Poke Stop sure-footed as it catches first wave of Hawaiian-dining trend in Fort Worth

Less than two years ago, if you wanted to visit a poke restaurant around here, you had to drive to Arlington’s pin-dot-size Ahi Poke Bowl, the only spot in North Texas that specialized in the mixes of raw, marinated fish, rice, veggies and sweet and savory sauces.

Now, the Hawaiian-style dish has washed over our area in full force. More than a half-dozen poke restaurants are scattered throughout North Texas. Earlier this year, Fort Worth officially joined the craze: Our city’s first poke spot, the appropriately named Poke Stop, was born in a strip mall in north Fort Worth.

Opened by longtime pals Dat Bui (whose family runs Vietnamese hot spot My Lan) and Thai Nguyen, Poke Stop doesn’t offer much in the way of visual razzmatazz. Less than a dozen tables are jammed into a small, sparsely decorated room whose only lick of atmosphere is a mural of Godzilla tromping through Dallas.

But for those craving poke — as well as sushi, sashimi and ramen — this charmingly tiny restaurant has much to offer.

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Many of the new poke spots that have opened near and far are fast-casual: You make your way through a line, picking ingredients for your bowl as you go along.

Poke Stop, however, is a sit-down restaurant with a menu made up of signature bowls or a build-your-own option. Signature bowls cost $12. Most come loaded with more than a half-dozen ingredients, ranging from various types of fish (salmon, tuna, escolar) to assorted vegetables to several sauces. Those who prefer a simpler approach that may not take away from the fish can stick to the build-your-own-bowl option.

We chose the latter option, and I must say that I should maybe look into a career as a professional poke bowl maker, for my creation was staggeringly good, if I do say so myself. I mixed white sushi rice with ahi tuna, avocado, crab mix, mango, cucumber and spicy mayo. If I had a bigger ego, I would go on and on about how smart it was of me to, at the very last minute, add crispy onions for a nice crunch and subtle blast of salt.

This was a beautiful bowl of food. Each component was as artfully presented as it was incredibly fresh. The tuna itself, well cut into bite-size cubes, wore a simple marinade that allowed its reverence for the ocean to come through without being overly fishy. The bed of rice that propped up the other ingredients was admirably fluffy, not clumpy or dry.

The restaurant also serves a half-dozen varieties of ramen. A bowl of shoyu ramen ($10), outfitted with pork belly, corn kernels and a soft boiled egg split in half, was pleasant, but we found the broth to be too much on the thin, watery side and lacking the usual rich flavor that comes from a pork broth.

Much better was the Hamachi Zu sashimi ($9), consisting of a half-dozen pieces of yellowtail, thickly sliced into triangles, soaking in a citrusy ponzu sauce. They came crowned with cilantro and sliced raw jalapeños; a slow-burn heat simmered in my mouth without igniting it.

The menu lists a half-dozen items as appetizers. Best to not approach this as a “I’ll get to eat this first” endeavor but rather “I’ll get to eat this eventually,” as dishes come out randomly. From this portion of the menu, we tried the chicken karaage and fries ($7). I pictured popcorn chicken and fries mixed together, then drizzled with the promised spicy mayo and spicy ketchup. Oddly, the fries and chicken were separated and the sauces were on the side.

What it lacked in presentation, it compensated for in flavor. The fries were of the thick, golden (and once-frozen) variety, but sometimes frozen fries can be lit up with good seasoning, and these were no exception, as they‘d been sprinkled with just the right amount of salt. The chicken, too, was nicely seasoned with togorashi, and we liked its craggy, crisp skin and tender meat.

Service was good during our two visits but sometimes tentative. When asked several questions about the food, one of our servers had to make several trips to the kitchen to ask the cooks. Luckily, the place is so small, that only took a couple steps.

Poke Stop

  • -741-9611
  • Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Sunday