Poké Perfect

After a difficult goodbye to the long-loved Yogurt Tap, Decatur braced for impact of a new food: poké. In late April, Poké Perfect emerged as the first fast casual dining restaurant in Decatur to serve the Hawaiian inspired dish.

December 4, 2017

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While students rush to Chick-fil-A everyday to get french fries, chicken nuggets and lemonade, a new trend may be about to take the throne.

Step aside grease traps. Fast, fresh food is the new, big trend.

When Chipotle opened in Decatur in November of 2013, it quickly grew in popularity. The chain started in Southern California and spread across the country and, soon after, the world. 

The restaurant features a Chipotle-style bar with a modern style. Customers can also find desserts like pocky sticks, moshi ice cream balls and waffle green tea ice cream sandwiches.

This style of restaurant, called fast-casual dining, is the most profitable in the restaurant industry, according to Poké Perfect owner, Hunter Satterwhite.

While the restaurant business is “the biggest risk of of any business you could take,” Satterwhite has found success by observing and monitoring the trends across the country.

After living in Los Angeles for 10 years, Satterwhite observed how foods like pho, a Vietnamese soup and poké followed the same trend.

“Fast-casual dining has been and is the fastest growing type of restaurant,” Satterwhite said. “It’s still as good, if not better, quality, so it is really popular. It all starts in Southern California. It gets to be a little trend there and before you know it, 20 of them open there and it’s like wildfire.”

On numerous visits to Hawaii, Satterwhite encountered poké, a food that he found to be fresh, unique and simple.

It was also profitable.

As poké spread through the United States, Satterwhite set his sights on Europe, a market unexposed to poké.

Satterwhite intends to spread poké. “Atlanta is a little slower on noticing trends but eventually it gets there so I think it will pick up soon,” he said. “It may just be these few in Atlanta in the States but Europe still has a lot of room for it so I may continue to spread out there. ”

Friends and family ultimately led Satterwhite to Amsterdam, a heavily populated and compact city in the Netherlands.

According to Satterwhite, cars are not a popular mode of transportation in Amsterdam, allowing for heavy foot traffic and plenty of hungry mouths awaiting a quick, healthy meal.

Decatur however, is seemingly uninterested.

“Here, it has kinda struggled a little bit,” Satterwhite said. “This is a little hole and it’s quiet and people are still trying to figure [poké] out.”

Satterwhite acknowledges the success of restaurants in Downtown, the heart of Atlanta, but he knew it wasn’t for him.

“Downtown is great for lunch, but around 5 o’clock they roll the carpets up, put the bars on the windows, and it’s a ghost town,” he said. “I was like, ‘No, I want to be open all day and night,’ and this just seems like a great spot. There are so many cool little vibe spots around here, and I thought we would fit in.”

Business is on the slower side right now, but Satterwhite is optimistic that with hard work, “next year there will be a line out of the door.”

By having fresh ingredients, specializing only in poké and staying authentic to Hawaiian poké, Satterwhite feels that his food can appeal to a large demographic, high school students included.

“People like to try too hard,” Satterwhite said. “My whole thing is simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity. There is an old saying, ‘Keep it simple stupid,’ and there is a reason that somebody said that along the way.”

“People try to do too much,” he said. “People try to do juice and poké. Sushi places have added poké to their menus. Many places don’t even have poké in their name. I wanted something that says poké; this is what we specialize in. This is what you get, and it will be good.”

Poké Perfect employees are trained to use the freshest foods from the best quality meat and vegetable suppliers at all times, so wasting food is discouraged.

“I’d rather not have it than sell something that’s not up to my standards, and I have very high standards,” Satterwhite said.

These standards result in a dish that is healthy, simple and fast, appealing to the Decatur demographic.

“Once we do capture people out of curiosity, they like it and they come back,” Satterwhite said.

Long time Yogurt Tap enthusiast and Decatur High School student Katie Meyer was not so thrilled at first, but she later discovered a very encouraging surprise.  

“I miss Yogurt Tap so much. I got the almond butter frozen yogurt there, and it was vegan,” Meyer said. “But it’s cool that the thing that replaced [Yogurt Tap] also has vegan options. That is so awesome for me to see.”

Satterwhite originally owned a restaurant in Savannah but started to notice changes in the market. “When I first started building, one or two poké restaurants popped up,” he said. “Now, there must be like 10 or 12 of them.”

“They found a nice way to transform the space into a restaurant, and I really like the vibe there,” Meyer said. “Yogurt tap seemed pretty small, but there is actually a lot of space.”

While Yogurt Tap was a Decatur-grown business, Meyer can see how exposure to fresh and diverse foods can be beneficial to the community.

“The cuisine is really unique to Decatur,” she said. “We have places like Noodle and Chipotle, but this is both fast and incredibly fresh. None of the ingredients were old or bad.”

Meyer is excited for the ways in which Poké Perfect is transforming poké.

“I really want to try their tacos because I’m honestly wondering how it works,” she said. “It seems interesting but cool.”

Poké Perfect recently introduced poké tacos and include a variety of innovative options like “sushirittos,” on their menu.

While attempting to stay true to Hawaiian poké, Satterwhite acknowledges differences in Americanized poké. “Us Americans, we bastardized it like we have everything else,” he said. “We started adding in carrots and edamame and cucumbers and things of that nature.”

Satterwhite hopes to appeal to a wide variety of different palates by having tuna, salmon, shrimp, crab and lobster. He even encourages those who don’t enjoy seafood to try the roasted chicken, tofu or vegetable poké bowls.

Still, Satterwhite is focused on simplicity and with the hopes that it will attract more and more customers in the long run.

“I don’t want to reinvent the will of [poké],” he said. “I want somebody to walk in here from Hawaii and be very happy with what they see. I want them to see the taco and think that it is acceptable because we’re not trying too hard. Our product and our quality speaks for itself, and that’s it.”

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