Five months after Tuan Nguyen opened his first Poke Bowl location in July 2017 near The University of Texas on Guadalupe Street, it was destroyed when a woman drove her vehicle through the front window.

But Nguyen set out to rebuild and reopened four months later to continue serving poke—a marinated raw fish dish popular in Hawaii.

“[Customers] come because they missed the food, and they know we needed help after the accident,” Nguyen said.

The restaurant’s popularity led him to open his second location in North Austin off Parmer Lane last May. Nguyen said this spot receives a lot of large lunch orders from the numerous corporations located nearby.

“From the day we opened until now, business has improved 120%,” Nguyen said.

Although he was not planning to open a third location so soon, he said an opportunity arose that was too good to pass up. The downtown location will open in early 2020.

“The landlord [of the building] happened to be around Poke Bowl on Guadalupe Street, and when he [came] in, we were crazy—line out the door. He said, ‘This is the idea for my [building],’” Nguyen said.

After working for decades in food service, Nguyen said he wanted to open a restaurant that would allow him to spend more time with his family and to not have to work 24/7 like he did at his Chinese restaurant in Louisiana.

While on vacation in San Jose, he and his wife tried poke and loved the marinated raw fish and how customers could build their own bowls.

“I was so surprised how they designed the restaurant, just like a Subway but it’s sushi—raw fish,” Nguyen said.

Next, Nguyen and his family flew to Hawaii, where he said he learned how to make the traditional sauces used in the Hawaiian fish dish. Nguyen credits his success to his dedication to the authenticity of the dish.

“You can open Poke Bowl everywhere, but if you don’t have the right sauce, it’s not the same,” he said.

Poke Bowl

2501 W. Parmer Lane, Ste. 700, Austin | 737-209-0121 | Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily