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Poke Fresh: Built for island living

PokeFresh (Cook St.)

Poke Fresh opened in Cook Street Village on April 26, 2019, serving Hawaiian inspired bowls filled with fresh veggies, fruit, and Ocean Wise fish.

It’s the first restaurant opened by owner Aviv Guy, who recognized poke bowls were a perfect fit for Vancouver Island. Aviv was inspired to open his own restaurant in Victoria after returning home from his travels in Hawaii.

The journey of a new business owner includes inevitable challenges, but Aviv said Poke Fresh was “welcomed by the community with loving arms”. Not even one year after opening day, Aviv was navigating the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada alongside other local businesses.

“There was a huge drive in the community to support local,” said Aviv, “the days were long, but the kindness from every customer was incredible, people would order take-out and describe picking local restaurants to support each week. I was honoured to be a part of that, it was an emotional hurricane really.”

Aviv acknowledged that Poke Fresh was well positioned to weather the COVID pandemic as a restaurant already built around take-out options. He had always dreamed of opening multiple locations and in 2021, the opportunity to open a second location in Broadmead Village just felt right.

“We love being a part of Cook Street Village and opening in Broadmead Village has been a similar experience. The people are awesome, the vibe is great, we’re so happy to be here,” said Aviv.

If you have had a chance to visit Poke Fresh, it will come as no surprise to you that the energy at each location is upbeat. As soon as you walk through the door you experience welcoming staff, brightly coloured local art, and a rainbow of fresh ingredients.

What is Poke?

Poke/poʊˈkeɪ (pronounced ‘poh-kay’) bowls are inspired by Hawaiian cuisine. The Hawaiian word poʊˈkeɪ refers to the diced ingredients, typically seafood, but the variety of poke bowl combinations are almost endless–including avocado or tofu–so there’s really something for everyone!

When travelling in Hawaii, Aviv thrived off poke bowls, he said “to me, it hit all the checkmarks as a meal to be a part of your daily lifestyle—healthy, satisfying, and sustainable”. When he came back to Victoria, he noticed that while poke bowls had become popular in other coastal cities, such as Vancouver and Seattle, Victoria didn’t have nearly as much to choose from. He blended his appreciation and love for the food with the opportunity to share it here, and Poke Fresh came to be! 

Sustainability

Sustainability is a core value of Poke Fresh. Aviv was committed to environmentally conscious business practices from day one.

As a customer, you’ll notice that the fish on the Poke Fresh menu is Ocean Wise, and all the take-out containers are biodegradable–meeting both industrial and home composting standards.

Additionally, everything from the insulated water pipes and low-flow faucets to the post-recycled brochures and business cards help to make Poke Fresh as energy efficient as possible.

“When I came across Synergy Enterprises, I was excited about the opportunity to work with a local organization to ensure Poke Fresh met the standards I was striving for,” said Aviv, “becoming a green certified member of Synergy Enterprises was a super helpful resource as a new business owner because I was able to get ideas from the Vancouver Island Green Business Collective that I hadn’t thought of.”  

Something for everyone 

At Poke Fresh you can build your own bowl or pick from one of their menu options. One of Aviv’s favourite parts of the Poke Fresh menu is that it caters to a wide range of dietary needs. The restaurant made the switch to gluten-free tamari after realizing how many people appreciated the options Poke Fresh offered for gluten-free nutrition.  

Aviv’s go-to bowl is the Broke Da Mouth with avocado added. The bowl is named after a popular Hawaiian slang, “if something is really delicious, it ‘broke da mouth’” said Aviv, “I knew that had to be the name for my favourite bowl on the menu”. 

There’s also acai bowls to satisfy your something-sweet cravings, as well as Salt Spring Island Kombucha and local beer and cider options. A newer addition to the menu is the Hawaiian shaved ice which has been an especially popular choice among kids.  

What’s ahead?

Aviv is looking forward to another summer. “The place wouldn’t be what it is today without our team,” said Aviv, “we have the coolest staff, it’s a great working culture and customers get a sense for that. Even when the line ups get long, everyone’s grooving to the music in line, the vibe is always high”. 

The Cook Street Village location is a short distance from the ocean-side walkways spanning Dallas Road, but customers grabbing a seat at Poke Fresh aren’t missing out on a view, the local art offers a tropical escape even on grey days. This will be the Broadmead Village location’s first summer, and the staff anticipate its success.

Aviv plans on opening more Poke Fresh locations, but he’s not rushing it, “the goal is to grow at a rate where the quality isn’t jeopardized. Each Poke Fresh location is unique to its neighbourhood, but our standards for the ingredients, service, and environment is consistent.”  

In addition to the two locations, Aviv’s team loves catering and is looking forward to future catering opportunities as in-person gatherings become more common.

“I love being a business owner in Victoria, it’s a close-knit community, the accountability is high, there’s so much support for one another and it’s a great environment to be a part of,” said Aviv.

You can create a membership account in store or online for 10% off your first order, and download the Poke Fresh Rewards (by TapMango Inc.) mobile app to start earning points with every bowl.

Thank you for being here,

Alex Hughes* and Ricki-Lee Jewell, Victoria, BC Real Estate Agents

*Personal Real Estate Corporation

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