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[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

Lawrence Fish Market

3914 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago IL 60625 (map); 773-267-6838
The Short Order: Freshly made takeout sushi.
Want Fries with That? Keep away from anything fried here.
Want Ketchup? Just a few packets of soy sauce.

Take-out sushi is a risky proposition. I'm completely over the avocado and cream cheese stuffed kind that's rice-heavy and found at supermarkets packed in plastic with dried out ginger and off-green wasabi.

Why I used to love the stuff is hard to understand, but I eventually got so repulsed I swore sushi off completely outside of a few bites at expensive restaurants were I knew things were made properly. Because of the prices, I can usually only afford the indulgence a couple times a year.

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But what if you could get affordable sushi from a fish market? I heard about Lawrence Fish Market last week while searching around Yelp. From what I could tell, it was a regular fish market most of the time, but moonlighted as a takeout sushi spot with spectacularly cheap prices. Everything was made to order. All you had to do was call ahead.

Of course you need a menu to order but since they didn't have an official website, all I had to go off of was this very hard to read handwritten menu. The prices were shockingly low. You can order platters of sushi that start at $20. But I wanted to avoid as many California rolls as I could.

So I ordered 12 nigiri (4 salmon, 4 red snapper, and 4 halibut) and three rolls (salmon, spicy tuna, and cucumber) and much to my surprise the total came to $20.

The shop is in Korea Town on the Northwest side. It's a very small storefront that feels more like someone's living room than a fishmonger. Magazines were strewn across the counters; a space heater was parked awkwardly in the middle of the room. There was nowhere to sit.

This is a takeout joint, and they shift sushi across the counter at an astonishing pace. I didn't have time to take any pictures because I walked through the door, paid at the counter, and was handed my food in a matter of a minute.

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The colorful platter was not only enormous, but looked fresh and vibrant. I was tempted to dig in as soon as I got back in my car. I somehow managed to wait until my kitchen before I popped off the cover.

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It was only there that I noticed what few Yelp members had already pointed out. It's a little, how should we say, haphazard. What looks like an immaculate platter of sushi turns out to have jagged edges, fillings that are spilling out, and rice that has already tumbled onto the tray. I suppose you get what you pay for.

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Though their knife skills may be lacking, I found the quality of the fish to be really high. I'd advise skipping the elaborate rolls and going for the simple rolls. The spicy tuna roll had too much rice, but both the salmon and cucumber rolls were clean and delicious.

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As for the nigiri, the salmon and red snapper were perfectly proportioned and delicious. The halibut suffered from being a tad chewy which was probably caused because they were so thickly sliced.

Though inconstant, The Lawrence Fish Market is that rare takeout sushi place that takes the time to make everything from scratch and the simple rolls and nigiri speak for themselves.

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