“We’re almost sold out of tuna,” Coleman Meier yells over to his brother, Jake, just as we sit down for our interview. It’s around 5:00 p.m. on a Thursday and the brothers are getting ready for dinnertime rush at their new, much-anticipated spot, Kai Poke in Huntington Village. It’s the very first restaurant on Long Island dedicated solely to poke bowls (pronounced POKE-KAY, by the way.)—a trend in Manhattan rivaling cold brew at the moment, and so the timing for Kai Poke could not be more perfect.
So what the heck is a poke bowl, anyway? Originating in the Hawaiian Islands, poke is raw, fresh fish sliced into cubes or bite-size pieces. A poke bowl combines the fish with a base (typically rice) and a slew of toppings. At Kai Poke, you can start with a base of white or brown rice, quinoa, or mixed greens. Next, you choose from six proteins including raw tuna and salmon, followed by unlimited toppings like cucumbers, mango, and edamame to name just a few. Your poke bowl can be finished off with a sauce of your choice.
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I've found my new obsession. So happy I was able to try the new @KaiPoke_LongIsland! Everything was super fresh and flavorful. I did the create your own bowl lunch special, which offers SO many options. My bowl included White Rice, Marinated Tuna, Crab Salad, Cucumber, Mango, Avocado and Spicy Mayo. I can not rave about this place enough. Everyone check it out! 😍😁🤗 #pokebowl #eating_longisland
But back to the Meier Brothers. Jake and Coleman are 25 and 24 respectively and hail from Merrick. As teenagers, their first jobs were bussing tables and washing dishes in restaurants.
“We fell in the love with the industry. What you put in is what you get out. We both had a passion for food,” Jake told me.
In addition to their culinary interests, health and fitness have always been important to the brothers. Both of them played football in college and to stay fit, “Naturally healthy food was a main staple in our diet,” Jake said. Before opening Kai Poke, Coleman was the head trainer at a gym.
Their obsession with poke bowls came after a vacation to San Diego four years ago. “We fell in love with it instantly,” Jake said. Once they got back to New York, the pair ventured out to markets to purchase fresh fish and make their own poke creations at home. That’s when family members started to take notice, enlisting the brothers to come up with poke dishes for them too.
Their idea to open their own place on Long Island came after they checked out a poke bowl franchise in Manhattan. Jake told me he wasn’t impressed. “They were using tuna loaded with carbon monoxide which is a common practice with big distribution companies and chain restaurants.”
In 2015, The New York City Department of Health and Hygiene began requiring that any fish served raw be frozen first to guard against parasites. To enhance the red color of frozen tuna, some restaurants spray the fish with carbon monoxide. To date the FDA allows this practice in the U.S. even though it is outlawed in Japan and the European Union.
Jake and Coleman knew they could do a better job with poke bowls than what they were seeing. So they quit their full time jobs to open Kai Poke, and luckily business is going about as well as any new entrepreneurs could hope. They are selling more than 250 bowls a day (a regular at $10.95 and large at $13.95)
When Kai Poke first opened, Jake and Coleman prepped 100 pounds of tuna per day. Due to increasing demand, they’re upping that number every day and still selling out before closing time during their second week in business.
Selling out of tuna is one thing, but something the brothers have vowed to never sell out on is their passion for providing the freshest ingredients possible. “Once we cut the fish, it won’t be reused the next day. It doesn’t go back in the refrigerator.” As for where they get their fish from, Jake told me they source from where the quality is highest and in season, and currently their tuna is sustainably sourced from Korea. “And we are proud to announce that our salmon is Norwegian farm raised, which has some of the highest quality salmon,” he added. “We encourage people to ask us where our fish is from. You should always ask.”
“We don’t use trans fats and we use organic as much as possible, but fresh is most important.” Consciousness doesn’t end with just the food at Kai Poke. The bowls their food is served on are “made from palm leaves that have naturally fallen. And our plastic bowls are not actual plastic, they are made from corn. They are completely compostable and biodegradable.”
So if you’re looking for a healthy lunch or dinner in Huntington Village, head on over to say “Aloha” to Kai Poke.
Kai Poke is located at 328 Main Street in Huntington. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 11:30am-9pm, and 11:30-8pm on Sundays.