If you are a student looking for a delicious and healthy meal that won’t break the bank, then look no further than the Poke Bar. This restaurant is sure to fill your heart—and stomach—with nothing but great vibes and happiness.
“I just love it when customers come in and tell me to go crazy with their bowls,” said owner Jasmine Nguyen. She opened Poke Bar last November in the Dunes Retail Center, near Cal State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). “I love the area and the history. You can see the old Fort Ord buildings right outside our window; that’s why I picked this spot.”
Nguyen is a CSUMB alumni and a born and raised Monterey native. She loves seeing all the students come into her restaurant and eat all the poke they desire. Nguyen started a punch-card program so that the more bowls you buy, the more bowls you can get for free.
The restaurant is run in a build-your-own sort of style. You start off with the size of bowl you want. Let me tell you that a medium is more than enough for one person, and if you’re getting a large, it’s probably to share!
Each customer gets to choose which base they would like for the start of their bowl. The choices are: white rice, brown rice, and spring mix. You can even mix-and-match with the bases. If you choose rice, I suggest getting the rice seasoning that they sprinkle on top. It is delicious.
There are two sides that you can add for free, a sweet seaweed salad and a pile of delicious shredded crab. These two add some filling to the dish along with delectable flavor and vibrant color.
When you choose a medium bowl, you choose three proteins to add to your base and sides. These proteins are: salmon, tuna, albacore, shrimp, and even octopus. There are also vegan and vegetarian options, such as tofu. All of the fish is sushi grade and always fresh.
If all of that isn’t enough, you can add a variety of mix ins to your poke bowl to freshen it up. Fresh vegetables like green onions, edamame, and avocado can be added in.
To top it off, you can choose a delicious sauce that you want to top your bowl with. There are also a selection of crispy toppings to add. My favorite topping is the crispy green onions, they complement the rest of the dish.
Not only is the food delicious at Poke Bar, but the people there are friendly. Most of the employees are CSUMB students that are working to get through school, and all of them were wearing the biggest and brightest smiles from the minute I walked in.
“The staff is like a family to me, and I really love poke. It’s really nice to work at a place that is a ‘fast-food’ alternative. All the food here is very healthy, and I’m a kinesiology major so I have to plug being healthy,” said Alyssa Hirasawa, a senior at CSUMB. She was full of laughter and smiles as the owner dragged her out of the back to talk to me.
“The best part of Poke Bar is the atmosphere,” said Victor Manzo, another CSUMB student, “We get tons of students in here, especially on the weekends”. Manzo says he loves his job at Poke Bar, and that Nguyen is one of the best bosses he’s had.
“We never had a grand opening. We just opened and people started to come in,” said Nguyen. She explained that they were going to have a big opening, but they never did because they were so busy with the people that piled into the restaurant.
“I see people walk by all the time super intrigued. They’ll walk by us twice or three times before stopping in because they have to try our food,” said Manzo. He continued to say that he enjoys when people come into the store and love the food because it gives him joy.
The Poke Bar was a thrilling and wonderful experience. The employees and owner are so nice and care deeply about their customers. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking for a healthy, fast-food alternative or simply a fresh bite to eat.