Various meat and seafood prepared on a robata grill

It was only a matter of time before robata cooking made the leap from ancient Japanese tradition to plaything of River North’s spaghetti-strap set. Roka Akor and Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar land downtown this summer, and Japonais plans a robata lounge for its river-walk space. Each celebrates the ritual of watching your chef skewer meat or fish (kushiyaki) and cook it on custom-made charcoal grills. This is Roka’s second location (Scottsdale); Union, an indie, nabbed a former Sushi Wabi chef. Both places also promise sushi, sake, and shochu. Baby steps, folks. Roka Akor, 111 W. Illinois St.; Union Sushi, 230 W. Erie St., 312-662-4888.