Food for Thought: Hoki Poki

Let me start by saying that I’m a sucker for rice bowls. As a college student with a limited budget and a tendency to live off of leftovers, I’ve developed a bad habit of just dumping whatever is in my fridge over rice and calling it a day. Day-old Torchy’s tacos? Throw it over some rice. Mom dropped off some pot roast? Add some rice. Only have two bucks and a bottle of steak sauce to your name? Steak sauce-flavored rice bowl. It’s easy, it’s filling, it’s cheap, and it’s become my way of pretending I’m capable of cooking for myself.

Let me also say that I’m done with tacos. They’re good, obviously, but you couldn’t pay me to step foot in another Fuzzy’s. I mean, you could, but I’d have some very strong opinions about why tacos have become the new burger and fries of UTD. I need more than tacos and Masala Wok in my life. I have dreams.

Food sources on campus are limited, and students can pretty much exhaust all of their options within a few weeks. Off-campus, there are more choices, but a severe lack of unique or novelty restaurants. Richardson has never been the paragon college town, and I myself have been eagerly awaiting the rise of that quirky, scholastic restaurant scene that our sister schools brag about. The recent boom in enrollment has led to a few new spots, but nothing Instagram worthy — which, let’s be honest, is half the fun of trying new food.

That’s why I’m so stoked about Hoki Poki.

It originally caught my attention with the promise of sushi burritos. Or, as I initially imagined, a giant sushi roll that I could shove down my face hole. Upon further research, however, I discovered that their headlining dish was a sushi bowl. A blessing in disguise, I ended up sick as a dog one weekend, and used my miserable state as an excuse to take a well-needed break from rice and steak sauce. I figured I could at least have rice with actual food.

A friend and I first visited for lunch during the grand opening, and I can say with only mild self-loathing that I returned three times in the next two days. After writing a gushing review on Facebook and being one of about 10 followers on Instagram, I decided that I had to share my new favorite spot with the world. Not only because it’s delicious, but because I for one welcome the end of taco tyranny and encourage the rise of new insta-worthy options. Also, I really want to feed my addiction, and maybe writing this will convince more people to invite me when they go. If I go in a group, the owner, David, might not think I’m a raving lunatic.

Hoki Poki offers a variety of sushi and Hawaiian poke themed dishes, the primary one being their colorful Poki Bowl. Customers can choose a base of warm rice or greens, pick 2-4 scoops of their preferred protein, sides, any number of toppings or mix-ins, sauces, and their preferred level of spice. While I usually stick to tuna and salmon, they also offer yellowtail, shrimp, chicken or cooked Korean short ribs for those who are squeamish about raw fish. Poki Burritos are crafted with a similar equation and are a great alternative for people in a hurry. Recently they’ve begun to offer roasted seaweed and various bowl sizes to further enhance the Poki Bowl experience. The ingredients are all fresh daily, presented beautifully, and taste awesome regardless of what combination you choose.

In addition to the bowls, they make fresh Boba smoothies in house and seem to be adding new options every time I stop in. Stamp cards can get you a free bowl after a few visits, and the prices for main dishes are under 10 bucks. Plus, there’s a 10% discount students, military, campus staff and seniors. And for those who are looking to make some money as well as save it, they are hiring as of last time I was there.

It’s easy for me to sit here and gush about how much I love Hoki Poki for the food alone. However, there’s much more to it. Richardson has definitely covered its bases in terms of run-of-the-mill hot spots in the past few years, but this is the first one-of-a-kind spot I’ve seen around campus. It’s not a franchise, it’s growing, and it offers a unique and modern vibe that a more popular venue can’t. The open, clean aesthetic caters towards students and offers a great atmosphere for between-class breaks. They have guest Wi-Fi, table space for small groups, and are located a convenient five minutes off campus. For those with late night classes, they’re open until 9 PM, so you can get your deconstructed sushi fix after dark.

Hoki Poki and its Poki Bowls are an exciting precursor of what’s to come for future original off-campus dining options. As our student population grows, so does the potential for a unique off-campus culture, and small budding businesses like this little gem are a great place to start.

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