As great as Hoboken is for nightlife of all kinds, it does lack a bit of culinary diversity, especially when compared to the newly-resurgent downtown Jersey City scene. If you’re looking for Italian or hamburgers, Hoboken has you covered. If you’re craving something a little more exotic, you might have to search a bit.
Which is why the arrival of Shaka Bowl in the middle of the Monroe Center is a welcome development. Inspired by the Hawaiian poké (pronounced po-kay) dishes they encountered while attending school on the Big Island, Shaka Bowl was launched by sisters Kiersten and Krista Gormeley a few weeks ago—and it’s a huge hit, something you might be unaware of if you never travel past Willow.
Line Out the Door
“We absolutely fell in love with the culture, the people, the life, and of course, the food!” Kiersten and Krista write on their official Shaka Bowl site. “We knew right away that we needed to share this unbelievable culture with our family and friends on the East Coast.”
Whenever I walk by Shaka Bowl it’s crowded—which is totally not normal for past businesses in the Monroe Center. Offering their signature Acaí & Pitaya bowls, oatmeal bowls, smoothies, frozen yogurt, and the savory poké bowls, Shaka Bowl is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, or a light dinner.
Traditionally poké bowls are made with chunks of tuna, but the sisters note that the word “poké” technically refers to anything “cut into chunks,” so their twist on the concept includes bowls made with chicken, shrimp, tofu, or veggies. These proteins are served over a base of sticky white rice, brown rice or mixed greens, mixed with your choice of garnishes, and given a hit of sauce (sweet shaka teriyaki, spicy shaka, cucumber wasabi, sweet & spicy).
My wife and I arrived around noon on a Saturday the line was literally out the door and we had to hold our breath to get inside. The space is small, and the ordering system is a little slow. Basically, if you’re a veteran and know exactly what you want, you’re gold. If you’re new and need to ask a question or two, everything gets backed up.
Poké for the Win
We each ordered the house favorite Mauna Kea poké bowl (ahi tuna, avocado, mango, scallions, jalapeño, cilantro, sesame seeds, and spicy shaka sauce) instead of building our own. These were brought to our table by a super friendly guy who also fetched napkins and forks for us, then later came by to check that we were happy—so five stars on service, Shaka Bowl. Pro tip: There are some small tables in the hallway inside the Monroe Center that offer an escape from the crowded, hectic store.
The bowls were delicious. The sticky white rice was perfect, the tuna and fruits fresh, and the sauce perfectly applied. The folks next to us were enjoying some acaí & pitaya bowls which looked absolutely delicious as well.
The bowls aren’t the cheapest lunch you’ll have—the poké bowls run $14 each—but you get a pretty big meal for the price, so it works out. It’s not a particularly comfortable spot to eat, being a bit small and perpetually crowded, and they don’t deliver (yet), but the Hawaiian vibe and cuisine is a very welcome addition to Hoboken. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.