Aloha Poke Co. is coming to Old Town, as they’re taking over the vacant restaurant space once occupied by Bacci Pizzeria at 163 W. North Ave. Founder Zach Friedlander shared the news over the weekend as he and his team served his popular raw fish bowls at Windy City Smokeout, the country music/barbecue festival. Not everyone wanted pulled pork.
North Avenue Beach visitors will have to wait for next summer to bring their meals with them to Lake Michigan, as the Old Town location should open at the start of 2018. Friedlander wants to expand his chain into a variety of Chicago neighborhoods. He’s armed with a hefty investment from Levy Family Partners and ambition to grow his brand. On Saturday, he was dressed in a short-sleeved button down decorated with pineapples, a reference to his hospitality group, Pineapples & Dreams. The brand, so far, includes Aloha Poke and Aviato Eats, an acai bowl restaurant.
While Old Town lacked a dedicated poke spot, other restaurants are catching the wave. Buzz Bait Taqueria (the collaboration between Lou Malnati’s Pizza and Kamahachi sushi) is now serving poke bowls alongside its fish tacos, just around the corner from the future Aloha Poke spot. There’s also a challenge from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, as they just unveiled ASAP Poke, a delivery-only virtual restaurant based out of the Intro Chicago space in Lincoln Park.
The competition energizes Friedlander, who knows some folks view poke as a fleeting trend. He hopes quality competition will thin out the school, only allowing for quality fish to remain in Chicago.
Bacci —and it’s giant-sized, greasy slices— had vacated the Old Town space in early 2014. Fast-food fans in Old Town still shouldn’t fret: Pop’s Italian Beef & Sausage is opening next month, past the alley just two doors east of Aloha.