AVONDALE — A restaurant specializing in fresh poké bowls and other Hawaiian eats has joined Avondale’s Milwaukee Avenue.
After a two-month dry run, Poke Okie at 2945 N. Milwaukee Ave. officially opened for business last week. The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
It’s the second Avondale restaurant for husband-and-wife duo Peter Shen and Sarinporn Intongkam, who own Sipping Turtle Cafe, a coffee shop a few doors down.
Unlike Sipping Turtle, which serves sandwiches and coffee, Poke Okie is focused on customizable poké bowls, a Hawaiian dish combining raw fish with fresh toppings and sauce.
The bright, tropical-themed restaurant also serves smoothies, salads and small bites, including bacon-wrapped pineapple and takoyaki, a Japanese fried snack stuffed with octopus and topped with mayonnaise and eel sauce.
Shen said they make each dish with a proportionate amount of fresh seafood, toppings and sauce — “Not too much rice, not too much this, not too much that; everything is balanced,” he said.
The fish and other ingredients are sourced from local distributor Martinez Produce & Seafood, along with other nearby Northwest Side spots like Joong Boo Market and Lawrence Fish Market, Shen said.
The concept started with Intongkam. Though poké bowls originated in Hawaii, Intongkam got hooked on the raw fish dish growing up in Thailand, Shen said.
“I like poké, but she loves poké,” Shen said of his wife. “We visited many places, suburban ones and city ones, we tried all of them … and we tried [making bowls] many times at home; we used our workers as guinea pigs. We were happy when they were like, ‘That’s really good.'”
Poke Okie grew out of Sipping Turtle’s success, Shen said.
Shen and Intongkam opened Sipping Turtle at 2959 N. Milwaukee Ave. in spring of 2020, right as the pandemic hit. Despite all of the challenges facing small businesses, the coffee shop has become a “sustainable” community hub, Shen said.
Shen said that’s what gave them the confidence to open a second eatery dedicated to Intongkam’s favorite dish.
The couple signed a lease on the Milwaukee Avenue storefront in fall 2022 and wrapped up the city permitting process and renovations earlier this summer.
Poke Okie is open for dine-in, delivery and carryout service. So far, the restaurant is picking up mostly carryout and delivery orders, but Shen hopes that changes in the months to come.
“I’m a community-based person. I love people coming in, having conversations. So my dream … is to make Poke Okie one day a true cafe — a cafe in the sense that people come here to eat and talk,” Shen said.
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