Poke craze is taking over LA. With micro takeaway stands and food trucks, this healthy fast food option is now a mainstream food choice.

Looking for a healthy choice for dinner, a friend and I recently dined at Mainland Poke Santa Monica. The casual counter service eatery offered an airy casual vibe. I could tell we had made the right choice by the line at the register. The woman in front of us knew exactly what she wanted, as we watched her craft her own creation in a swift and decisive manner. Mainland Poke’s signature bowls feature popular menu items organized into specialty bowls. For the diner with discriminating taste (like the customer ordering before me), the “build your own bowl” is a great option.

Since we were new to this game, we ended up selecting two of the top sellers: Ichiban and the Three-way. We then decided to get artistic and create our own bowl – a beautiful array of color with a base of white rice and mixed greens, topped with ahi, salmon, albacore, octopus, mango, edamame, and jalapeños with black sesame seeds.

We shared the three dishes, which were all fantastic…and so fresh. The Ichiban bowl came with brown rice and kale as a base, along with fresh albacore, ponzu, wasabi aioli, pickled ginger, scallions, tobiko, and red alaea sea salt. It was a nice combo. The Three-way featured brown rice with Ahi, albacore, salmon, shoyu, siracha aioli, cucumber, scallions, edamame, seaweed, and furikake.

I had the chance to speak with the owner of Mainland Poke Shop, Ari Kahan, who said he was excited to bring Mainland Poke to Santa Monica. It all began in 2015…Kahan explained that due to LA’s close proximity to Hawaii, poke was a viable and logical choice for him. “We believed that people in Los Angeles would gravitate to poke as they have to sushi, and we’ve found it to be true.”

When asked why he decided to do a counter style eatery, Kahan replied, “Authenticity is important in food culture, which demands transparency.” Kahan said that he felt it was important to showcase the ingredients while offering diners great poke in a way they want to enjoy it – “customizable and fresh.” He went on to explain that unlike many of its competitors, Mainland Poke is sourcing its fish from the same fisherman and purveyors as some of the best sushi restaurants in LA. He added, “Los Angeles is considered the sushi capitol of the US, so poke’s migration to the mainland was destined, and its boom in popularity inevitable. In addition, LA is known for healthy, clean eating. Hence, poke has also become popular because it is a healthy dining option for people.”

My dining companion and I thoroughly enjoyed each of the three bowls and had plenty to take home. I am looking forward to going back and designing my own specialty creation. For a fast, delicious, guilt-free meal, head to Mainland Poke at 411 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 90404; Check the website for all its locations at http://www.mainlandpoke.com/


  • Kathy Leonardo

    Founder of LAArtParty.com and EatTravelGo.com, Kathy has been a freelance writer for fifteen years. She writes about art, food, travel and entertainment

    Kathy Leonardo is the founder of LAArtParty.com (2010) and EatTravelGo.com (2018). She has been a freelance writer for the past fifteen years, writing for Los Angeles newspapers as well as national and international print and online publications. LAArtParty.com is an arts and entertainment website featuring events taking place all over Los Angeles. Each month, it spotlights all types of events, art, music, theatre, dining, local businesses, some travel, plus weekend getaways. EatTravelGo.com is a food and travel site with an art twist. Leonardo's articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Argonaut Newspaper, LA Weekly, Santa Monica Mirror, Downtown News, Santa Monica Daily Press, Artillery Magazine, and WhiteHot Magazine, among others.