Preparing sushi is a whole thing. Above all else, great sushi requires meticulous selection of ingredients, starting with the freshest and highest quality fish. There are some places on the planet where fish are sourced locally and the catch of the day becomes the start of the sushi roll. Colorado Springs is not one of those places. If you get handed a menu advertising “Colorado tuna” the safest course of action might be to call an Uber. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find great sushi in the Springs, and probably you’re reading this article because you Googled something like “best sushi Colorado Springs.” You’ve come to the right place.
Aside from the ingredients, the second most important part of the sushi mix is the chef. Not only is sushi an art, it’s art that is performed on the spot with extremely sharp knives. This is not McDonald’s. If you order at a sushi place and they bring the roll out in 10 seconds or less like it was a cheeseburger, you’ve come to the wrong place. This is good information, as Billy Joel might put it, from a man who’s made mistakes.
The third and final stage of sushi is as crucial as the first two steps. Once the dish is crafted, it’s presented with elegance and panache, and it’s important to take a moment to look at it. The term sushi stems from an ancient Japanese term meaning “sour-tasting” or “sour rice.” Initially, it referred not to a type of food, but a method of preservation. Fish was preserved in fermented rice, a process that not only extended its shelf life but imbued the fish with a distinctive flavor. It’s come a long way since then.
When it comes to what makes a sushi restaurant great, a good experience can satisfy the stomach, but a great one? That’s a whole other kettle of fish. Pun intended. With that in mind, let’s dive (yeah, that’s another pun) into my favorite restaurants for sushi in Colorado Springs.
5. Yoo Mae
Located downtown just around the corner from The Antlers Hotel, Yoo Mae has an informal, relaxed vibe and an impressively wide selection of lunch and dinner specials — including the sort of combo dinner plates that allow you to have a little bit of everything and leave saying something like “that was a lot of food” as if the food had somehow snuck up on you and got you to eat it without you knowing. In terms of sushi, what makes this place distinctive is the fact that it boasts 50 “State Rolls,” each of which is dedicated to a state in the Union. The excellent Colorado roll (shrimp tempura, cucumber, spicy tuna and avocado topped with red tobiko and drizzled in eel sauce), for instance, might be combined with the Idaho roll (spicy tuna topped with red snapper, baked, then drizzled with sweet wasabi mayonnaise and topped with, you guessed it, mini french fries). The standout, of course, is the patriotic Washington roll which is composed of spicy salmon and asparagus, topped with applesauce — and yes, those italics are mine. It presumably alludes to George Washington’s legendary apple tree episode. It’s better than you might think and totally worth a try.
4. Sushi Ring
Owned by Elvis, an effusive and energetic festive presence, Sushi Ring has been a mainstay of the Colorado Springs sushi landscape for decades. Tucked away unassumingly in a strip mall next to Angry Chicken (which is also excellent, but for spicy chicken, not for sushi), the place is a bopping hysterical experience, particularly on the weekend. The highlight is the all-you-can-eat option which is $30 for lunch and $40 for dinner. When I was there last I asked Elvis what roll is ordered most during those rollicking all-you-can-eat evenings. He did not hesitate: the dragon roll, made of eel, tempura shrimp and avocado. Try it once and find yourself a new place to dwell. Yes, that’s an Elvis reference. You’re welcome.
3. Sushi Row
The new kid on the Colorado Springs sushi block, Sushi Row opened in May 2023 and immediately made a splash. This very magazine heralded it as “totally worth the hype.” Having been touted as such by my colleague Warren Epstein — a gent with impeccable taste — I knew I had to give it a try, and I was not disappointed. The clear highlight of the menu is the Temaki Tacos: two open taco-style hand rolls with rice and your choice of protein. But equally special is the Kobra Kai (salmon tartare, pickled cucumber, lemon) even if it is named after the evil dojo from The Karate Kid.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the complex cocktail menu, which has on offer such delicacies as the Japanese Old Fashioned (featuring Mars Lwai 45, an excellent Japanese whisky, with ginger and bitters) and the Ume Mami (tequila, ume aka apricot, and lime).
2. Dozo Sushi
Dozo is a friendly neighborhood place on 8th Street where locals go on a Friday and Saturday night and find that it’s always somehow more crowded than you think it’s going to be. If you arrive before 4 p.m., get the Sushi Burrito (tuna, salmon, spicy tuna, chicken or beef rolled in seaweed with veggies and a secret sauce). And if you go for dinner and really want an adventure, order Omakase, which translates literally to “I leave it up to you.” The chef takes charge, starts with something light and then takes things into the complicated and wonderful. There’s no better restaurant at this price point in the city. Plus, it’s not just one of the best spots for sushi in Colorado Springs, it’s also one of our 30 Best Restaurants in Colorado Springs.
1. Sushi Ai
Located in the south end of the city just a few minutes from Fort Carson, Sushi Ai is the place where those of us who are serious about sushi head when we aim to eat some serious sushi. It’s a family run place where the service is always welcoming and everyone always seems to have the time to walk you through the intricacies of the menu and to offer advice. Along with a number of hibachi plates which make it the go-to place for lunch, there’s an impressive (and affordable) series of sushi dinner combo options that allow you to try a variety of things. Note — this is not a fast-food joint, despite its unassuming exterior, Sushi Ai is a high-end restaurant where people care about the food they make and their patrons. Nothing is pre-made and nothing is substandard; the chefs take their time and they do it right. Not to be missed.
Honorable Mentions: A Few More Favorites for Sushi in Colorado Springs
Owner Jun Aizu is the OG of Colorado Springs sushi, serving consistently delicious Japanese cuisine for more than 30 years. The rolls are always impeccable. The Dublin location feels like a more intimate sushi bar and ramen shop. The Teppan tables at the Centennial location are worth the entertaining experience.
It’s classy but laid back — maybe the place to go on a second date, or even a third. Stroll downtown afterwards and decide that relocating to the Springs was the right idea. A wide variety of vegetarian options make Fujiyama a place where everyone can find something, but save room for the specialty rolls, including one they call Something Wrong 69 that’s oh so right. The whole menu is half off 5-6 p.m. on Mondays. Get there early — lines can run down the sidewalk.
Nara Sushi & Grill
Nara took an extended closure during the pandemic, but the Westside favorite is up and running and as excellent as ever. Friendly servers and a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options make this the place to go to when you have that friend in from out of town (or maybe you are that friend) with complicated and overlapping dietary restrictions. If you’re celebrating, the sashimi combo is a feast befitting the occasion.
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