When I moved to North Carolina from Texas four years ago, I marveled at the variety of local establishments located in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area near the UNC campus. After talking with the older students, I realized that their remarks regarding the turnover of restaurants on or near Franklin Street signified a rite of passage that separated the incoming students from those farther along in the program. Finishing my fourth year at UNC, I find myself reminiscing about places that have closed their doors to make way for newer, trendier options. However, I am pleased to report that the new One Fish Two Fish poke restaurant in Carrboro not only contributes variety to the neighborhood food scene but also provides fresh, delicious options for those seeking a casual lunch or dinner.
Located on the corner of Main Street under the Hampton Inn, One Fish Two Fish conveniently caters to hungry diners in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Previously Tom and Chee grilled cheese shop, One Fish Two fish opened its doors in March 2017 after Tom and Chee closed after less than two years of business. I wondered how One Fish Two Fish would fare in this spot, as the array of dining options prevents some businesses from thriving in this community. A friend and I met for lunch last week to try the area’s first poke restaurant. My worries quickly dissipated, as I sat foot in the cheerful space, observing the crowds and their impressive meals. One Fish Two Fish supplies poke bowls and a few other choices in a fast-casual setting, similar to Chipotle. Yet the flowers atop the tables, whimsical signs, and other unique décor set this restaurant apart.
The bright sun illuminates the interior of the restaurant, as my friend and I move our way through the line, selecting our entrées and customizing them with the impressive selection of complimentary toppings. I noticed happily that the avocado topping does not cost extra like it does at other popular fast-casual options. Patrons have the option of creating their own poke bowls. Choosing all of the ingredients for my bowl proved a bit too overwhelming, so I ordered the Muliwai Bowl ($10.25), one of their six signature options, and swapped the jasmine rice for its sticky coconut counterpart. This bowl features salmon, yuzu kosho sauce, wasabi peas, cucumber, edamame, avocado, radish, sweet and green onion, furikake, masago, and a lotus chip. I decided to add cubed mango, mandarin orange slices, and pickled ginger to my bowl, as these ingredients looked particularly appealing as I moved down the line to the register.
Although customers have seemingly endless options of toppings and ingredients with which to customize their bowls, I appreciate the overall simplicity of the menu at One Fish Two Fish. They clearly aim to specialize in poke; thus, the menu centers on the bowls. They do offer a handful of non-bowl options, though. My friend ordered the tuna nachos ($9.00), which contain ahi tuna, cilantro, pineapple, cucumbers, and jalapeños. A generous amount of these ingredients combine with wasabi cream and sriracha, rather than a more conventional Mexican cheese blend, to aesthetically pleasing fusion mix that rests atop a large pile of wonton chips. We both rounded out our meals with bottled beverages. I ordered the Asheville-based Buchi kombucha ($3.00), while my friend ordered a vanilla cream soda ($2.00) from Waialua Soda Works, based in Waialua, Hawaii.
After the kind cashier handed us chopsticks and forks (just in case), we sat down at a table near a window to enjoy our fresh lunches. Grinders full of wasabi peas adorn the tabletops and provide a unique flavor boost to any option. Although this was my first poke experience, it will definitely not be my last, as I savored each bite of my bowl, leaving no topping left behind. After finishing my bowl, I was satisfied without being weighed down, which is my ideal feeling after lunch on days when I have work to continue in the afternoon. My friend’s nachos were also a hit, as the Asian-inspired flavors merged to create a successful combination with a kick. The tuna on the nachos was delightful, so I intend to try one of the tuna bowl options next time. I hope there will be many more “next times” in the future, as I want One Fish Two Fish to remain a mainstay in an area with a semi-high turnover rate.
Amy Sentementes is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill, where she studies political psychology and public opinion. She has managed to cope with the stress of graduate school by developing a love of cooking and “procrastibaking” for her friends and students. Additionally, Amy enjoys visiting local restaurants and breweries, and she hopes her research regarding group identities and stereotypes can help her evaluate cuisines from a unique perspective. A native Texan, she also loves visiting friends and family in the Lone Star State and cheering on her TCU Horned Frogs and Dallas Cowboys. You can follow her on Instagram @gradschoolfoodie.