By Clarice Ong | Contributing Writer

The newest Pokeatery location will open to the public in Downtown Walnut Creek on Saturday, March 24. (Courtesy of Beyond the Creek)

Ubiquitous in Hawaii, poke has recently piqued the interest of the mainland. The Hawaiian staple, which is quite similar to the more-familiar sashimi, is having its deserved moment in the American palate. The raw fish salad with fresh add-ins such as avocado and edamame was touted as healthy, and mainland Americans have tucked in. In the past two years, several poke restaurants have popped up within the vicinity of Saint Mary’s College. The newest to arrive in the poke scene is Pokeatery.

Located by Whole Foods in downtown Walnut Creek, Pokeatery held its soft opening on Jan. 22, 2018. Pokeatery is a poke franchise that started in San Mateo in 2015. They decided to branch out to Walnut Creek because of the energy and the culinary curiosity of people in the area. According to manager Znnia Gutierrez-Sanchez, the community has been very welcoming. The Walnut Creek location is now second in terms of profitability to the flagship location in San Mateo. They are more popular than the other franchise locations and have outpaced the Austin, Texas Pokeatery, which also opened around the same time.

When asked what she thinks makes them popular, Ms. Gutierrez-Sanchez credits the staff, the ingredients, and the food product. She praises the friendly staff who cheerfully infuse the restaurant with the aloha spirit. Indeed, when a customer walks into Pokeatery, he or she is welcomed with a breezy “Aloha!” paired with warm smiles. The staff is patient in explaining their selections and is ready to make recommendations to poke novices. Aside from the great customer service, Gutierrez-Sanchez believes that the high quality of their seafood is what makes them stand out amongst their competition. For instance, the salmon that they use is from Norway since the taste of the fish is cleaner, and the texture is the right amount of firmness. In the end, however, the food is just delicious and, to Ms. Gutierrez-Sanchez, a taste of home.

A transplant from Hawaii, Gutierrez-Sanchez finds that the poke that the restaurant serves is very similar to the poke from the general stores and poke stands that she frequented as a child growing up in the Waikiki area. Pokeatery offers ahi tuna, hamachi, albacore, salmon, spicy tuna, crab salad, spicy crab salad, shrimp, tako (octopus), and tofu for vegetarians. With bases like uala chips (sweet potatoes) and kelp noodles, mix-ins like limu (seaweed), sides like spicy edamame, toppings like kukui nut (yes, the very same kukui nuts used for leis), and sauces like wasabi citrus and spicy ponzu, the flavors of Hawaii very much take center stage. Even the trendy avocado toast gets a Hawaiian twist by being topped with poke: The resulting fusion is the pokecado. They also offer other Hawaiian products such as Kauai Kookie chocolate chip macadamia cookies, Hawaiian Sun drinks, and a selection of Hawaiian kettle chips.

Aside from the customizable poke boxes, the beverages and desserts also bring the flavors of Hawaii to the fore. Pokeatery serves freshly squeezed juices like pineapple and the popular POG (pineapple, orange, and guava). To finish the meal, Pokeatery serves Dole whips (“Just like at Dole plantation and Disneyland!” quipped Ms. Gutierrez-Sanchez) and Dole whip floats (the staff recommends POG juice with the Dole whip topping).

Their grand opening is on March 24, 2018 at 11 a.m. The first 100 customers to come in will get free poke bowls. They are also offering a “buy one, get one free” poke box deal all day for those who do not make the first 100 customers. Every customer will receive a free pineapple mason jar with a voucher for the next visit. Since that falls on the first weekend of the break, stop by and take advantage of their promotion. The staff recommends the customizable poke box ($12.50). Ms. Gutierrez-Sanchez suggests creating a poke nacho. What everybody agrees on is to have fun with building your poke box.

Though the warm days are still a few months away, Pokeatery offers the aloha spirit and one of the iconic foods of Hawaii. Enjoy the poke, dig into the Dole whip, close your eyes, and perhaps, just perhaps, you can imagine yourself in the tropics for a precious few minutes.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Sounds delicious!

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