“If this were 40, 50 years ago, sure. But the way logistics work and how we can get things shipped around, I don’t think it’s strange to have fresh fish in a desert,” says Jimmy Zouras, who along with his wife Deanna, owns and operates Laid Back Poke Shack in Holladay. “We get our fish directly from the Honolulu fish auction and it comes fresh three times a week.”
Zouras’ family opened Gourmandise the Bakery in the early 90s. But for his latest business venture, Zouras switched his focus from French pastries to fresh fish in the form of the Hawaiian delicacy, poke (pronounced poh-keh), and opened up Laid Back Poke Shack in February.
In the Hawaiian language, poke is a verb that means to cut or to slice. A basic poke consists of cubed, raw ahi (yellow fin tuna) marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed and chili pepper.
But don’t simply call it sushi.
“We’ve had people come in who try to compare it to sushi. Some people come in expecting a sushi-style experience but that’s not it,” Zouras says. “This is poke and poke is something different.”
Poke has appeared on menus of several sushi restaurants in Salt Lake City as an appetizer in recent years. In Hawaii, however, poke is so pervasive that many grocery stores (even chains like Costco) keep several different flavors of it in stock.
With Laid Back Poke Shack, the Zouras’ tried to recreate something they experienced and loved in The Aloha State. Their shop offers a variety of poke, including ahi, salmon and tako (or octopus).
“We put this together so we could come get poke. It started off very selfishly,” Zouras quips.
Their affinity for poke is spreading and Zouras says the reception for Laid Back Poke Shack has been great so far. But some people are still skeptical of seafood in Salt Lake.
“We’ve come across a few challenges as far as perceptions but the only thing we can do is to let them try it,” Zouras says.
Laid Back Poke Shack is in Holladay, at 6213 S Highland Dr. They are open from 11-8 Tuesday-Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday.