With Japanese city pop music playing from the speakers, anime on the TV, and takoyaki frying in the back kitchen, Tomo Japanese Street Food in Evanston emulates a casual dining spot in Osaka, Japan.

After Tomo opened its doors on Sherman Avenue last spring, the restaurant quickly gained popularity, facing long lines and plenty of online orders.

Penny Mohr and her husband Chris co-own the restaurant and decided to relocate to Evanston after their food stall in downtown Chicago shut down due to the pandemic.

On our visit, Tomo treated us to some of their most popular items and each one transported us to the bustling street food stalls of an Osaka marketplace.


The first dish to come was the takoyaki: a fried, ball-shaped snack made with octopus and wheat-based batter, topped with bonito flakes, nori (seaweed) flakes, Japanese mayonnaise and tonkatsu sauce. The light and crispy exterior surrounds a velvety interior of fresh batter and tender octopus. It mirrored traditional Japanese takoyaki, and it was the perfect start to our meal.

Alexia Kadota-Browner

Karaage Bento Box

Then came the karaage (fried chicken) bento box, complete with rice, a cabbage salad and gyoza. This dish shines in the details: black and white sesame seeds sprinkled on top, freshly chopped green onions and perfectly crisp gyoza wrappers. Unlike many restaurants, Tomo fries all of their karaage in-house.

Alexia Kadota-Browner

Tonkatsu Ramen

Next, the tonkatsu ramen, their most popular menu item, and one of our personal favorites. It featured house-made chashu (pork belly), creamy umami broth, sweet corn, green onions, bamboo shoots and a savory soft-boiled egg. The warm, rich pork broth seeped into the smooth yet bouncy noodles, perfectly complementing the marinated, soft-boiled egg. The bamboo shoots and corn also added necessary crunch to each bite, and the pork belly was everything we wanted — salty, juicy and fatty.

Alexia Kadota-Browner

Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu

We ended our meal with the matcha green tea tiramisu. Dusted with a rich matcha powder, this cake did not not skimp on the matcha flavor. The light and airy lady fingers balanced out the dense green tea filling, and it was the perfect way to end our savory, jam-packed meal of pork, fried chicken and octopus. All I can say is green tea and tiramisu are a "matcha" made in heaven. 

Alexia Kadota-Browner

Located five minutes from Northwestern's campus, Tomo aims to be the new casual Japanese dining option for students. Chris Mohr says he doesn’t want Tomo to simply be a place to eat though.

“We like to think of Tomo as a place for students to come in and relax and enjoy themselves with friends.” he said.

Although the restaurant only opened recently, Chris Mohr has plans to expand what Tomo can offer — additional seating, karaoke in the back and a bar are some ideas he shared with us.

Aside from what we tried, Tomo also offers udon, rice bowls, stir-fried noodles and oden — a classic winter-time dish in Japan  consisting of fish cakes, soy broth and marinated egg.

Especially now as the weather gets colder, Japanese comfort food becomes the perfect meal to grab with friends or alone. Whether you choose to order a piping-hot bowl of ramen, a plate of takoyaki or something else entirely, Tomo is sure to warm the soul.

“Everyone is welcome here,” Chris Mohr said. “We have food that will fit every taste, so each person will find something that they enjoy.”