling Fishtown neighborhood, opened in December of 2018 and has since garnered legions of fans devoted to its beautifully prepared sushi, ramen and poke bowls. A chef’s omakase tasting menu is available Thursday through Saturday, and there are plenty of a la carte options, as well.  Sashimi options include some exotic choices: kanpachi (amberhack), unagi (freshwater eel) and madai (sea bream). Also, there are lots of hand rolls and numerous other cravable items, like bao buns, ceviche and dumplings. 1204 N. Front St., Philadelphia; (215) 278-7671.

Combining the freshest ingredients and creative spins on classics, Bon Bon Sushi in West Chester is a cool little spot for sushi burritos, sushi rolls, wonton “tacos” and more. You can go traditional with a cup of miso soup and a spicy tuna roll, or go explore Bon Bon’s more irreverent dishes, like the P’Jork sushi burrito (BBQ pork, iceberg, shredded carrot, cilantro, cucumber and green onions with spicy miso barbecue sauce) and the Vegan Dragon roll (tofu, lettuce, cucumber, avocado and sweet potato tempura). Pair you meal with a Jarritos Mexican soda or a Japanese “Ramune” soda, whichever suits your meal’s vibe. 22 N. Darlington St., West Chester; (610) 696-3069.

Central PA

Blue Pacific was one of the first sushi bars in Lancaster; it opened in 2001. Frequently voted “Best of” in various polls about the city’s food scene, Blue Pacific focuses on quality. The menu includes standard nigiri and sashimi options, and there are plenty of gems to discover in its feature rolls. The Amazing Maki has crispy spicy salmon and asparagus on the inside, with both red and white tuna on the outside; the Pearl Maki has shrimp tempura and cucumber as the filling with seared scallop, roe, spicy mayo and tempura flakes on the outside. If you’re going with a group, splurge for the Love Boat with five kinds of maki as well as an assortment of nigiri and sashimi, displayed on a festive wooden boat. The decor is a fun under-the-sea theme, and the full bar serves up a great selection of cocktails, beer, wine and sake. 1500 Oregon Pike, Lancaster; (717) 393-9727.

In a hospitality-driven place like Hershey, PA, you’re bound to find tons of great restaurants. So, it’s no surprise that one of the region’s top sushi spots is here: Sakura Do. Everything on the menu is dressed up with extra flair, from the appetizers (baked green mussels with dynamite sauce; soft shell crab with ponzu sauce) to the specialty rolls (the Wild Desert roll, a California roll topped with spicy tuna, smoked eel, masago, scallion, sesame seeds and drizzled with special sauce).  There are dozens of different rolls, both raw and cooked, to choose from, as well as grilled hibachi entrees, soups, salads and more. 1144 E. Chocolate Ave., Hershey; (717) 534-2099.

Tadashi Sushi, with two locations in State College, is an excellent choice if not everyone in your group is in a sushi mood. Hot appetizers, ranging from shumai to deep-fried oysters to crispy purple sweet potato fries, are fun to share, and a large selection of sushi and sashimi is available, including a chef’s omakase tasting menu. Ramen, stir fries and great vegetarian options round out the menu. Don’t miss the lunch specials, running Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, which include any three rolls for just $12.75. 206 W. College Ave., State College; (814) 862-9111.

Western PA

You may already know Wholey’s for its PA-famous fish sandwiches, but did you know there is a tiny sushi stand inside the market? Andy’s Sushi, run by Andy Nguyen since 1997, offers a menu with simplicity and freshness at its core. Stop by any day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to try some of Andy’s acclaimed sushi rolls, and enjoy his big personality. Choose from nigiri, maki and combo rolls, or from one of the popular Sushi Lunch Box options. For a taste of Pittsburgh pride, try the House Special Roll, with one of Wholey’s deep-fried fish cakes, avocado, cucumber and crab, with fresh salmon on top. 1711 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh; (412) 281-8772.

For party vibes and late night snacks, Umami, a cool izakaya in Lawrenceville, serves sushi until 10 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Options, like spicy Hokkaido scallop hand rolls and ikura (red caviar) with quail egg, go above and beyond the standard sushi fare. Plus, other snacks, like chicken skin robatayaki spicy tuna onigiri (rice balls) and pork rib ramen, put savory, umami-bomb flavor front and center. All of this goes exceptionally well with drinks, of which Umami has plenty! Try a cocktail – we’ve got our eyes on the Lychee Highball (Singani Bolivian brandy, lychee-infused sake, lemon, honey and seltzer) – or a carafe of cold sake, like modern craft brand ENTER.Sake’s Silver Dot. Little sake specialties, like the Falling Petal shot (sake with rose-hibiscus syrup) and the Sake Slushies, Japanese and craft beers, and a nice wine list means everyone can drink their favs long into the night. 202 38th, 3rd Fl., Pittsburgh; (412) 224-2354.

Ready to jam some crazy-good sushi? We are! Where’s your must-have sushi in PA? Let us know in the comments here or on the PA Eats Facebook page!

  • Feature photo: Nectar