New San Diego Restaurant Fuses Poke and Tacos

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POKE IT opens in Hillcrest

Hawaiian for “to slice or to cut,” poke is a traditional culinary staple that began on the islands and in recent years has taken San Diego by storm. Now, POKE IT is launching with a distinctive regional style of poke influenced by our unique “Cali-Baja” food culture. POKE IT is the brainchild of three Mexican-born sibling-entrepreneurs (Sarah, Isaac and Jose Abadi) and their two cousins (Zury Duek and Jose Cattan).

The Abadis tapped Tijuana-born chef Julio Rodriguez (Banyan Tree Resort, Playa del Carmen; Navio Seafood & Drinks, Tijuana; Alga Bien, Tijuana) to assist in the creation of POKE IT’s menu. Blending cooking techniques from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, the menu showcases completely defiant poke preparations of “ricetadas,” “riceburgers,” burritos, bowls and tacos. Paying homage to poke’s heritage while playfully incorporating a decidedly Cali-Baja distinction, POKE IT challenges the traditional thought of what poke is, delighting guests with new flavor combinations. Sushi rice is pressed and fried, forming the base of “ricetadas,” then topped with any number of combinations. POKE IT’s play on burgers utilizes thicker ricetada bases to sandwich together variations like ribeye teriyaki with cabbage salad, avocado and a kick of sriracha. Tacos are another surprise with crispy, seaweed panko hard shells that envelop thoughtfully crafted ingredients like salmon al pastor with, guacamole, pineapple-habanero jam, pickled red onion and sushi rice.

Courtesy Photo

POKE IT’s build-your-own menu provides an opportunity to fully customize your meal. The “Poke Yourself” ingredient bar knows no bounds ranging from proteins like salmon, octopus and ribeye to toppings including fried jalapenos, grilled corn, edamame, seaweed salad and beyond.

While considered to be fast casual in style with an order-at-the-counter format, POKE IT’s everything made in-house credo lends itself to more of a modern craft casual kitchen, where guests are invited to sit back, relax, and enjoy a rotating selection of sake, beer, agua frescas, michelada, or a “sakerindo” cocktail with tamarind agua fresca, sake and a chamoy rim. A daily happy hour offers deals on beverages from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m., including $2 beers and $5 sake. For dessert, choose between fresh fruit paletas, Japanese mochi ice cream and fried churros.

To celebrate its entry into the Hillcrest neighborhood, POKE IT has teamed up with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s newly remodeled Station No. 5 to host a public grand opening event on Saturday, July 7. The all-day party will serve as a fundraiser for the San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation, the nonprofit arm that helps provide crucial equipment and training to San Diego first responders that is not available through the city’s budget. Guests can try the Station No. 5 dish, created by the firefighters.

POKE IT is located at 690 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103 and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with happy hour offered from 3 to 6 p.m. daily. For more information visit www.pokeitsd.com, or call (619) 773-6486.

Michelle Stansbury is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer. Feel free to reach out to her at [email protected] with story ideas!

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