Trendy, tasty tropical cuisine…in Columbus, Ohio? Thanks to the Hai Poké Food Truck, it’s now a reality in the Short North and downtown neighborhoods of the city that’s called the Crossroads of Ohio. Mico Cordero, co-founder of Hai Poké, took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us and discuss his experience working with Nile Woodson, Founder, and their thriving 9-month-old start up. “Our vision for Hai Poké is to serve authentic island-inspired street foods,” says Cordero.
Poké, pronounced “poh-KAY” (rhymes with okay), is the Hawaiian word for “section” or “chunk.” Also called “surfer sashimi,” the dish is so popular all over Hawaii it’s even sold in grocery stores and convenience stores. “It’s an easy-to-eat, on-the-go food,” Cordero says.
The Hai Poké Food Truck serves three varieties of bowls, all served over sushi rice and accompanied by seaweed, scallions, spicy mayo and Hai Poké’s signature power soy sauce. Bowls include Poké Bowl (marinated sashimi-grade ahi yellowfin tuna), Tofu Bowl (marinated tofu) and Veggie Bowl (avocado), and all are served with pickled cucumbers, spicy bean sprouts, onions, jalapeños and crispy wontons.
Woodson first ate island-inspired street food when he visited Hawaii, and later when he traveled on the West Coast. After graduating with a degree in business from Ohio State University, he decided to build a business around his passion for fresh, healthy food. After Woodson paired up with Cordero, they began conducting “kitchen takeovers” through a local bar, eventually buying a food truck and taking to the streets of greater Columbus.
Why is this raw food suddenly red hot? “It’s very much on-trend with the desire to customize your meals, and everyone seems to love everything that’s served in a bowl these days,” Cordero says. “People might be familiar with sushi or sashimi, but this offers a different twist on a familiar concept. Plus it’s light and fresh, so it carries that ‘health halo’.”
Try it for yourself
Cordero has a few tips for operators who want to incorporate this trendy new item on their menus. First, be sure to include the opportunity to upgrade their dish by encouraging customers to add options like toppings, sauces and proteins. If you’re new to the world of raw fish, reach out to sushi restaurants in your area and ask for recommendations of distributors and resources. Finally, if you’re just getting started, connect with other local start-ups and leverage each other’s products and services.
Poké popping up
Consumers are hooked on this new food trend, and it’s not only in Columbus, Ohio. With poké making the top 12 menu trends spotted at the 2016 NRA food show, we should expect to see this cuisine popping up more.