Popular Hawaiian Cuisine Makes Its Way to the North Side
Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photographer: Jamie Sangar
Now you don’t have to travel thousands of miles away if the desire for traditional Hawaiian cuisine suddenly strikes. Just head to Main Street Poké on the north side – its Carmel and Fishers locations both opened last year, and Carmel General Manager Ashley Ryan says both restaurants have been met with enthusiasm by locals.
“We’ve been received so well,” she says. “We have a lot of people from Avon or Plainfield now that will drive all the way to the north side just to get some poke.”
In case you’re wondering, poke (pronounced POE-kay), which means to cut or slice in Hawaiian, refers to raw, diced fish, usually marinated and sometimes tossed in veggies and rice.
“It’s basically like an unrolled sushi wrap in a bowl,” Ryan adds. “Traditionally it’s small pieces of fish diced up, but we have other proteins as well at our restaurant like chicken and beef, and we also do tofu and complete vegetarian options. We even offer Spam, which is a big Hawaiian protein.”
Owner Dave Tang, a California resident who also owns the Vitality Bowls chain, found himself craving poke each time he visited Indiana on business throughout 2015 and 2016, and began discussing the possibility of opening the state’s first poke restaurant in Carmel with Vitality Bowls manager Brinna Voege.
“Poke restaurants are absolutely huge out in California – there are as many there as there are Starbucks here,” Ryan says. “The owners decided to add a Midwestern flair to the menu here to help ease people into the idea of poke, and we’re actually more of a California-style poke restaurant. I think because people can customize their own bowls, they’re able to ease into the idea of it.”
The restaurant’s interior is as bright and colorful as the dishes it offers, and diners typically start with a base of rice or spring mix, and then pick from a variety of proteins, sauces and a range of toppings like pineapple, kimchi, sweet onions and wasabi. Ryan says house favorites at the Carmel location currently include a traditional tuna and salmon marinade, seaweed salad and edamame toppings and a spicy mayo sauce.
“We also just introduced some pre-made bowls, so if a customer feels a little overwhelmed by creating their own, we have four or five selections that are basically the staff and owners’ favorites,” she says.
Tang officially opened the Carmel location in the heart of the Arts and Design District last May, and the Fishers opening followed in December. Ryan says the owners hope to have at least two additional Central Indiana locations up and running by the end of this year.
“The Arts and Design District is a great place to be, and I think that area near IKEA and Top Golf in Fishers is an exciting place for the Fishers location right now also,” she says.
The key to the restaurant’s success thus far is due to more than just the novelty of being the first of its kind in the state, according to Ryan.
“That has certainly been a factor in why people have responded so well, but I also think that because our ingredients are so incredibly fresh and because we prep our fish every morning for that day, I believe people appreciate having such a fresh, colorful and healthy bowl,” she says. “And because we have such a variety, like gluten-free and vegan-friendly options, I think that makes people happy.”
Main Street Poké is located at 110 West Main Street, Suite 106, in Carmel, and at 8594 East 116th Street, Suite 30, in Fishers. Visit mainstreetpoke.com for additional info.