It never fails.
I don't get to California very often. In my 46-plus years, I might've made a dozen trips there. And every single time, I'm struck by how very different it is from the East Coast of my familiar haunting. Visually, ethnically, culturally, politically, and on and on. One small yet telling case in point:
I'm in Long Beach this week for a conference (did you know it's the nation's 36th largest city, bigger than St. Louis?). Downtown Long Beach is a cool mix of locally owned restaurants, bars, waterfront, and hotels and convention facilities (also, homeless people, surf bums, and loons). Many of the cross streets have walk/don't walk signals. As is the custom amongst East Coasters, I approach those don't walk signals, look both ways, and if there's no traffic coming, cross at my own risk. On multiple occasions while here, I've walked past locals waiting patiently for the light to change. And on more than one occasion, people have politely offered their concerns to me about the risk I'm taking.
Thank you, sweet and patient Californians, for your concern. I'm sorry I'm an East Coast asshole.
I also thank you for your culinary adventuring, and in particular, for introducing me to a whole new way to stuff my face.
Immediately adjacent to my (probably racist) hotel there's a Poke Bar. That's not, recent frenzied online activity aside, some sort of meeting place for Pikachu hunters. Rather, it's the most perfect evolution of the Subway, Chipotle, Potbelly mass customization concept.
Just like those fast casual concepts, you choose your base, your protein, and your fixings, but in the case of Poke Bar, your protein is raw fish - tuna, salmon, octopus, scallops, and so on. And the fixings are seaweed salad, jalapeno, pineapple, cucumber, kale, green onions, cilantro et al. Poke is a traditional Hawaiian mix, and it's perfect for this concept. It's fucking delicious, and I'll choose to believe that it's really good for me, too.
I've never had any interest in opening a franchise, but I'm seriously considering making a call to the owners of Poke Bar, who have twenty or so California-based locations today, and begging them to let me open some on the East Coast. That'll happen eventually, and it will kill. Hit me up in the comments if you want in.
And if you find yourself out West, get your poke on.