My Main Stret-Poke Guys
Here’s the story behind one of the hottest new poke restaurants around—you can thank a couple of buddies and entrepreneurs (and the spicy aioli sauce) for its huge success.
A-la-carte Poke Bowls at Poke Guys
Poke bowls are having a moment. These Hawaiian raw-fish dishes combine tasty chunks of fresh marinated sashimi, rice, veggies and they’re plentiful in umami flavours. Not only are they highly customizable and the perfect grab-and-go option, but they’re also super healthy, which has helped make them one of the trendiest meals around.
The founders of Poke Guys (there are three locations) say their concept is to provide the most authentic Hawaiian experience with a Canadian twist. “We merge authentic, traditional recipes with modern-day ingredients and the flavours of Canada,” says Johnny Chan, who started the business in 2016 with high school chums Jacky Chan and Philip Lam. “There’s no secret recipe, no secret blends. We marinate our poke daily, so our flavour profile is different than other restaurants,” he says. “We use cucumbers, sesame seeds, sesame oil, Spanish onions, scallions, soy and other wholesome ingredients.”
Your Poke Bowl is crafted with care at Poke Guys
Chan has a background in customer service and hospitality, and after studying the latter in university, he worked at restaurants and hotels before looking to launch his own brand. When Jacky and Philip approached him with the idea of opening a poke restaurant, he was all in. “I felt it was inevitable that Toronto would eventually have an appetite for it,” he says.
The first Poke Guys restaurant opened in downtown Toronto, but it didn’t take long for the partners to invest in a Vaughan location. “We know Vaughan is super accessible, and with the subway line extension, Canada’s Wonderland and the proximity to highways, we knew it would be a hit,” says Chan. And when they heard about the My Main Street program from Vaughan Business and Entrepreneurship Centre representatives, they knew it could kickstart business in their new spot. “We were able to use the funds we received to offer better product and service. We brought in more tables and chairs, invested in marketing and launched an online ordering system. It also helped us connect with other like-minded business owners so we could better understand the community’s habits, what they wanted and needed,” he explains.
Chan, who says the restaurant’s spicy aioli sauce is his favourite item on the menu (“it’s mildly spicy, tangy and creamy — the best sauce for any food item and occasion!”), sees entrepreneurship as a never-ending journey, not a race, and plans to continue to grow Poke Guys and open up shop in more cities. “We know we can do it. We’re in one of the most diverse places in the world — it’s what allowed us to open a poke restaurant. Because of this, we’ll try to create new hybrid products to excite the market.”
2904 Highway 7, unit 107, Vaughan
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