Are you sick yet of hearing about new places to scarf poke, Hawaii’s mega-hit marinated raw-fish salad? No? Not even after hearing this week that Sam Choy’s Poké to the Max is opening next month in Tacoma, or that two new providers had opened in North Seattle?
Good, because you should know, Ballard is getting its first dedicated purveyor today at 4 p.m. as No Vacancy Poke sets up permanent shop in the cozy front space at Hotel Albatross. (Billy Beach Sushi whips up some stellar poke bowls around the corner, but it’s not strictly a poke place.)
No Vacancy is the brainchild of chef Jon Green, most recently of Scout, where he said he designed the tasting menu. Green told Eater he initially came on to consult for Hotel Albatross a couple of months ago when the establishment was losing its chef, then realized the underutilized entrance area was an opportunity to grow a business. Poke, which doesn’t require a lot of complicated equipment, “made sense for the space; it’s obviously been one of the up-and-coming food trends and it’s one I’ve definitely been on board with,” Green said. “I find myself eating it four or five times a week.”
Customers will pay for their poke up front but may then take it to the back of the venue if they please, as seating is limited at the entrance. The opening menu offers a choice of ahi tuna, salmon, tofu, or hamachi atop a current list of five set bowls, like the classic (wasabi aioli, cucumber, sweet onion, scallion, edamame, seaweed salad, pickled ginger, and fried onion) or the shiso miso (which subs in purple cabbage and cilantro for a couple of the previously listed ingredients). See the full menu below.
This curated model differs slightly from most of the other fast-casual poke spots in Seattle, which may list some pre-set dishes but tend to emphasize customizable grab-and-go options. Green said that “Subway version of poke” is fine if you’re downtown for lunch and don’t mind “being herded through a line,” but he decided to go a different route for two reasons. He wanted to take the guesswork out of designing a delicious experience — “If you’re making your own bowl, there’s a chance you could put together a combination that maybe isn’t the best” — and also take advantage of Hotel Albatross’ “sexy room, and that we’re open in the evening and serve cocktails and drinks,” he said.
Speaking of drinks, expect a punch bar to complement Hotel Albatross’ existing selection of exciting Tiki-inspired cocktails. For now, No Vacancy is open for dinner only, but Green said he’s looking to expand to seven days a week and maybe extend hours to lunch. But trust that you won’t be herded through a line.
No Vacancy Poke, 2319 NW Market St, (206) 566-6181, website. Open Wednesday to Sunday 4 to 9 p.m.