Foodies and foodstagram lovers have probably been hearing tons about Hai Street Kitchen, “Philadelphia’s first Japanese Burrito Bar,” since it opened at the end of May. But for those of you haven’t, picture Chipotle for sushi lovers. The cultural influence of Hai Street's rolls (or sushiritos, as fans like to call them) differ depending on the ingredients inside. The chicken, pork or steak options ($7.99-8.99) are comparable to a burrito with a Nori seaweed wrap instead of a tortilla, whereas choosing the shrimp, salmon or tuna ($7.99-8.99) as the main ingredients will essentially get you a tricked out sushi hand roll. Luckily for the vegetarians, the grilled Portobello mushroom choice plays for both teams. You can choose from their seven recommended rolls, or mix and match the ingredients on your own to create your ideal half–Mexican, half–Japanese food baby.
If you are not a huge seaweed fan, there is the option to get a rice or salad bowl instead, but honestly that’s a total cop–out. If you’re going all the way to 18th Street, you might as well get the real thing and enjoy it. Other offerings besides the bowls and rolls include chips with wasabi guacamole, sweet corn tempura or various types of miso vegetable soup. The pumpkin miso soup is currently available and for $2.99 is an acceptable addition if you’re making the walk from campus in the cold. The pumpkin element seemed more trendy than tasty, considering there was nothing particularly pumpkin–flavored about it, but it definitely included many more full vegetable chunks than your traditional side of miso soup. In general, the side dishes aren’t anything of note.
While its attempt to be seasonal is a bit feeble, Hai Street is doing a pretty good job branding itself as healthy. Most of the rolls are under or around the 500–calorie mark (yes, they are one of those places that include this on the menu board) and you have the option to swap in brown rice for no extra cost. Even better, everything is free of MSG and trans fats, and all the salmon they use is responsibly sourced to protect the environment and foster ecosystem health.
Overall, our sky–high expectations for Hai Street Kitchen were surprisingly, fully met. The biggest disappointment is that, once you get there, you have the choice of about four seats total, if no one else is already sitting down. The anticipation will be too high to walk, or even cab or bus, back to campus with your untouched sushirito. If the weather is nice, we recommend enjoying your roll on the benches at nearby John F. Collins Park (17th and Chestnut). Though hopefully we won’t have this problem for too much longer. Our sources at Hai Street told us they are “90% sure” they will be opening up in University City before the school year ends.