Poke Bowl brings Hawaiian trend to West Campus

Stephen Acevedo

People don’t typically associate raw fish with quick, on-the-go food, but Austin’s Poke Bowl is setting out to change that by providing the campus area with a quick and affordable poke option. 

For those who don’t know, poke is a salad composed mainly of sliced raw fish and spices. Manager Nhom Nguyen said Austin seemed like the perfect spot to serve up this cold dish. 

“I lived in California, and there’s a lot of places that do poke over there, but it’s still a little new to Austin,” Nguyen said. “So we wanted to bring it over here and introduce more people to it.”

Nguyen said Austinites will be especially receptive to poke because it makes for an especially healthy meal, and Austin is no stranger to health freaks. 

“If you work out or try to stay healthy, this is great food to eat,” Nguyen said. “Right now, a bunch of places like Applebee’s and Chili’s cook their food with a lot of fat and oil, and it’s not very healthy. Food like this is much better for you and it still tastes very good.”

Nguyen said they make a special point of bringing in fresh fish daily to ensure it’s always of the best quality for their customers. The folks at Poke Bowl also watch out for their customers by offering student discounts to anyone enrolled in school, not just UT students. 

“It’s not fair to only give discounts to UT students,” Nguyen said. “Even when kids come with their parents, we still give them the discount because they’re students too.”

Nguyen said although he and the rest of the staff are happy with how the restaurant has been running since its recent opening, they still plan on making a few changes. 

“Right now we’re waiting on our beer license so we can start offering people beer to enjoy with their bowls,” Nguyen said. “We are also working on an online ordering system to speed up the ordering process.”

Although poke is this restaurant’s specialty, the product they offer is pretty far from the traditional preparation of the Hawaiian dish, which is typically made with raw tuna or octopus tossed in a sauce and seasoning mixture. Poke Bowl adds salmon, tofu, shrimp and many other nontraditional proteins to choose from. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as these options make poke much more approachable for the casual fan who just wants something tasty and filling. 

The raw proteins are best because they absorb the flavors of the house-made sauces much better than the cooked shrimp or the tofu. The sushi rice and mixed greens combo makes for a great base that gives the bowl a nice refreshing flavor. As for the sauce selections, the spicy house special and the wasabi cream prove to be far superior to the predictable sriracha mayo and ponzu sauces. 

Although the product at Poke Bowl is very well executed, the pricing is a major issue. A regular bowl runs customers a base price of $10.50, and a large bowl is $12.50, which is already a little steep, and those prices quickly rise since some of the best toppings on the menu cost a full extra dollar each. When everything’s said and done, it’s hard to walk out of Poke Bowl without spending less than $15. That said, I would highly recommend students take advantage of the discounts offered whenever they decide to help themselves to some poke.