Simplicity is key at the Melrose Avenue outpost of The Poke Shack. It’s simply all about poke, smoothies, and acai bowls – and its simply fresh and delicious, too.
The restaurant has two locations in Venice, but their Los Angeles location brings the fresh flavors of ocean fare to the shops and fun of Melrose. Diners can enjoy their eponymous poke, fruit-topped acai bowls, and a variety of smoothies. Note to Hawaii-lovers: you can also pick up a sugary but oh-so-uniquely island Hawaiian Sun soft drink here. Be sure to try the POG: passion fruit, orange, and guava.
Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., the small, white-tile walled restaurant offers delivery and online ordering options as well as ample in-store dining, both indoors and on a pleasant, secluded, behind-the-store patio. An angel-wing mural on one of the patio walls makes the perfect spot to pose for a post-poke photo.
But let’s face it, you’re not here for the angel wings, you’re here for the fish. Poke comes in Big Daddy or Little Daddy sizes, with a choice of bases such as white rice, brown rice, bamboo rice, mixed greens, kale, or seaweed salad. Once you’ve chosen that bottom layer, select from ahi tuna, salmon, albacore, spicy tuna, or shrimp fish. Vegetarian, or just not a fan of raw? The Poke Shack has you covered with a well-sauce tofu as an alternate main. With your protein layer selected, next comes the sauce: the house shoyu is reputedly the most popular, but spice lovers may choose a wasabi shoyu, sriracha aioli, or crunchy garlic. There’s also ponzu, truffle ponzu, and for those who want it as simple as possible, fresh lemon juice.
Friendly staff members are more than willing to offer toppings which are unlimited, and free, with the exception of avocado, which adds a not-so-whopping $1 to an order. Avocado aside, there are plenty of worthy topping choices to choose from including mushrooms, carrots, seaweed salad, serrano peppers, kimchi, kale, and red cabbage. Possibly the most unique topping is the delicate, zesty watermelon radish. Also available: macadamia nuts, edamame, cherry tomatoes, crispy onions, and mango. You’ll sometimes spot pineapple as an additional fruity option. For those who can’t get enough fish flavor, there’s also imitation crab and smelt eggs available. And don’t miss what The Poke Shack itself recommends: cucumber, white and green onions, sesame seeds or sesame oil, and just a pinch of zing from red chili flakes.
Whether you’ve gone spicy or sweet with the toppings, a smoothie is just the thing to follow the poke. Like the process of putting together your poke bowl, The Poke Shack’s smoothies are also all about building your own. Choose mango juice, soy milk, almond milk, or mango juice as a base, then select your fruit: pineapple, mango, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or bananas. A little extra whey protein can also be added to the mix.
Too early in the morning for poke? Then try an acai bowl, also available in large and small sizes, and featuring that same create-your-own process when it comes to a base: apple, orange, mango juice, soy milk, or almond milk are your choices. Each bowl includes acai berry pulp, blueberries, banana, granola, and a lovely, thick honey.
For a little bit of Hawaii – and a lot of fresh and raw fish – The Poke Shack delivers a beachy delight among the chic shops of Melrose.