Scroll through your recently viewed ‘foodstagrams’ and it’s guaranteed that you’ve seen a photo or two of Poke. Poke is one of the trendiest foods as of late. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, it is a Hawaiian salad traditionally prepared with raw fish and typically seasoned with Asian flavors like soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and green onions. You could call it a “sushi” salad.
Salmon poke bowl with brown rice, cucumber, avocado, diced mango, edamame & seaweed salad.
This food trend has been sweeping the West Coast (largely due to its proximity to Hawaii compared to the East) but it has been slow to transition over here in NYC. Pokeworks recently opened its doors to its first NYC location on 37th street in Midtown. Finally, New Yorkers do not have to go to San Fran to pick up the elusive Sushirrito (yes, that is a sushi burrito). Let the NYC lunch gods rejoice! The last trendy lunch shop to expand to NYC was Chick Fil-A and let’s just say people haven’t exactly been flooding the gates since they failed their last health inspection. Now, conveniently located just a few doors down you can get your quick sushi fix at lunch time (or maybe not so quickly per my experience).
I am a huge sushi fan. I could eat it pretty much everyday if I didn’t have my father’s voice in the back of my head warning me about the risks of mercury poisoning. When I heard about this opening, I knew I had to go. When Monday rolled around I couldn’t jump out of my desk chair fast enough at lunch time. We decided to try to wait out the ‘early’ lunch birds and left around 1:15 pm figuring that the lines would be shorter as most people would have gone earlier. Boy, were we wrong. The line was all the way down the block. I was baffled. We decided to stick it out. Having waited on Chick Fil-A’s extensive yet fast line before, we figured it would move at a similar pace.
45 minutes later and I could honestly say we only moved a few feet. I couldn’t understand what would possibly take so long at a fast casual restaurant. I knew the volume of people was pretty hefty but the service should have been quick enough to offset it. When I finally reached the inside of the restaurant, I figured out why. The narrow and cluttered space allowed for the most disorganized of lines. People waited for their sushi bowls huddled on top of each other while others tried to squeeze by them in order to let the server know their order (bowl, burrito or salad). Once you ordered you were then forced back towards the front of the store just to come back towards the counter to instruct the server which ingredients you wanted. It was a mess. Honestly at this point the only reason why I hadn’t left was because I had already wasted and invested so much time. Not only was the system completely disorganized but the service was super slow due to the fact that the servers were having extreme difficulties wrapping each sushi burrito. Every time someone ordered one it held up the entire line. Not sure if they were struggling because they were under trained or because they looked super stoned… Either way, my patience was wearing thin by the time I had someone making my bowl.
All in all it took about 1 hr and 35 minutes for me to get my food which is completely absurd. Realistically, Pokeworks is too new and I probably should have waited until it was a little more established and had time to work the kinks out. Most patrons in the NYC lunch rush do not have longer than an hour to take a lunch break. I would not recommend this place if you are busy or have somewhere to be.
Was the food good at least? Yes, it was definitely good but I wouldn’t say it was life changing. The only complaint I had was that the brown rice in my Salmon poke bowl was a little chewy meaning it was over cooked. The salmon poke was really fresh and you could tell the fish was good quality. Pretty good for a large portion of food for only $13.00. I would go back but probably when it’s not as “cool” anymore. Give it a few months and that line will be gone.