A building just off campus that was once a college bookstore is now home to a new chain restaurant offering a "fish salad" known as poke: Ahipoki Bowl is now open in Tempe.
Ahipoki opened March 18, serving traditional Hawaiian cuisine with an American twist. The restaurant serves bowls with multiple kinds of fish and a base layer of rice or salad. Located on Rural Road and University Drive across the street from campus, the American twist is making this Hawaiian classic a fast serve option.
Michael Zimmerman, co-owner of Ahipoki in Arizona, said having a location accessible for students without cars was important.
Zimmerman said that he wants to introduce this type of food to college students and create long lasting loyalty.
“We're trying to create a lifetime customer,” Zimmerman said. “Poke is the next fast-casual, we believe. It’s proving that in California and here right now.”
Josh Jantzen, district manager of Ahipoki in Arizona said meal customization makes the restaurant a different dining experience.
"This concept is really different than a regular restaurant,” he said. “You can build your own (bowl) and you can have it a different way every day of the month.”
Ahipoki offers a build-your-own type of experience, meaning customers build a bowl with a rice, their choice of raw fish, then sauces and other toppings can be added.
Josh, who is a trained sous chef, said he attributes his passion for food to his mother.
“My mom is a great cook," Josh said. "She’s from Costa Rica and if you ever want to know how she was making something, she never uses recipes, you have to watch her do it."
Josh, who works with his brother Jason Jantzen, said he enjoys working with his brother.
Josh said that he and his brother Jason have lived very different lives — as Josh is a chef and Jason has been self-employed since he graduated from ASU.
“I never thought I would be working with my brother, we're on two different kinds of spectrums," Josh said. "I know he has great confidence in me. Despite our bickering back and forth, he supports me a lot."
Josh said he loves hiring employees who are burned out on other things and are ready to work and have fun.
“This concept is really a God-bless for a lot of people,” Josh said. “In the past year, in Scottsdale, we have been so blessed with sales.”
Jason Jantzen, co-owner of Ahipoki in Arizona and brother of Josh Jantzen said they were excited to repurpose the bookstore, a place Jason said he shopped.
“It’s a really amazing feeling to come back to Tempe and put a business where a former bookstore was that I used to frequent,” he said. “I remember when I was in college at ASU and the restaurants I used to use to frequent. It was a big part of me growing up and my hope is that people are going to enjoy Ahipoki just like I did with the other restaurants that I enjoyed.”
Jason said that the next Ahipoki location to open at 7th Avenue and McDowell Road around April 15. This location will be the fourth in Arizona.
He said he has plans to open four locations in the Phoenix metropolitan area from now until the end of the year to add to the Scottsdale, Ahwatukee and Tempe locations.
Jason said he looks at the trends of Southern California to determine how many restaurants to open and how fast. Ahi Poki is based in California and has spread to other states, including Arizona.
“We're looking at Southern California. Arizona generally follows California in style and trends,” Jason said. “
Jason said he opened the Scottsdale location April of last year and said it has been extremely busy since.
“We didn't really know how people react to poke because it wasn't a staple here yet. We thought we’d have a real advantage being the first to bring