Aloha Poke to serve up Hawaiian fare in Evanston starting this winter

Syd Stone, Reporter

A new Hawaiian-inspired restaurant, Aloha Poke Co., is set to open in January on Davis Street at the former location of Jamba Juice.

Aloha founder and owner Zach Friedlander said he hopes to open the location, his fourth, by January or February of next year. The local chain serves raw fish bowls, Hawaiian fare recently popularized outside of the state.

“Our philosophy is healthy food, fast,” Friedlander said. “We’re hoping to create a new understanding of the way that people look at fast food.”

Poke is a raw fish salad usually served over rice or greens. Aloha gives diners the opportunity to choose from one of their pre-prepared bowls or build their own with different sauces and toppings.

“Poke concept is extremely hot right now,” said Annie Coakley, the executive director of Downtown Evanston.

Friedlander said he began looking into an Evanston location about two months ago and that his concept for Aloha Poke has only been around since March 2016. The Davis Street location will be bigger than Aloha’s two smaller locations in the Loop, which Friedlander jokingly called “glorified lemonade stands.” The chain also has a restaurant in Lakeview.

Friedlander said even though the 700-square-foot space might seem small, he hopes to establish the aesthetic for all his other locations with the Evanston store.

“We have a really strong cohesion between all stores,” he said. “We’ll be able to put a little bit more into the design and decor of the store.”

He said he hopes to include outdoor seating on the patio to take advantage of “the cute corner” Aloha will soon call home.

Although the Aloha team has not yet decided on hours for the Evanston location, Friedlander said he is looking forward to “gaining more of a steady pace throughout the day” as opposed to just a lunch rush from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

He said he also wants to explore the option of staying open later, possibly even offering a delivery service later into the night.

Friedlander said he plans on eventually expanding the menu at the Evanston location, but for now it will be the same as the other locations.

Cooper Annenberg, an associate at RKF, a retail broker firm in Chicago who marketed the space to Aloha Poke, said Friedlander was looking for an Evanston flagship. The size of the property would fit well with his concept, he said.

“They’ll be a great amenity to the building, to the community and to the students,” Annenberg said.

Friedlander said he hopes to continue to expand the Aloha name.

“Getting into a city like Evanston will help us touch a whole new market,” Friedlander said. “We’ve been getting so many happy comments and posts on our Facebook and social media feeds about going to Evanston, so we’re definitely really excited to expand throughout the Chicagoland area.”

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