Word on the street — or on the window of what was most recently Novella’s Italian Restaurant and Bar — is that a ramen and sushi burrito restaurant will be opening soon.
The poster taped to the door of the longtime location of The Monkey Barrel at 115 Washington St. NE promises Zen Ramen and Sushi Burrito is coming to downtown Gainesville.
That raises the question: What is a sushi burrito?
Sushirrito claims to have started the trend in 2011 when it opened in downtown San Francisco. The restaurant, which says it’s “the original sushi burrito restaurant concept,” now has eight restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to the restaurant’s website, after growing tired of “pricey, time-consuming, sit-down sushi restaurants and pre-made options lacking quality and originality,” restaurant founder Peter Yen came up with the idea and has since sparked a nationwide trend that is still going strong.
A few places in Atlanta caught on and have opened in recent years, including Poke Burri, BORUBORU and a few different Poke City locations, all of which serve sushi burritos and other foods of the sort.
Seven Chan, co-owner at Poke Burri, said the first time he had a sushi burrito was when he was in Philadelphia.
He wasn’t impressed, saying he “hated it.” So, a few years later he teamed up with his friend and co-owner Ken Yu, to make a better product.
“I think it’s just a new, fun, different way of eating sushi,” Chan said. “It’s faster and I think you generally get more value for your money from it.”
Chan said a sushi burrito is fairly simple. It starts with a sheet of seaweed, or nori, that you’d find with a regular roll of sushi. Rice is then spread out in an even layer on the nori. Next, vegetables like avocado, cucumber and carrot are added and your choice of protein — salmon, spicy tuna, crab, chicken, tofu, shrimp — goes on top.
The last thing that’s added is the sauce and then it’s all rolled up like a burrito. If that sounds like a similar process to making traditional sushi, that’s because it is.
Chan considers himself and his restaurant “sushi burrito experts.” But that’s not the only thing served at his restaurant. He also serves sushi doughnuts and sushi pizza, which both include regular sushi ingredients, but are in the shape of their namesakes. Chan also has sushi corndogs on the menu.
Zen Ramen and Sushi Burrito, which has locations in Clemson, South Carolina, and Tacoma, Washington, doesn’t have pizza or doughnuts on its menu, but it does have the salmon crunch burrito, which comes with deep-fried salmon, cucumber, onion, crab, lettuce, wasabi sauce, eel sauce and sriracha sauce all wrapped in sushi rice and nori.
There’s also the tuna love sushi burrito, which comes with tuna, lettuce, cucumber, seaweed salad, crab salad, edamame, avocado and pickled radish.
Like the cronut before it, Chan said social media has been behind the sushi burrito craze. That’s how his restaurant has grown and that's how many people have found out about sushi burritos.
“People are posting and eating with their eyes first, all the time,” Chan said.
And he’s found that even if people don't want to try sushi, they’ll try it in burrito form. It’s something more familiar to them, even though it has the same ingredients.
“We take weird things that we can put together, but are approachable to people,” Chan said. “For some reason, they’re like, ‘I don’t eat sushi, but I’ll eat this sushi doughnut.’
“And then it turns out they love sushi.”