First things first – what exactly is poke?

Pronounced “poe” as in Edgar Allen, and “kay” as in, “OK, I would like a bowl of poke now.”

All right, now that we don’t sound like a Hawaiian tourist, poke bowls usually include raw tuna marinated with sesame oil and soy sauce and served with fresh vegetables and rice.

The new twist on a Hawaiian tradition puts the ingredients in a burrito-style seaweed wrap, kind of like a large piece of uncut sushi. They’re often referred to as sushi burritos.

Jimmy Chen, owner of Poke Burrito, is bringing his third location to 1025 Lake St. sometime in May or June, he said in a telephone interview.

Chen, a sushi chef who launched the sushi restaurant 153 Akira in Wilmette about a decade ago, said he has been working on the Poke Burrito concept for about three years now.

He opened his first Poke Burrito in Lincoln Square, 4301 N. Lincoln Ave., late last year and a second location in downtown Chicago, 423 S. Dearborn, within the last couple of weeks.

“What makes us different is everything is customizable,” he said, noting that patrons can build their own poke bowls or burritos and add or remove ingredients from any of their five house creations. Poke Burrito also uses fresh fish, not frozen, Chen said.

He said that the restaurant also has cooked dishes for those who aren’t so keen on eating raw fish.

Poke Burrito also aims to serve beer and wine, he said.

Oak Park is a “perfect fit” for Poke Burrito, Chen said, noting that he first began thinking of bringing the concept to the village a few years ago, when he helped Pete’s Fresh Market, 259 Lake St., with its sushi deli counter.

“I helped them build the sushi concept at Pete’s nine stores,” he said.

He first thought of bringing the poke concept to Chicago after taking a business trip to New York and seeing the popularity of poke there. He said poke also has taken off in Los Angeles.

Oak Park’s Poke Burrito will probably operate from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., like the other locations, but Chen said that might change once he gets a better sense of the community.

“When I was a sushi chef, I wanted to do something that was healthier and fit today’s trend,” he said. “The main thing is that the food tastes very good and fresh.”

David King, of the commercial real estate firm David King & Associates, represented the building owner in the lease transaction.


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