Santa Cruz Poke is a roll in a bowl—only better. Owner Brook Penquite and his family opened the Capitola store nine months ago. Penquite prepares each and every poke bowl himself six days a week, all in an 80-square-foot kitchen. They offer five different proteins (including a signature tofu), several base options, healthy sauces, and more toppings than you can count on two hands. Penquite also pickles his own ginger and makes his own furikake mix—a combination of toasted sesame seeds, seaweed and bonito fish flakes. Santa Cruz Poke bowls are a win-win for the mind and body, and a guaranteed summer go-to.
GT: What made you want to open this place?
BROOK PENQUITE: Capitola needed it. We’ve been coming down here for over a decade. We wanted something that was fresh and quick, we could go down to the beach or ride our bikes and eat good, healthy food. So we thought we’d create it ourselves. This location used to be a coffee shop, and we drove into the village and saw it was for lease and it all fell in line from there.
We also wanted to try and take it in a healthier direction, especially when you have so many places that have pizza, burgers, fish and chips, ice cream.
What makes your food unique?
Most poke places generally are owned and operated by Japanese owners, and there is a very traditional use of sides like white rice and a lot of similar tastes you’d find in sushi, which a lot of people love. But for me, I go more on the healthy and Hawaiian side. I have traditional Lomi Lomi which a lot of places don’t carry, and I have rice and quinoa, shirataki yam noodles, tofu and organic gluten-free toppings. I also make seasonal salads in-house. I think people are a bit more appreciative of how much work I put into creating a menu that is healthy and accessible for anyone, whether you’re a gluten-free, vegan or have food allergies.
Where do you source your fish from?
Royal Hawaiian Seafood in San Francisco—the only Northern California distributor that partners with the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Program. Tuna is endangered, and in the restaurant industry it’s tough to go toward something you are negatively impacting. A lot of people just get into the business to make money. They will use thousands of pounds of fish per week. Here, this is a small footprint in so many different ways, we have a small business and it’s all environmentally and source-conscious, from the compostability of our materials to our grease traps, it’s all small footprint.
115 San Jose Ave., Capitola. 854-2888. santacruzpoke.com.