Hashtag #Poki Brings Healthful Fast Food to South Berkeley

Hashtag Poki in South Berkeley.
Hashtag #Poki in South Berkeley. (Kim Westerman)

On the corner of Telegraph and Prince, in South Berkeley, Mokka, a local family-run coffee shop, recently closed, citing high rent. But folks in the neighborhood, of which I am one, tend to think that the Starbucks that went in a mere two blocks over, is what slowly did them in. Regardless, the sweet little café is gone, and in its place has arisen a promising new fast-food spot: Hashtag Poki or #Poki. Despite the implicit Internet reference in the name, the restaurant doesn’t yet have a website. Furthermore, it’s not clear what the actual name of the place is or how to search for it, which is either a really clever allusion to a post-Twitter universe or just a somewhat comical oversight.

But the food is a welcome addition to the neighborhood’s culinary landscape. Here’s the drill: You line up, choose a bowl size (mini=1 scoop protein; reg=3 scoops protein; lg=4 scoops protein), then tell the friendly crew what you’d like. Each bowl comes with your choice of a base (white, brown or sushi rice or salad greens), two sides (crab, wakame/seaweed or ika/squid salad or edamame), any combination of protein scoops (raw: salmon, tuna, albacore or hamachi (yellowtail) or cooked: tako (octopus), shrimp or tofu). Next, the fun part: all the mix-ins, toppings and sauce combinations you like.

Hashtag Poki’s busy dining room, with an assembly line of servers.
Hashtag Poki’s busy dining room, with an assembly line of servers. (Kim Westerman)

We ordered two regular bowls, one with a base of sushi rice, crab salad and edamame for sides and tuna, shrimp and hamachi for proteins — the proteins all mixed together with jalapeno, green onion, masago and seaweed, tossed with a combination of ponzu and yuzu sauce. (Sauces are dashed out as “light,” “medium,” or “heavy"; we chose medium.)

A bowl with hamachi, tuna and shrimp on sushi rice.
A bowl with hamachi, tuna and shrimp on sushi rice. (Kim Westerman)

The second bowl had a base of brown rice with tako, hamachi and salmon for proteins, and wakame and ika for sides, topped with cucumber, green onions, and seaweed and tossed with “original” sauce, which is just soy sauce and sesame oil, the closest you can get to a traditional poke dressing. (Another question is the spelling of “poke/poki.” The restaurant uses an “i” at the end, but the most common Hawaiian spelling uses the “e.”) The impulse of this place, though, despite its name, is more Japanese than strictly Hawaiian, more donburi bowl than traditional Hawaiian raw-fish presentation.

A bowl with salmon, octopus and hamachi on brown rice
A bowl with salmon, octopus and hamachi on brown rice (Kim Westerman)

Both bowls were served in takeaway containers, which is not ideal if you’re planning to dine in. But since the restaurant doesn’t serve wine or beer, we took our bowls home to enjoy with a drink. For both of these reasons, lunch is probably a better choice here than dinner.

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There are a few options with pre-determined ingredients if you don’t feel like trying to figure out the best combinations of flavors.

My advice is to keep it simple. The fish is quite fresh, so it doesn’t need much to adorn it. And at $10.95 a pop, these simple, wholesome bowls are quite appealing for a quick meal.

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Hashtag #Poki
3075 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705 [Map]

Ph: (510) 536-4376

Hours: Mon-Sat, 11:30am-8pm; Sun, 11:30am-7:30pm

Price Range: $$ (entrees, $11-$17)


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