When Illinois weather takes a turn for frigid temperatures like the blustery winter days we've had lately, I find myself wishing I could go somewhere, pack up my bags and travel. For me, travel to new places comes with new adventures, new foods, and new memories. Travel doesn't feel right for me at this time due to the pandemic, but I can travel to faraway locations via sushi rolls.

You may be familiar with the California roll or the Philadelphia roll, but there are other great rolls out there with city names. I found five great destinations in the names of sushi rolls from C-U restaurants that are worth enjoying. Let's go on a sushi tour.


A sushi roll from Sakanaya sits on a white plate. There are four different kind of raw fish on top of the roll: pink tuna, peachy salmon, white and orange shrimp, and a white fish. The roll is filled with crab salad and avocado. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Windy City Roll | Sakanaya

All great travel begins in the Windy City of Chicago. Even flying out of CMI, many flights still have connections through O'Hare. So it makes sense that this sushi travel list would begin with a Windy City roll ($15). First off, this roll was stunning, breathtakingly beautiful with different raw fish topping an urimaki roll filled with spicy crab, avocado, and cucumber. The four kinds of melt-in-your-mouth fish on top gave a lovely sampler of raw fish, so if you want to try a variety of raw fish without ordering many rolls, the Windy City roll would be a good option.

I went right for the bright pink tuna pieces with a little mashed avocado, and I highly recommend it. The peachy salmon was so decadant atop the roll, and the shrimp and white fish (maybe halibut, I wasn't sure) were yummy as well. Each piece of the roll had a different flavor, and it made for an adventurous roll. The inside of the roll had a flavorful crab salad that was amazing. The slight heat from the crab was a slow, savory burn that lingered and went well with the avocado and cucumber inside the roll. You can put an order in order online here for pickup or here for delivery.

Sakanaya
403 E Green
Champaign
M-Sa 11:30 to 1:45 p.m. + 5 to 9 p.m.
Su 4 to 9:30 p.m.

An overhead photo of the Canada roll from Sushi Kame shows six piece of urimaki. There are sticks of cucumber poking out and an light orange crab salad. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Canada Roll | Sushi Kame

Let's take a trip North, eh? This Canada roll ($7.95) was made with crab meat, cucumber, avocado, and fish eggs. Let's talk aboot the roll. It was a fresh roll that was expertly rolled, not too tight. Crabs can be found on both coasts of Canada, so a crab meat filling was appropriate for the Canada roll. The crab was not crab sticks but a well-seasoned crab salad. The cucumber gave a nice texture and a vibrant flavor to the soft roll. The tiny beads of masago on the outside of the rice burst for an extra flavor and crunch.

You can put your order in online or you can call it in to 217-344-6022 for pickup. The restaurant is tucked into the plaza off Green Street between Neil and First Street. There's usually free parking available in the lot.

Sushi Kame
39 E Green St
Champaign
T-Sa noon to 3 p.m. + 5 to 11 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4 to 9 p.m.

This Mexican roll has yellowtail, cucumber, and large bunches of cilantro wrapped in white sushi rice. The roll is on a white plate with a navy wall behind it. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Mexican Roll | Moki Sushi

Let's head south to Mexico for this Mexican roll ($7.99) from Moki Sushi. This uramaki roll was made with raw yellowtail, jalapeño, avocado, and unchopped cilantro. The roll had a fresh garden flavor from the pepper and cilantro that paired well with the delicate flavor of the yellowtail fish. There was a mighty crunch — and serious heat — from the raw jalapeño pepper. For me, it was almost overpowering, so I pulled a few of the pepper slices out, but if you love jalapeño spice, this roll will get a fire going on your tongue. The creamy avocado provides a break from the dominating heat, and the roll had a wonderful cilantro flavor as can be expected when you visit Mexico.

Do note that the pre-order option online appears convenient, but minutes before picking up my order, in the parking lot, I got a notification that my order was cancelled. I was close to the restaurant, so I walked in and ordered. I did have to ask the sushi chef to put on a mask as he began rolling sushi bare faced, no mask in sight. He did put on a mask, but it may be best to order in person to make sure.

Moki Sushi
2017 S Neil St
Champaign
M-Th 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 3 to 10:30 p.m.
F  11 a.m. to 11 p.m
Sa 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

An overhead photo of the New York roll from Sushi Ichiban in a black plastic takeout container with ginger and wasabi. The roll has two pink fish wrapped inside seaweed with white rice and orange fish eggs outside. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

New York Roll | Sushi Ichiban

Another great travel destination is New York. This New York roll ($7.25) had salmon and tuna with masago on top. In typical NYC style, this was a no bullshit roll: just great raw fish wrapped up in rice and seaweed. My two favorite raw fish are salmon and tuna, so I absolutely loved this roll. Each of the six pieces was a big, meaty bite. The raw tuna and salmon did not have a fishy taste but a delicious flavor of buttery salmon and tuna. The orange masago gave little pops which was a nice touch for the simple roll.

I thought it was really good, and I would make it a must order for future orders from Sushi Ichiban. You can place your order in advance and set the pick-up time. The restaurant was set up for spaced indoor dining when I picked up, and all staff were masked. Because my order was over $9 (can't skip those crab rangoons or veggie tempura), I got a free can of soda. Orders over $18 get two sodas on the house.

Sushi Ichiban
619 E Wright Street
Champaign
11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily

In a white styrofoam container, there is an Alaska Roll from Sushi Kame. The sushi roll is topped with a lot of diced tomato plus a generous drizzle of an orange sauce. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Alaska Roll | Sushi Kame

I've never been to Alaska, but this Alaska roll ($8.50) from Sushi Kame might inspire me to book a trip. This is a cooked roll — and pretty sweet — so sushi newbies might enjoy this. The roll was made with salmon tempura, cucumber, and avocado and topped with diced tomato and a spicy sauce. It makes a lot of sense that an Alaskan roll would come with salmon. The smoky salmon was deep fried and had a light, flaky texture. The masago on the rice added a good pop, and the orange spicy sauce was delightfully not too spicy. 

The chopped tomato was quite unexpected (and quite plentiful), but it did add a sweetness and texture to the roll. 

Sushi Kame
39 E Green St
Champaign
T-Sa noon to 3 p.m. + 5 to 11 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4 to 9 p.m.

A tempura fried sushi roll called Champaign-Urbana from Sakanaya sits on a white formal salad plate. The interior of the roll shows a melted, creamy cream cheese middle with a light brown bubbly tempura outside. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Champaign-Urbana | Sakanaya

The best part of travel is coming home, crawling into your own bed, leaving suitcases for the next day, arriving back to C-U. This Champaign-Urbana roll ($12) is a deep fried roll with salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. The roll was still warm even when I took it home from the restaurant in two degree weather. Seriously battered (no bite of the roll was unbattered), this was a very creamy roll in the middle with a delightful tempura crunch on the outside. It was a big bite; the tempura batter added a lot of extra yummy to the roll and made it quite a mouthful.

It started with a crunch and a chewy bite, then I tasted the smoked salmon flavor, then enjoyed the creaminess from the cream cheese and avocado, with a sweet finish from the dual drizzles over top. If you like cooked salmon, you'll love this roll. Such a comforting, warm roll, this Champaign-Urbana roll tastes like home.

Sakanaya
403 E Green
Champaign
M-Sa 11:30 to 1:45 p.m. + 5 to 9 p.m.
Su 4 to 9:30 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.