Restauranteur Gai Klaimongkol thinks this is the perfect time to introduce his popular poke fresh fish salad bowl concept to Memphis. This spring, he will open ‘Ono Poke Hawaiian Bowl at 3145 Poplar Avenue inside Loeb Properties’ Shops of Chickasaw Gardens retail center.
Renovations are underway now, and a grand opening for the Memphis location is expected by early May.
Poke originated in Hawaii as food favored among surfers for a protein-filled grab-and-go dish in between surfing runs. The concept spread to the mainland and is catching on in more and more cities.
“I went to Vancouver; Chicago; Austin, Texas, and some cities in California, and there were poke’s everywhere,” said Klaimongkol. “Here in the South, it’s not that famous yet, so I thought it would be a good opportunity the first one in Memphis.”
‘Ono Poke’s fresh fish salad bowl’s will feature raw salmon, tuna or albacore tuna with greens and vegetables over rice or noodles. Toppings will include items like edamame, avocado, ginger, nori, a variety of sauces, and more.
“It’s a really simple comfort food that you can grab and go,” said Klaimongkol, who has also added a vegetarian option called the Buddha bowl to the menu.
The 1,200-square-foot restaurant will only seat about 15 to 20 since the focus will be on take-out rather than full service.
“I’ve been searching for the right spot for the restaurant, and I wanted it to be on a main street,” said Klaimongkol. “In our new location, we are not too far from Midtown and not too far from East Memphis.”
He expects to be open by early May with a potential mid- to late April soft opening.
‘Ono Poke will be the first solely owned by Klaimongkol, who was a co-owner of Skewer, the first ramen restaurant in Memphis, until it closed last year.
A big priority for Klaimongkol will be to keep things as local as possible, and he has contacted local vendors about using their products.
“I want to help local businesses grow,” he said. “If local does not support local, (the community) will not be strong.”
He plans to hire about 10 employees for ‘Ono Poke over the next month.