One of the things I enjoy about visiting more metropolitan areas than my own is seeing the food fads that show up in particular cities. Like the sudden resurgence in fruit juice in 2013, or 2015’s bone broth craze, or the still-with-us circa 2005 cupcake craze (we’re past Peak Cupcake, but there are still a lot more cupcake places about). In Seattle, one of the 2016 trends was poke: the Hawaiian dish made from cubed, raw, marinated fish served over a bed of rice with a selection of toppings like garlic, the infamous “krab stick”, edamame, ginger, and various seaweed products. It’s actually a dish I rather enjoy (or, more usually, the closely related Japanese-inspired donburi, which is more common out my way). But it was definitely one of the current food trends in Seattle, since during our march we saw no fewer than a dozen places advertising their poke. And there were few better examples of the craze than the 45th Stop N Shop Deli.
Located just around the corner from where we were staying, the 45th Stop N Shop Deli, from the outside, looks much like your typical snack-oriented convenience store, since the front of the store is almost entirely stocked with refrigerated beverage cases and shelves of snack food. But as you work your way towards the back of the store, next to the register and the cigarettes, there’s a large chalkboard menu over an ordering counter, and this is why people are often lined up outside what’s otherwise just a convenience store: there’s the poke bar.
The menu is relatively straightforward, there are basically three items: raw poke, poke bowls, and California rolls (well, there’s a reference to poke burritos, but the “not available” sticker looks like it is more or less permanent and starting to gather dust). But the poke bowl is where the action is: you have a choice of up to three different fish, chosen from tuna, salmon, izumidai (red snapper), eel, shrimp, or tofu, served us as a generous helping over a rice bowl with a selection of seaweed salad, pickled ginger, krab stick, edamame, and dried seaweed.
I opted for getting all three fish (tuna, salmon, and izumidai), while having them omit the krab stick (it’s both one of those items that I’ve never really gotten the attracs of, and it’s also near guaranteed to trigger my fish allergy, whereas raw fish seldom does). And this was definitely a good poke bowl. Working our way through it: all three types of fish were rather good in quality: tender, flavorful, and quite fresh, and rather nicely sliced to boot (I’ve had a lot of places just rough chop it carelessly). The marinade was a sweet and very peppery marinade that, while strong, didn’t cover up the fish taste, instead, rounding it out nicely. The seaweed salad was very nicely done, with some good sesame notes as well, and the ginger, edamame, and seaweed were applied generously as well. The rice was also a decently-executed cold rice, but being nicely done as reasonably fluffy and distinct grains, adding a nice rice flavor in addition to just providing a starchy substrate.
45th Stop N Shop is one of the better-rated poke bars that have sprung up, and from the quality of their product, it’s easy to understand why this food craze is popping up all over Seattle, and why the 45th Stop NShop often has a rather long line outside at lunch. It was definitely one of the more enjoyable food stops we had while in Seattle (we ended up going there twice, actually).