5 places to introduce your family to poke bowls

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year-old daughter, Viva, who will gladly finish your wasabi if you can’t handle it.

Poke, pronounced “Poh-KAY” (like “okay”), is a Hawaiian treat involving a bowl (or now a taco, burrito, or even an ice cream cone) full of sushi/sashimi fish and a variety of sauces, vegetables and other assorted goodness the menu or your whims dictate. While Chicago is a long way from the Aloha State, poke seems to be our new official dish, because you can’t swing a tuna without hitting a new poke bowl spot. There’s even poke bowls in the grocery stores now — and while the Mariano’s take may not be as adventurous as many restaurant versions, it’s hard to find a bad poke bowl. My family is hooked, and even 6-year-old Viva looks forward to this generous helping of deconstructed sushi and mesmerizing combination of colors, aromas and mouthfeel.  

Be warned that it’s not the least expensive way to have lunch if you’re also buying for the wife and kids. You’re looking at a minimum of $8 a throw, and I’m an aggressive eater so it’s usually $13-$15 dollars for me. But it is healthy, fun, tasty and a bright collection of flavors as the weather also gets bright. I couldn’t begin to list all the poke places in town, but here are a few great places to start:

Aloha Poke

Here’s the one that began the craze and has since exploded all over the city. You can’t go wrong with the well-textured “Crunch Bowl,” and I’m partial to adding all the spicy things possible to their dishes. There are locations in Revival Food Hall, the Loop, French Market, the Shops at North Bridge, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Hyde Park and Evanston. Like I said, this stuff is popular.

Poke Burrito

Sushi in a burrito seems like the perfect North American way to wolf down the bounty of the pacific. Give a poke burrito a shot at this Lincoln Square place. (They’ve got traditional bowls, as well.)

423 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago

Pokiology

Afraid you won’t get full or you’ll spend too much? This Uptown spot from the owners of Angry Crab give you more big island band for your buck and all kinds of topping options.  

4600 N. Magnolia, Suite C

Big & Little’s

How about poke tacos instead? Big & Littles has you covered in River North, Lake View and Wicker Park with tuna, salmon and steamed blue crab versions. (They’ve got all kinds of other things on the menu, too, if your family isn’t as poke crazed as you are!)

Poke Ono

This place opened in November near Northwestern’s campus. It’s got a friendly Hawaiian vibe, and wall art of Hawaii and Chicago’s favorite son, Barack Obama. They claim to have “righteous poke” and they don’t disappoint. Give the steamed garlic shrimp bowl a try for a flavor combo that might be new to you.

1630 Chicago Avenue, Evanston

Nota Bene: The poke ice cream cone I mentioned is available at the hyper cool nightclub, rooftop and eatery, Joy District, so likely your Kindergartener won’t be trying this one yet. Give it a go with a date, though! 

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