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What the heck is "poke" and why should I be eating it?

Poke Bros. poke “fish salad” bowls. Poke Bros. has two area locations with two more opening soon.
Poke Bros. poke “fish salad” bowls. Poke Bros. has two area locations with two more opening soon. Photo provided by Poke Bros.

As if overnight, the Midlands -- and, seemingly, the world -- is being overtaken by a new craze in dining: poke. Pronounced "poh-kee," the wildly popular poke "fish salad" bowls, actually aren’t new at all. Originating in Hawaii centuries ago, the bowls consist of cubed raw fish tossed in a variety of seasonings mixed with greens, rice, fruits and/or vegetables, and have become a common sight on street corners in Columbia and beyond.

Think of it as sushi in a bowl.

The area's first poke restaurant -- Columbus, Ohio-based Poke Bros. to Go -- opened on Greene Street in Five Points earlier this year. The chain then opened a dine-in location on Sunset Boulevard in Five Points (complete with an outdoor patio) and has announced locations coming to Lincoln Street in the Vista and Irmo.

And, word on the street is another poke eatery -- Freshe Poke -- is coming to Columbia with plans to open locations on Huger Street and Harbison Boulevard.

So, with poke restaurants popping up all around, here are five reasons why poke is so popular--and why you might consider giving it a shot:

1. It's healthy. As long as the fish is prepared properly, it has loads of health benefits, very few risks and, of course, delivers those much-touted Omega-3 fatty acids. Many poke bowls are now made with quinoa, zucchini, greens, fresh vegetables and fruits, too.

2. It's inexpensive. As opposed to many meals touted as health food, poke bowls at Poke Bros. average only $10 each. Add a seaweed salad -- don't let me lose you here -- for only $3.

3. It actually tastes good. Take it from someone who is not a sushi fan: poke bowls actually taste good. Sure the raw fish may be a turn-off for some, but once it's tossed with a goopy, delicious seasoning sauce and topped with some crispy-crunchy sesame seeds, you forget what you're eating hasn't been cooked.

4. It's low-fat. For the calorie counters out there, consider this: According to a recent article posted on mindbodygreen.com, four ounces of poke can be under 150 calories, under five grams of fat and pack 24 ounces of protein.

5. It's adventurous. So what if you can't make that trip to Hawaii this year? Try one of the oldest Hawaiian food traditions right here at home! Pretty soon -- if not now -- you won't have to drive far to give it a shot.

Where can I get my hands on some poke?

Poke Bros. to Go

2009 Greene St., Five Points

Poke Bros. (dine-in location)

5225 Sunset Blvd.

Where else will I be able to get some poke soon?

Poke Bros. will open two additional area locations:

1211 Lincoln St. in the Vista

1230 Bower Pkwy. off Harbison Boulevard in Irmo

And new poke restaurant Freshe Poke has two locations planned, as well:

1102 Huger St.

252-M. Harbison Blvd. (in the old Yoghut location)

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