Searching for a new favorite Northern Michigan restaurant? Check out this tucked-away sushi spot, The Dojo, in Traverse City.

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The Dojo still feels like a hidden gem, having just opened in December at the off-the-beaten-path Long Lake Culinary Campus, about 15 minutes from downtown Traverse City. The once-vacant elementary school has been reimagined as a hub for regional food businesses, including The Dojo’s neighbor Food For Thought.

Within the first week of opening his classroom-turned-eight-seat restaurant, sushi chef and owner Brent Shafer already had a slate of regulars. There’s the guy who comes in twice a week for the pickled daikon hosomaki (single item roll) and a stream of west-side locals dropping by to grab dinner to-go.

Owner of Dojo Sushi

Photo by Dave Weidner

Sushi

Photo by Dave Weidner

Sushi being dipped into soy sauce

Photo by Dave Weidner

Sushi

Photo by Dave Weidner

Approachable classics like California and Philadelphia rolls sidle up alongside Shafer’s favorite, the seven-spice tuna roll. It’s packed with mango, cucumber, avocado, togarashi (a Japanese spice blend with chili, orange peel and sesame), lemon and citrusy ponzu sauce. The tuna gets seared with a blowtorch before being served—an intimate pre-meal show for customers sitting face-to-face with Shafer at the dining counter.

Shafer, a Traverse City native and self-proclaimed former chicken nugget kid, first experienced sushi on the job at Panda North, where he worked before joining the team at Red Ginger. Now at the helm of his own kitchen, “I’m living the dream,” Shafer says. And we’re glad he’s on a roll.

Dojo Sushi logo

Photo by Dave Weidner

Preparing sushi

Photo by Dave Weidner

The Dojo Sushi building

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner