While Chipotle and Subway dominate the to-go scene, a new sushi restaurant plans to stir up the competition.
Tamaki Custom Sushi and Wraps opened its doors Nov. 19 on East Liberty Street with lines of up to 40 students stretched out the door as curious patrons waited to sample the restaurant’s signature “Wolverine Roll.”
The restaurant is set up in a “fast-casual” format — similar in style to Chipotle or Noodles and Company — as customers see their order made in front of them with their choice of ingredients. Owner Frank Cheng, who operates several similar locations in Lansing, said speed and affordability are key components of appealing to a student population.
“We tried to fuse a lot of popular elements of Asian cuisine into our menu, so we are not the traditional Japanese sushi joint,” Cheng said. “People want something quick, fresh and affordable.”
Cheng said Ann Arbor provided a great location to expand his business due to its large student population. To satisfy students’ late-night cravings, the restaurant will stay open until 3:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Tamaki joins several similar restaurants on East Liberty Street that specialize in Asian cuisine, such as Tomukun Noodle Bar and TK Wu. Mei Chen, manager of TK Wu, said she had not noticed a change in business since the opening of Tamaki. She said her restaurant differentiates itself because it serves traditional Chinese food, whereas Tamaki serves modern fusion.
“College kids come here because the food is very nice and the portions are large,” Chen said.
LSA freshman Jacob Wellner enjoyed the food on his visit to Tamaki, but noted the long wait compared to alternatives, such as Chipotle.
“Sushi can’t be prepared as fast as burritos, so there was a lot of backup,” Wellner said.
Despite the stiff competition, Cheng said he plans to open other Tamaki locations in the Ann Arbor area in the future.