Poke is all the rage these days, and Poké Bar — now with over 20 locations around the United States — is one of the most rapidly expanding chains focused around the trendy Hawaiian raw fish salad.
The Daily Meal had the chance to chat with founder Chris Lim about popularity of poke, his favorite toppings for his own bowl, and what’s next on the agenda for him and Poké Bar.
The Daily Meal: What would you like for your guests to ultimately gain from their Poké Bar experience?
Chris Lim: We want to Poke Bar to be a lifestyle change by allowing them to eat healthier amidst their busy lives. We are living in a super-fast-paced environment, specifically in the Bay Area, where most of us are chained to our desks all day. You need something that you can eat fast that still gives you the right nutrients your body needs. We’ve had to sacrifice health for convenience, but not anymore. What tastes good can now be good for you too!
How have you made Poké Bar stand against the other "quick poke" spots and competitors?
We just made the poke experience easier and more enjoyable for our guests by focusing on the best basic ingredients. Many of our customers think that's what makes us better than other poke shops. We are currently the largest poke chain with almost 30 locations nationwide.
Why do you think poke has suddenly gained so much traction in the last year?
Poke is a healthy, easy option that tastes great. There are also hundreds of different ways to customize your poke bowl to make it just the way you like it.
How do you base your decision in terms of locations for your restaurants? Why did you choose Santana Row for your latest Poke Bar destination?
Santana Row is a popular destination, and we go where the demand is.
What initially sparked your interest in the food world?
I love eating good food with people who appreciate it. It’s the best thing in the world. Wherever I travel — Hawaii, Korea, New York, Japan, Europe — the first thing I do is find the best places to eat. I wanted to be able to share that passion and experience with hundreds, thousands of people.
How often do you eat poke yourself?
I eat our fish every day to ensure its quality and freshness... but with all of our expansion I do not get to eat poke as much as I’d like anymore.
What are you favorite toppings and mixings to put in your own poke bowl?
I like tuna, salmon, and octopus with as many vegetables as possible. Then I top my bowl with ponzu sauce (a must!), sweet chili sauce, fried onion, and garlic... and of course avocado.
Do you prefer salmon or ahi and why?
If I had to pick, fresh ahi.
With so many food trends lately, where do you think we will be heading in the next few years?
I think now it's all about eating healthy. Food trends have to be hip and cool but still healthy and fast.
What other upcoming projects and initiatives do you have in the works?
We just put an “opening soon” sign on 1333 Broadway, in New York City right next to Shake Shack. We’ll also be opening at one of the most well-known tourist spots in the world soon — but I can’t disclose that location just yet.