In the middle of State Street, a college student hang-out in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, there is a small restaurant just off the main road. Nestled between a larger restaurant and Four-Star Video Rental at 309 North Henry Street, you'll find Chinmi Japanese Restaurant. Although the building is a little seedy-looking, don't be fooled. Within you'll taste some of the best Japanese cuisine in the Madison area for dirt-cheap prices.

The place is easy to spot. In the front there is a large glass display case containing plastic food. Lots of plastic food. Almost every item on the menu is displayed, looking absolutely delicious. As you step in, you'll be asked whether you'd like to dine in or carry out. Unless the place is full (which can happen rather quickly, it only seats fifteen), choose to dine in. You'll be given a glossy, durable menu and left to admire the various Japanese scrolls and paintings hung from the walls. If you'd like something to read, there are free copies of local (or used-to-be-local) newspapers such as the Isthmus and The Onion stored in a rack in the corner.

Chinmi serves a wide variety of dishes. You can choose from their list of maki and sushi. There are also the entrees: sea-food dishes, curry rice, soba, onigiri, gomae, bento boxes, and many others. If you're there during lunch-hours on a weekday, try one of the lunch specials. All of the selections are delicious, and the portions are generous. For drinks, Chinmi offers Sapporo beer, sake, tea, and soda.

Many people in the Madison area swear by another Japanese restaurant called Wasabi's in the same area. I prefer Chinmi, however, for several reasons. First, Chinmi's sushi and maki selection is about the same as Wasabi's, and Chinmi's menu is more extensive. Wasabi's is busy enough that sometimes reservations are necessary. That's not a problem at Chinmi. Another consequence of Wasabi's popularity is that you'll need to wait a rather long time for your food to arrive. Also not a problem at Chinmi. Personally, I like the taste of Chinmi's food better than Wasabi's.

After eating, there are plenty of attractions along State Street to distract yourself with. Right next door is the Four-star Video Rental store, which has an entire section devoted to anime (all subtitled). A block down you can find the Madison Civic Center, which contains an art museum and several theaters. Of course, there is plenty of shopping all along the street. And, there's always one street musician or another to be found.

The restaurant is open every day except Tuesday from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM. Pretty much any time is good, but if you want to eat for less, go on weekdays from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM, when you can get a lunch special. You also may have to take out your food Saturday evenings, the place gets packed pretty quickly. Remember, like all restaurants in Madison, there is absolutely no smoking in Chinmi. If you don't feel like going out, the restaurant also offers free delivery within a five-mile radius. Quite convenient!

Chinmi Japanese Restaurant
309 North Henry Street
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 294-9484

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