The national poke trend that has for the most part bypassed Music City is set to get its first dedicated Nashville outlet, as Kawai Poke Co. will open in East Nashville next spring.
Chicago transplants Yev and Liza Mikhailov will open the 1,252-square-foot, 30-seat restaurant at 901 Woodland St. in the ground floor of The Wabash, a new office and retail development located directly behind Butcher & Bee.
Mikhailov, whose family owns and runs Eastern European sausage and salami maker Gurman Food Co. in Mundelein, Illinois, tells Eater Nashville that when he and Liza married, they honeymooned in Hawaii, and “fell in love with the culture, the people, and the poke.” Once they returned, they saw the poke trend take off in Chicago, and became regulars at those restaurants. During that same time, they had also fallen in love with Nashville, taking frequent trips each year to visit friends. So after eyeing a move for the better part of six years, they finally made the plunge two months ago, with plans to open the healthy, Hawaiian concept.
Yev and Liza will work the back and front of house, respectively, with the restaurant open for breakfast and lunch at first, with expanded hours possible down the line. Morning meals will focus on acai and matcha bowls, along with smoothies. The main event at lunchtime will of course be the poke bowls, with signature and build-your-own. Mikhailov says that options will include tuna, salmon, and shrimp, along with tofu and vegetables. Customers will then pick either white or brown rice, or a salad option, and then choose from an assortment of add-ons and sauces. Baked goods will also be a focus with a variety of cookies, muffins, individual pies, pineapple upside-down cake, and more.
Mikhailov also plans to have poke of the week specials, along with a few Hawaiian dishes that might be less familiar to people. One of those is Spam musubi, a popular lunch item in Hawaii that features a slice of grilled Spam on top of rice, then wrapped together in seaweed. And since it is Nashville, a hot chicken musubi could make an appearance as well. One familiar menu item that may seem out of place is salted, boiled peanuts, long a favorite snack in both the South and Hawaii.
A small selection of beer and wine will also be available, with all brews by the bottle or can.
Follow the restaurant’s progress here, and be sure to check back for future updates.