Since the Poke Bar opened two months ago in Middleton, the restaurant has become something of a hidden gem among local diners, something that makes owner Evelyn Jian happy.
“I like the way they describe us as their secret,” she said.
That’s not to say she’s not trying to get the word out about the new restaurant in downtown’s Middleton Center.
“We absolutely want more people to know about us,” she said.
So, what should people know? Poke Bar is open for lunch and dinner six days a week (it’s closed on Sundays) and serves poke bowls, a traditionally Hawaiian dish that combines rice, protein and veggies into a light, refreshing meal.
Jian said about a third of the people who come into the restaurant haven’t heard of a poke bowl (pronounced poh-KAY), which she describes as “deconstructed sushi.”
How it works:
- Start with a base of rice (or greens if you prefer salad)
- Choose a protein (anything from raw tuna and salmon to cooked chicken and shrimp)
- Mix in some veggies
- Add toppings (everything from nori flakes to wasabi to shredded cheese) and sauces (the chili mayo is a popular pick)
If diners don’t want to make their own bowl, they can choose from Poke Bar’s signature bowls like the Seafood Mix (which includes salmon, tuna, shrimp, scallops and octopus), the California Bowl (veggies plus imitation crab), or the popular Teriyaki Chicken Bowl.
Jian said she’s always working on the restaurant’s menu, adding new things that people might like and removing items that aren’t as popular. Future menu items could include a poke sandwich or poke hot dog or perhaps some brunch specials.
“I always want to do some innovative or creative poke-related food,” she said.
Poke Bar is Jian’s first restaurant. She wanted to open a smaller space with easy, accessible food and was initially looking at a café or salad bar before deciding on poke.
“Poke is the food that I do best,” she said. “It’s so free, you can do whatever you want. It’s so casual but it looks so good.”
Jian said she hadn’t actually heard of poke until she came to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Living in Verona, she wanted to open a restaurant closer to home, but also said she was attracted to downtown Middleton because it has a good mix of classic establishments and new developments like the Middleton Center, which brings people into the heart of the city.
“I like this area,” she said.
Among Middleton’s new poke fans, the feeling is mutual.
Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.