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Sushi you donut want to miss

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Traditional sushi rolls are reinvented to create newly popular sushi donuts.

Lauren Taylor | The DePaulia

Traditional sushi rolls are reinvented to create newly popular sushi donuts. Lauren Taylor | The DePaulia

Traditional sushi rolls are reinvented to create newly popular sushi donuts. Lauren Taylor | The DePaulia

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Sushi donuts are not pastries – rather, they are sushi rolls formed into the shape of a donut.

The only current location where someone would be able to find sushi donuts in Chicago is at Simply Thalia located inside Block 37 off of State Street. Simply Thalia’s menu features three different kinds of sushi donuts: “the Chicago Loop,” “the Red Line,” and “the Blue Line.”  The Chicago Loop ($8.95) has salmon, white tuna, avocado, red tobiko, cream cheese and masago mayo stuffing; the Red Line ($7.95) has spicy salmon, red tobiko, scallions, avocado, and cucumber stuffing; and the Blue Line ($7.95) comes with spicy tuna, ocean blue mayo, unagi sauce, imitation crab, and spicy wasabi mayo stuffing.

Eugene Fritz, 48, is the owner of Simply Thalia and said sushi donuts were in high demand even before he added them to the menu.

“Early last year I had some tourists ask if we or anyone in Chicago sold sushi donuts, which I didn’t know about at first, and told them no,” Fritz said. “It wasn’t until like five more people asked about sushi donuts before I did some research. (I) tried some when I visited family in California during the spring of 2017, then when I came back it was put on the menu about two weeks later.”

Fritz says the first weekend Simply Thalia premiered the sushi donuts, the chefs made over 5,000 – and they all sold out.

“We don’t sell out like we used to last year, but they’re still a popular item because we’re the only location that’s doing sushi donuts. I think our next competition when it comes to doing sushi-stuff like us would be a sushi burrito restaurant,” Fritz said.

Selma Hernandez, 24, works at Simply Thalia and recalls working the weekend the sushi donuts premiered on the menu.

“I remember it being crazy,”  Hernandez said. “Everyone was on staff, there was always a line outside the restaurant – people taking pictures would have their flash setting on,It kind of felt like a storm of people: their flashes were lightning and the stacks of dirty dishes being thrown in the sink was thunder.”

Hernandez remembers making around $500 that opening weekend.

“They’re still a really popular item, but business has slowed down over the year,” Hernandez said.

Lily Acuna, 20, and Anthony Carrillo, 21, walked in and grabbed seats at the red countertop bar. They talked a little louder than the soft jazz that plays over the speakers and got comfy in their seats.

Behind the countertop bar, Hernandez makes a martini for a separate guest. Hernandez talked to them about the specials of the day, walked away to deliver the martini and then came back to pour a beer for Carrillo.

They looked over menus under warm-light lamps and red lanterns that are laced along the ceiling boards. There are more lanterns in the windows near the entrance adorned with cherry blossom designs.

Acuna and Carrillo first went into Simply Thalia after they were holiday shopping this past year in Block 37. The cherry blossom lanterns were originally what caught Acuna’s eye when he and Carrillo were walking around, and they soon realized it was a sushi restaurant.

“We meet up about every other week, or at least once a month, to get sushi,” Acuna said. “We try to do new places, but this is our third time coming to Thalia’s.”

They’ve explored sushi restaurants around the Chicago Loop and their hometown of Berwyn.

“There’s some really good places by us, but we tend to explore more downtown sushi restaurants,” Acuna said.

Acuna orders the Thalia dumplings and the Blue Line sushi donut. Carrillo hesitated at first, and then ordered the Floridian Cruise roll.

“Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the sushi donuts because they tend to fall apart, or it’s kind of weird to cut, or you have to use a fork,” Carrillo said.

“The sushi donuts honestly taste fine and I usually try to order something new everywhere I go, but I end up ordering the Floridian Cruise roll most of the time when I come here.”

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