A new poke concept is coming to Dallas-Fort Worth with some rock star credentials. Called LemonShark Poké, it's a California-based chain that was founded in 2016 by Tobi Miller, founding guitarist of hit rock band The Wallflowers, and ex-racecar driver Richard Gottlieb.
Currently boasting a few locations in Southern California and Florida, Lemonshark is poised for expansion, with a wave of openings set for Texas. The first location will open in May in Las Colinas in a former Subway shop at 901 W. Royal Ln.
That'll be followed later in 2018 by a location at the CityLine mixed-use complex in Richardson, with at least three more restaurants slated for DFW.
LemonShark has your prototypical signature bowls featuring ahi tuna, salmon, albacore, a spicy salmon and tuna combo, and tofu. It also has build-your own bowls with many options of rice — sushi, brown, forbidden, bamboo — and two dozen toppings such as pineapple, mango, corn, carrots, water chestnuts, and watermelon radish.
Appetizers include tempura shrimp, egg rolls, bottomless miso soup, seaweed salad, cucumber salad, and Spam musubi.
They also do the poke-rito, the trendy concoction which wraps all of the ingredients of poke inside a large sheet of seaweed, burrito-style.
Lemonshark is named for an actual shark which is known to be a picky eater, says Miller, who is the company's president and CEO; Gottlieb is chairman of the board.
"The theme is meant to underline the idea that we're a premium concept," Miller says. "A lemonshark does not eat just any fish that comes across its path. It waits for premium fish, and it's an unusually social shark. That's our guiding principle, that we're choosy and picky in what we're supplying and in choosing our locations and who franchises our concept."
"We know we're not the first guys to jump into poke," he says. "But Richard and I have been familiar with the culture and food for a long time. We saw these poke shops and thought, 'Let's take the best things from each one.'"
One thing that sets them apart from the competition is that their restaurants are bigger than the typical poke shop, at least 1,800 to 2,200 square feet.
Another distinction is atmosphere. Their decor has a subtle, tasteful Japanese flair, honoring the country's influence on Hawaiian cuisine — "not tiki or Hawaiian postcard," Miller says.
"We've been in many poke places and felt like nobody was building a nice environment," he says. "We're creating an ambience that's nice enough where you would even go eat there on a Friday night."
They also make strong claims about their sourcing, such as the fact that all of their tuna is line-caught by hand from the Pacific Ocean, which means they're not accidentally also catching dolphins, sea turtles, and other fish.
Miller, who worked as an engineer and producer before switching his focus to food, is hands-on, visiting potential locations himself before a lease is signed. He's been in Dallas-Fort Worth a lot in the past few months, and isn's stopping there.
"Just last week I was in Houston and Austin looking at sites," he says. "We feel like Texas is a great market for LemonShark."