Why a bowl of raw fish will be the next big thing in fast food

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Expect to see poké popping up everywhere this year.
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Sweetfin Poke/Facebook

If you haven’t yet heard of poké (pronounced POH-kay), that’s bound to change soon.

A wave of restaurants serving this Hawaiian raw-food specialty is about to crash into the New York City – and national – dining scene, bringing the next new phenomenon in fast-casual food. Sorry, boring old salad and Chipotle: the tides are turning.

Poké is a mix of raw cubes of seafood (usually ahi tuna or salmon) in a soy sauce-based marinade. It’s often garnished with seaweed, cucumber, avocado, or tobiko, and served over rice or greens. Ubiquitous in Hawaii – you can pick it up at grocery stores or even gas stations – poké is a deconstructed, flavorful version of sushi. It’s also generally healthy, endlessly customizable, and very pretty.


Like many Hawaiian exports, poké is on the cusp of hitting it big on the mainland. Already a mainstay in the Los Angeles dining scene, poké spots are popping up all around New York City.

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Shutterstock/EQRoy

Source: Gothamist


There’s a middle ground between quick salad bowls (think Chop’t, Just Salad, or Sweetgreen) and the more calorie-filled offerings of Chipotle. Poké bowls fit that niche: they’re flavorful, packed with protein, and don’t feel like “rabbit food”, but are still light and healthy.

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Kate Taylor

By allowing endless customizations, poké bowl restaurants are playing into our modern desire for new tastes and changing options.

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Kate Taylor

While sushi can cost upwards of $15 or $20 for anything more than a small, basic roll, most poké bowls are priced in the $10 to $20 range (depending on the add-ins) for a complete meal. If you balk at a low-priced raw-fish meal, remember: the restaurants are buying quality fish in bulk, reducing cost on both ends.

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Pokéworks/Facebook

For those concerned about health and quality — it is raw fish, after all — chefs and restaurant operators say that the more volume being served, the fresher the product can be. Consistent consumption means that the food doesn’t sit for more than a day.

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Julienne D./Yelp

Source: Eater


Finally, we can’t dismiss the fact that poké bowls are being served in, well, bowls. The bowl trend is well-documented (the Wall Street Journal recently proclaimed that “bowls are the new plates”), and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

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Emily H./Yelp

Source: The Wall Street Journal


Ready to give poké a shot? If you’re in New York City, you have three new options. Wisefish recently opened in Chelsea; similar to Chipotle, you choose a base (rice or zucchini noodles for the carb-conscious), a protein, and a variety of toppings, like fresh cucumber, crab, or seaweed salad.

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Raisa Bruner

Pokéworks, which opened in Midtown East in December, serves a quinoa or kale base option with unusual accoutrements like lotus chips or edamame. Sauces come in variations like sriracha aioli and umami shoyu.

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Pokéworks/Facebook

Sons of Thunder — also in Midtown East — offers octopus poké along with the usual tuna and salmon varieties (and hot dogs, for those less inclined to raw fish). And be on the lookout for Sweetcatch Poke Bar, which is reportedly opening later this year.

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Ashwin M./Yelp

For Californians, meanwhile, poké is already easy to find. In Los Angeles, try Mainland Poke, Sweetfin Poke, Ohana Poke Co, Poke Bar, or Poke Stuf, for starters. Eater LA reported that multiple restaurants converted to poké specialty shops just this summer.

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Sweetfin Poké/Facebook

Source: Eater LA