The popular spin on a traditional Hawaiian dish
By Maeve Pascoe
The Hawaiian poke bowl, served at Tsaocaa on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, is customizable but typically comes with cubed salmon, fresh mangoes, warm rice, and vegetables that are topped with spicy mayonnaise, a drizzle of siracha, and crispy onions.
Nearby, Wiki Poke serves a Nacho Poke- a poke bowl with salmon and tuna that substitutes the usual rice with chips.
These two dishes only represent two variations on the traditional Hawaiian meal. Today, poke consumption in the United States has skyrocketed, allowing for the success of restaurants serving their modern take on the fish salad. Hawaiian poke typically only consists of seafood, seasoning, oil, and vegetables, but the version most popular among Americans today is called the poke bowl.
There were only two poke restaurants in Philadelphia in 2016. Today, there are over a dozen poke restaurants in Philly and others on the Main Line.
“It’s a buzz right now,” said the manager of The Pokespot on Chestnut Street. “We are so new we just opened last year. We were really busy around then,” she added. Even now she said they get over 100 customers per day.
According to Yelp, worldwide there were 67 poke restaurants outside of Hawaii in 2012. In 2018, there were over 1,900 poke restaurants in the United States. In a blog post, yelp said poke businesses opened at a rate outpacing other restaurant categories such as ramen and coffee roasteries.
In addition, the food-ordering service Grubhub reported a 91 percent increase in average monthly popularity of poke bowl orders in 2018. A catering company, ZeroCater, reported a 78 percent increase in poke deliveries in major U.S. cities.
According to Foursquare data, the number of Hawaiian restaurants, including those that serve poke, doubled from 2014 to 2016 in the United States, meaning 700 Hawaiian restaurants on Foursquare in August 2016.