Aloha Poke, Are you looking for the longest line of lunch downtown? I’ve got the solution. You can enter into the Chicago French Market by the Ogilvie Transportation Center, and search for the crowd of people. You’ll soon see the line far enough that it’s immediately apparent where it will lead. However, there’s no doubt that it’s running around the corner towards Aloha Poke Co.
The tiny food stall first was opened in March and the crowds began to pour in fast. One day , I waited for about 30 minutes and a couple of days later it was nearly 45 minutes. All of this was for a collection made up of mostly raw materials, piled in the bowl.
The Poke (pronounced poh-kay) originated in Hawaii as a salad made of cut and marinated fish. It was an not-so-trendy food you could pick from a supermarket to grab an easy snack. It took off with the advent of Los Angeles a few years ago, and that’s exactly where Aloha’s Poke Co.’s proprietor, Zach Friedlander, first experienced it while on a trip to the west. “I had it in Venice Beach and loved it,” Friedlander declared. “Supertasty fresh flavors — like sushi in a bowl.”
After his return to Chicago the next day, he didn’t really think about poke for a while. He was instead the general manager for The Bedford at Wicker Park. However, he was unable to completely remove the poking out his mind. “I saw some demand for poke on the East and West coasts,” Friedlander declared. Thinking it was the right time and he wanted to make a splash, he took a chance in a tiny space in the French Market. He thought of the 13-by-8-feet area as a good launch pad. Then the crowds poured in.
“I’m completely blown away and humbled by it,” Friedlander stated. “I couldn’t even to expect the growth and fanfare we’ve got. Have five people in there, and each person has about a foot and a half of space.”
I was apprehensive about the Aloha Poke concept at first. What lunch could be worth waiting in line for over an hour? However, even though they’re expensive but it’s not difficult to fall on the bowls. The main issue is choosing which one to choose.
The menu is laid out in a similar way to Chipotle. You choose the size the rice you want, what kind of rice you want, greens, protein, and finally sauces. There are many options — two varieties of fish twelve toppings, seven sauces. There are three bowls for the house, which helps solve the dilemma of choosing.
A Crunch bowl ($14.50 for the largest size) is hard to beat. It’s basically a mixture of different textures – fresh cucumber soft edamame tobiko (flying fish roe) and extra-crunchy tempura onions. While rice provides an ideal base for the other ingredients, I personally prefer the crisp bite of the greens.
Its Volcano ($14.50) It’s just as good, swapping the contrasts in texture for a burst of aromatic and spicy components like jalapenos and fresh ginger, which bounce against each other in the manner of the balls of a pool. Its Aloha ($14.50) can be describe as good but it’s too sweet because of the pieces of pineapple.
With all the fancy equipment and gimmicks, it’s an amazing feat that the fish is able to be the star of the show. The salmon and the ahi tuna are fresh solid, hard, and lightly marinated. I didn’t bother to even try the tofu.
Friedlander isn’t completely on his own. He has teamed up with Big and Little’s, which helps to explain why the sauces are interesting. “Tony (from Big & Little’s) is the sauce boss,” Friedlander explained.
With the lines that are long and the long lines, it’s not surprising that Friedlander is considering expanding his business, but he’s not prepare to officially confirm any plans. If you’re thinking of trying the city, you’ll need wait in line just as well as the rest of us.