.Midtown Meal

Wanna poke a bowl?

Born and raised in China, Lorry Chen immigrated to the United States three years ago and started working at the Poki Bowl in Midtown two months ago. Now on his third restaurant job, he previously was a server at two other Chinese restaurants. He says America is the number one country in the world because of the people, the technology and, most importantly, for the main reason he moved here: freedom.

Chen says China’s government banned his social media account, and he was inspired to pack up his life, leave everything he knew and move across the world for the right to express himself freely. He settled in Santa Cruz, and says the community is good here and that the weather is similar to where he grew up in China, which reminds him of home.

Poki Bowl, open every day from 11:30am-8:30pm for take-out and limited on-site dining, offers simple but wonderful décor with lots of yellows and reds, Chen says. Bowls, of course, headline the menu and come in three different sizes. Choices include standard salmon and tuna, as well as unagi, chicken, shrimp and ham, and multiple combinations. Chen says his personal favorite dish is the ramen, a classic soup noodle dish with chicken, shrimp, egg and vegetables. Poki Bowl also has small-plate appetizers like savory/salty miso soup, kimchee, and seaweed salad. Dessert highlights are green tea cheesecake and mochi ice cream.

How has your immigration journey been?

LORRY CHEN: It was a little bit challenging because I don’t speak English very well, but I am improving. I will say that I really love the people here; they are very kind and friendly. And I also like the natural environment. We have so many trees, and the air is so fresh. In China, there are so many factories and so much pollution, but here the air is so clean and I feel so much healthier.

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What do you love about the food at Poki Bowl?

LC: It is all very fresh and we have secret sauces that are made here. Some are spicy and some are sweet, and they really make the food taste a lot better. And we get fresh fish, like salmon and tuna, delivered daily—and get very fresh vegetables too.

1121 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, 831-600-8313; thepokibowlsc.com


  1. ‘wonderful decor’ ?? You’re kidding, right? from the outside, the place looks really scuzzy, uninviting and downright gross
    No thanks

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