Poke, Hawaii’s favorite raw-fish appetizer, has made it to the Mainland in a big way in the last year, and as of this week, to a new fast casual restaurant in Santa Clarita.
Hoke Poke, pronounced like the wedding reception dance, opened its first SCV outlet on Newhall Ranch Rd. last week.
It’s the company’s first outlet outside of downtown Los Angeles, where it has its original outlet at 8th and Hope.
“We’re thrilled to bring Hoke Poke to Valencia,” said franchise co-owner Jim Phillips. “By opening the first location outside of Los Angeles, we’re bringing healthy, fresh poke to our community in Valencia. We think the brand’s fun, California take on a Hawaiian classic will excite our customers’ tastes, and we are proud to be part of the clean eating craze sweeping the state and the country.”
Los Angeles has been the epicenter of a boom in Hawaiian-themed eateries, with poke leading the way. According to the food and restaurant website Eater, the trend taps into “Americans’ growing demand for fresh, healthy, and globally-influenced food at affordable prices. Chefs and restaurateurs are also enthralled by the dish and are jumping at the chance to capitalize on it.”
Phillips and co-owners Bob Chevalier and Evan Regenstreif are owner/operators of five Chronic Taco restaurants in Southern California, including one in Saugus.
Phillips is a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff. Chevalier goes back a ways with Acuna, having coached him in youth basketball two decades ago.
Newhall Ranch Rd. is becoming Poke Road, with Hoke Poke joining With Poke To Me and Fish Tail Grill & Poke on the street.
At its most basic, poke consists of chopped raw fish seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil.
Hoke Poke serves only “responsibly sourced, sushi-grade fresh fish with local produce,” Acuna said.
“Customers can choose curated Chef’s Choice poke bowls or create their own using Hoke Poke’s proprietary homemade sauces and a wide variety of Japanese-, Hawaiian-, and California-inspired mix-ins,” Acuna said.
The restaurant’s options range from raw ahi tuna, salmon, and albacore to cooked shrimp, as well as marinated mushrooms and a custom vegan option.
In addition to poke bowls and burritos, Hoke Poke is featuring four varieties of boba tea, also known as bubble tea, made with flavored tapioca balls.
Acuna and business partner Darin Barton had been looking to start a restaurant for the last few years, and found the right concept on a trip to Hawaii for a wedding.
“We’re excited about the freshness and health factor of poke,” Acuna said. “Ours is a chef-driven concept. Lauren Haas, our holistic chef from Kauai, designed an incredibly healthy menu. All of our sauces are home made, and we’re 99 percent gluten and dairy free.”
Hoke Poke is opening a store in the North Hollywood art district this summer, and will expand to the East Coast by year-end with an outlet in Virginia. The chain hopes to open two more Santa Clarita outlets, one in Stevenson Ranch and the other on the east side of the valley closer to state Route 14.