A lot of times when you hear the name “Poke” you think of Hawaii and California. At least that’s what I think when I hear the word. I think west coast vibes, surfers, surf boards and waves. Poke is not a common name you would associate with the Midwestern city of Cincinnati. However, after one of the owners, Baret, took a trip to Hawaii and tried the locally known dish that changed things for the Queen City. Poke Hut was then born!
Poke Hut is Born!!
Sally, Baret, and Ryan quickly became close and all bonded over their love for food. Sally and Ryan grew up together (family friends). For starters Sally, grew up as a restaurant child. Her parents, immigrants from China, moved to the states and opened and operated a Chinese restaurant. Sally manned the restaurant by herself at the age of 11 years old when her parents went out of town. She always dreamed of one day owning her own. Fast forward to college and an internship at P&G…Sally meets Baret, who worked at GE, and after some time of dating, they became engaged.
In Spring 2016, Baret took an impromptu trip to Hawaii with his brother and close friend. It was there where they first tried the locally known dish, Poke which is Hawaiian for fish salad. Little did Baret know, this would one day become a restaurant concept he and fiancé, Sally, would own. Soon after, Baret, Sally, and family friend Ryan (who is obsessed with food and was a sushi chef for 10 years) joined forces (Like Power Rangers) and BOOM!… opened what we know as Poke Hut, located at 1509 Race Street, Unit 104. OOHH, did I mention Sally and Baret have full time jobs at P&G and GE?!
Diversity is Key!!
Diversity is one of six key factors at the forefront of opening a new restaurant. What is fun about Poke Hut is it is a fusion restaurant of Hawaii meeting China. Ryan, who is the owner and operating manager on duty, is also the in-house chef that comes up with most of the menu items. However, the three owners also allow employees to make suggestions. Everything is locally sourced. They do not order anything precut or precooked. The salmon comes in whole and Ryan fillets the fish in house. They cut all the veggies by hand and even make their own fried onions as a topping option. They even have some of the décor sourced and made locally. The tree stumps that are in the back at the family table and used as the divider between the ordering line and seating are all from Blink. They wanted a natural and organic feel to their establishment. Along with a natural organic feel to the inside, they are working on an outdoor seating area as well. One of their employees owns a wood shop, so he will be making the table and chairs for this outdoor area. They also have a huge mural that incorporates Cincinnati, Hawaii and both of their careers in the corporate world.
If you are wondering, it is pretty interesting being an entrepreneur and working in the corporate world. However, Sally and Baret both agree that it’s the best of both worlds. The biggest appreciation they take away from the corporate world and tie into their restaurant is systems and rules. They realized the flow of the restaurant runs a lot smoother and everyone is happier with a system in place for day to day operation. They also love being able to be creative in their own business and that changes can be implemented as soon as possible.
Another awesome factor to this trio is they are big community supporters and supporters for fundraisers for a better cause. As many of us know, Puerto Rico was hit by hurricanes that did a tremendous amount of damage. In support of some of their staff being from Puerto Rico, they hosted “Puerto Rico Night” and will hold their 2nd one on September 28, 2018. This fundraiser benefits Vamo’ Puerto Rico. 20% of proceeds will be donated to “We are Juntos” Disaster Relief Fund. They also support Melanoma No More and will be holding an event for this cause on September 20, 2018 from 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm. 10% of proceeds will be donated to the Melanoma No More Charity.
I mean with a name like Poke Hut, the main dishes must be Poke inspired. At Poke Hut, they believe in #notradeoffs dining. They believe dining can be tasty, healthy, quick and affordable. No tradeoffs required between choosing convenience vs. time, taste vs. healthiness, or cost vs. quality ingredients. They offer poke in a fusion, fast casual style catered to the Midwest. Their menu is filled with fun items that incorporate their #notradeoff dining rule. We asked them what they would suggest, and they quickly raved about their Poke Bowls, Pokaritas, Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken, Pork Buns and Fried Plantains (sweet & savory). Tiff Squared must agree, ALL of these items are amazing especially the Fried Plantains and Popcorn Chicken. While they do have signature bowls, you can also create your own.
Sally is a Bubble Tea lover; therefore, having a tea bar in the restaurant was a must. They offer different kinds of teas and specialty drinks. Teas can come in a variety of flavors or cold or hot. Some of our favorites are the Taro Milk Tea with Boba, Thai Milk Tea with Boba, Strawberry Slushie, and the Strawberry Fruit Tea.
I guess Poke in the Midwest isn’t so bad after all! When you go into Poke Hut you don’t quite feel you are in Cincinnati. You will surely get a Hawaiian or West Coast vibe with a sprinkle of Cincinnati. They will provide you with excellent service, affordable food, and friendly smiles. Trying anything on the menu will be a real delight. We hope to see you there and don’t forget your delicious bubble tea on the way out.