By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jan 12, 2017 at 3:01 PM

Although it didn’t quite make its Thanksgiving deadline, Freshfin Poke, the new fast casual restaurant at 1806 E. North Ave. will open its doors to the public today, Jan. 12, beginning at 4 p.m. 

The first thing you'll note about Freshfin is its clean exterior and simple signage. You may also note that it's right next door to Insomnia Cookies, which could be either a good or bad thing, depending.

Customers will be greeted by an atmosphere that's bright, clean and modern with polished concrete flooring, wood-topped tables and white bucket-seated chairs. Accents include wicker light fixtures, decorative green plants and thick rope wall displays reminiscent of a nautical theme.

And – oh yes! – there is poke.

If you’re unfamiliar with poke, it might be easiest to describe as a sort of deconstructed sushi. Its origins are found in Hawaii, where it was traditionally made from sliced, raw fish, salt, kukui nuts and locally harvested seaweed. It was generally served as a salad or appetizer, though in recent years poke bowls have become more commonly served as delicious, healthy entrees.

The word itself is pronounced POH-keh and literally means "to cut." In the case of a poke bowl, it’s a reference to method of cutting very fresh fish into cubes, which are then served on their own or over a bowl of sushi rice.

Poke at FreshFin

At FreshFin Poke, customers can experience a modern take on poke bowls including five signature bowls and a BYOB (Build your own bowl) option, priced at approximately $7.95 for a regular (8-ounce) portion and $11.95 for a large (16-ounce) portion. A variety of soft drinks, as well as both hot and iced Rishi tea, will also be available.

Signature bowls include sweet and savory combinations like the "Mango Tango" (pictured above) with salmon, mango, edamame, avocado, cilantro, spicy ginger and sweet shoyu sauce, tobiko and crispy onion for texture.

A Spicy Tuna bowl contains a kicky mix of tuna, edamame, jalapeno, Sriracha aioli, sweet shoyu, crispy onion and tobiko.

Meanwhile, Curry Coconut Shrimp offers up shrimp with mango, cilantro, carrots, toasted coconut and crispy onion with a mild curry aioli.

For those who would prefer to skip the seafood, a Cilantro Chicken bowl offers up a less traditional bowl featuring diced chicken with edamame, carrots, kale, spicy ginger and cilantro lime sauces and crispy onion.

Meanwhile, vegan diners can enjoy the Vegan with shiitake mushrooms, sweet potato, avocado, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro lime and classic sauces and daikon.

Build your own bowls feature a choice of proteins (tuna, salmon, shrimp, chicken or vegetables), sauces (classic soy/sesame, ponzu, sweet shoyu, cilantro lime, spicy ginger, Sriracha aioli or creamy wasabi) and add ins like edamame, carrots, cucumbers, daikon radish, shaved Maui onion, mango, pineapple, blanched kale, cilantro or jalapenos and toppings like crispy onion, crispy garlic, toasted coconut, tobiko, wasabi or pickled ginger. Premium toppings (avocado, Macadamia nuts, crab salad, roasted shiitakes, wakame seaweed salad) are available for $1 each.

All bowls are served over white or brown rice or mixed greens with scallions, black sesame seeds and Hawaiian black sea salt. Gluten-free bowls (made with gluten-free soy sauce and mayo) are available upon request.

Sample each of FreshFin's signature bowls (for free) at their Grand Opening, which will take place Jan. 28-29.

Owners Nate Arkush and James Thomas toured more than 10 poke concepts across the West Coast in an effort nail down the concept they'd launch in the Cream City.

"What we pulled most from our research was not only the freshest of fish, but also an emphasis on service and atmosphere," notes Arkush. "We’re fast casual, but we’re really focused on providing great value and an elevated level of service in everything we do."

Beginning today, FreshFin Poke will be open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight.

For more updates, follow FreshFin Poke on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.