The first time Memphis Garrett tried poke — real Hawaiian poke, pronounced
"Getting poke was just part of the trip. Everyone was talking about it," Garrett, the
The first dish didn't come from one of the nationally known
Throughout his trip, Garrett stopped for as many renditions as he could, each one purchased from an austere establishment in a no-frills to-go box. Gas stations and convenience stores on the outskirts of Maui offered fresh poke alongside poi (mashed boiled taro root) and Spam sandwiches. Mom-and-pop
When Garrett returned to the mainland, the California resident began counting the
"At first, none of us were thinking, Let's open a poke restaurant," says Garrett, a former director of operations for SBE, the hospitality company behind SLS Hotels and Katsuya. "So when work brought me to Hollywood [Florida] to open Hyde Beach Kitchen & Cocktails, I honestly just missed it."
Garrett not only missed poke, but he also wanted to create a fast-casual
"We want to be a one-stop shop, the best place in town to get
Building a brand was not easy. It took more than a year to conceptualize, but Garrett is confident Poke House will garner admirers. It's all about doing one thing and doing it well. He plans to expand locally first, with two outposts slated for Boca Raton and then South Beach.
At Poke House, the setup is simple: everything — even grabbing a bottle of sake — is DIY. There are no servers, just a long wall of booths across from the counter where orders are placed. The surf-themed space is designed with beachy artwork, parrot-print wallpaper, and a glowing neon sign that reads "Poke House" in pink cursive.
You can either check off selections on a printed menu or tell the person behind the counter what you want, à la Chipotle. Only trained chefs work behind the glass barrier. Garrett says he's most concerned about quality and speed, so at the end of the day, he'd rather pay someone $5 more per hour to do it right.
The most difficult part of ordering is making a decision. With more than 20 ingredients to choose from, options range from seaweed, sesame seeds,
You can keep it simple and choose a new-school signature version, each one named for beaches around the world. They all include generous hunks of raw ahi tuna served with sticky white rice, green rice, black rice, or quinoa.
There's the Cocoa Beach Florida, made with fresh hamachi marinated in spicy passionfruit salsa
The Sunset Beach Hawaii is closest to the original: tuna marinated in simple sesame oil and soy sauce with sliced radish, serrano chili, red onion, scallion, and avocado accented with sesame seeds, pickled ginger, and slivers of nori. The tuna, delivered fresh daily, tastes like it was just plucked from the sea, the firm texture and delicate flavor highlighted — not masked — by a light, well-balanced sauce.
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The menu extends beyond bowls, with options including miniature tacos, a trio of steamed buns, and even nachos. Soon, a pokerrito too — a new menu item that's one part poke, one part burrito currently in the works. It's all good, but the Pipeline nachos stand out. Homemade wonton chips are drizzled in a creamy chipotle mayo and topped with fat slivers of salmon, salsa, scallions, cream cheese, red tobiko, and avocado. Nothing about it is nacho-like — it's far better.
If all of that fusion is too much, there's also traditional Hawaiian poke: chunks of tuna marinated in secret sauce and served by the half- or whole pound.
"For a market that doesn't know
Poke House 666 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 754-200-4555; thepokehouse.com. Lunch and dinner daily 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunset Beach Hawaii poke bowl $10.95 (regular) / $14.95 (large) Build your own poke bowl $9.95 (regular) / $13.95 (large) North Shore steamed buns $9.25 Pipeline nachos $10.25