By the end of the summer, Zach Friedlander wants Aloke Poke Co. locations all over Chicago. He’s planning an aggressive expansion plan with his raw fish bowl restaurants to open in Lincoln Park and Hyde Park in June; then inside the Shops at North Bridge in River North, The Loop, near Loyola University’s Rogers Park campus, and in suburban Naperville will follow.
“Every major intersection will have poke within a decent 10-minute walk by the summer,” Friedlander said.
If all goes well, Friedlander says he and his team will open 14 new locations by the end of the year. Those include one outside of Illinois, but Friedlander wasn’t ready to reveal where, only sharing that it’s part of a larger food hall project, like the one he’s part of in The Loop at Revival Food Hall. Folks avoiding fast food, red meat, and those wanting something different for lunch have embraced the fast-casual restaurants.
But that’s not all. The original Aloha Poke, inside Chicago’s French Market, has also moved across the aisle, seven feet away. It’s quadrupled in size and will soon offer office catering and delivery options.
Friedlander has expanded his entrepreneurial skills over the last year. He opened the French Market location in March 2016, and opened locations in Revival, Lakeview, and in Evanston, and added cold drinks from Matt Matros’ Limitless Coffee & Tea. And while the concept of an Asian-inspired raw-fish bowl was at first novel, Aloha Poke has also seen its customer base change.
“We’ve noticed that our demographic has changed from being the health-conscious yoga fit-goers into a younger crowd,” Friedlander said. “We’re even enticing a lot of older guests.”
With more and more Chicagoans gaining familiarity with poke—thanks to Aloha and competitors like FireFin Poke Shop—Friedlander hopes the negative noise decreases. He doesn’t see poke as a trend. It’s just that poke finally has introduced itself to the Midwest.
“We’re just out serving good food,” Friedlander said. “Hate all you want, we’re not going anywhere.”
Here are some of the addresses ticketed for Aloha Poke locations:
- 818 W. Fullerton Parkway, Lincoln Park (former Bee & Tea)
- 5221 S. Harper Court (Hyde Park)
- 6460 N. Sheridan Road, (Loyola/Rogers Park)
- 303 W. Madison St. (The Loop)
- 520 N. Michigan Ave. (The Shops at North Bridge in River North)
- 215 S. Washington St. (Naperville)