The spicy salmon poke bowl at Zukku Sushi.

Pro Bowls: Twenty of Tampa Bay’s top grain and poke bowl restaurants

Bowls and juices from Fresh Kitchen. Courtesy FK.

Over the last few years, build-your-own bowl restaurants have been sprouting up all over. Fresh Kitchen arguably kicked off the craze with its debut in South Tampa in 2014. A brainchild of the Ciccio Restaurant Group (CRG), Fresh Kitchen was one of the first to spark the healthy grain bowl trend by offering locals the choice to craft their meal from base to protein to topping, satisfying any and all dietary preferences. 

While grain bowls have become a staple around town, a fairly new concept has been picking up steam — poke. For those unfamiliar, poke (PO-kay) is a Hawaiian-style dish of raw fish, cubed, marinated and layered up with a serving of sticky rice and dressed with toppings like edamame, cucumbers and green onions, and finished with a drizzle of sauce. 

Here’s a mixture of grain and poke bowl hubs throughout Tampa Bay that are serving up traditional as well as reimagined bites. 

Anju The Korean BBQ food truck turned brick-and-mortar has one banging bowl on the menu called the BAP Bowl, a Korean classic made up of sticky rice topped with seasoned vegetables, bulgogi (marinated grilled shaved ribeye) and your choice of mild, medium or hot BAP sauce. 2827 16th St. N., St. Petersburg.

Bolay Fresh Bowl Kitchen The new kid on the block began slinging “bols” from its scratch kitchen in mid-May. With ties to Bloomin’ Brands, the Floridian chain offers customizable bowls alongside chef-crafted options like the Vegan Miso Tofu Bol stacked with kale, herb roasted potatoes, ginger broccoli, miso-glazed tofu and fresh chopped cilantro. 1544 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon.

CALI A Tampa Bay favorite, this full-service restaurant offers a selection of “epic bowls” like the Gigante, named after CRG co-founder Jeff Gigante. The gluten-free bowl is comprised of avocado-buffalo glazed cauliflower, diced celery, crumbled blue cheese and tempura onions with lime caesar dressing. CALI suggests you add some crispy chicken as your protein and some coconut avocado rice as your base. 190 37th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Also in South Tampa, Tampa Palms and Brandon.

Fish Bowl Kitchen A vast menu packed with fresh-built poke, power and acai bowls. One of the most interesting selections on the menu is the Hawaiian Meatball Bowl filled to the brim with housemade meatballs tossed in Hawaiian citrus barbecue sauce, cherries, sweet bell peppers and pineapple and served over white rice. Not so adventurous? You can opt for red curry, teriyaki or buffalo chicken instead. 2882 Alt 19, Palm Harbor/ 17782 April Dr., Land O’ Lakes.

Fresh Kitchen Usually hosting a line out the door depending on the time of day, Fresh Kitchen offers build-your-own bowls with hormone and antibiotic-free grilled meats and roasted vegetables. Various locations.

Fresh tastes from the pioneering bowlers at Fresh Kitchen. Courtesy FK.

Grain and Berry You can’t mention bowls without acai coming to mind. Grain and Berry is one of the prime purveyors of this colorful, fruity concoction. The brand has been growing like wildfire since 2016, and its menu items include healthy shakes, fresh-pressed juices, flatbreads and, of course, signature acai bowls made with organic granola, banana, strawberries, blueberries, nutella, peanut butter and coconut shavings that toe the line between healthy and incredibly decadent. Various locations.

Harvest Bowl Sisters and Tampa natives Athar and Atheer Naif launched this fast-casual healthy restaurant and market in January 2020 in Seminole Heights. Not only does the storefront offer grain bowls, you can also choose from a lineup of acai bowls and poke bowls. 6109 N. Florida Ave., Tampa.

Naked Farmer Boasting a rotating menu made with seasonal locally-sourced ingredients, Naked Farmer calls itself a farm-to-fork restaurant. Diners can build their own bowl by choosing one base, two sides, a main and choice of (un)dressing. 200 Central Ave., St. Petersburg/ 615 Channelside Dr., Tampa (Sparkman Wharf).

Preparing bowls for customers at Naked Farmer. Photo: Melissa Santell/FOODXFEELS.

Pacific Counter A passion project built by friends Tanner Loebel, Eric Bialik and Chitt Noythanongsay (aka Chef Tock), Pacific Counter has become one of the most popular poke spots in St. Pete. It’s so popular, in fact, that you can find a branch at Tropicana Field in addition to the main location on Central Avenue. 660 Central Ave. and Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

Pokéworks Another Florida chain, Pokēworks offers an array of proteins from ahi tuna to organic tofu. The Hawaiian Ahi Classic bowl consists of ahi tuna, edamame, green and sweet onion, hijiki, cucumber, chili flakes, sesame seeds, Pokeworks’ classic sauce and seasonal crunch. Diners can also choose from poke bowls with kale noodle, sushi rice, organic brown rice, or quinoa bases. 2223 N. Westshore Blvd, Tampa / 734 E. Fowler Ave. Ste. C, Tampa.

A bowl of organic goodness from St. Pete Bowls. Courtesy 22 South Food Hall.

Shokkan Sushi One of seven restaurants in the new 22 South Food Hall located in South St. Pete’s historic Manhattan Casino, Shokkan is helmed by well-known sushi chef Lan Mai, whose menu will include poke bowls as well as sushi (including a sushi burrito).642 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg.

SoFresh Wraps, salads and warm bowls, one of which is the Superfood, loaded with red quinoa, brown rice, broccoli, tomatoes, walnuts, avocado and dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. While the dish is traditionally vegan, it is recommended to be served with salmon. Various locations.

St. Pete Bowls Another of the concepts opening at the new 22 South Food Hall, this one’s the most bowl-focused, featuring beautifully composed organic fruit, nut and veggie bowls from the mother-daughter team of Anja Adams and Naomi Richardson. 642 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg.

The Floribbean Stationed in the Grand Central District, the counter-service Caribbean fusion-style restaurant is run by Sal Merola and Urban Restaurant Group’s Andy Salyards. Floribbean cuisine is a mix of Caribbean and Floridian cooking techniques with an emphasis on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. One of the signature combinations is the Yardbird: smoked paprika chicken, sweet plantains, coconut rice, ginger black beans and jerk aioli. 2410 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.

Zukku Sushi Armature Works’ Zukku Sushi is a jack of all trades. Guests can choose from poke bowls, sushi rolls, burritos and even sushi tacos. The establishment’s sister locations are Zukku-San in Wesley Chapel and Āto in Lakeland food hall The Joinery, meaning you can get poke anytime, anywhere throughout the Greater Tampa Bay Area. 1910 N. Ola Ave., Tampa.

And if you’re itching to add a few more local acai bowl haunts to your list of eats, some of the most popular include SOHO Juice Co., Whatever Pops & Bowls, Karma Juice Bar & Eatery, Sweet Soul SoHo and Sparkman Wharf newbie Fit Bowl Co

A Zukku Sushi bowl at Armature Works with the Tampa skyline beyond. Photos top and above courtesy of Zukku Sushi.