Thursday, July 19, 2018
Dining

Poke bowl and sushi burrito restaurant Pacific Counter coming to St. Pete -- with a sushi robot

ST. PETERSBURG — The robots are coming!

Okay, it won’t be the area’s first restaurant robot (that was Rollbotto Sushi), but Pacific Counter will create sushi burritos with the help of a sushi robot straight from Japan. The machine is capable of creating up to 1,200 sheets of perfect burrito bases per hour, no bathroom breaks, no sick days.

But wait, there’s more. Announced today, Pacific Counter will debut this summer as one of Pinellas County’s first build-your-own, fast-casual poke bowl and sushi burrito options. Hold up, some are saying. What’s a poke?

Poke means "to slice or cut" in Hawaiian. It’s a dish that at core is all about cubes of raw, marinated fish, often tuna, strewn over rice and topped with vegetables and a range of kicky sauces.

Pinellas County has been slow to the poke craze, but in Tampa there’s Poke Rose at the Hall on Franklin, Poke Fish Tide to Table on W Kennedy Blvd., U Poke Spot and Poke Express near University of South Tampa on Fowler. It’s a thing, okay?

Pacific Counter joins the bunch at 660 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg, with food items priced at no more than $12, drink options coming in at $5 or less. It will feature 10 ready-to-order "counter creations" that can be made into a bowl or burrito, including three vegan options. Specials will rotate daily, as will limited time "wave items" based on season and availability. Specialty bevs like Dole Whip, Frostee Kirin and Sake Slush will also be available.

Try These: Tampa Bay’s Top 50 Restaurants for 2018

"While the concept is fast-casual, our entire menu is chef-driven with a focus on integrity and consistency," said Tanner Loebel, one of three partners in the venture. "We are marrying top-of-the-line ingredients with innovative tech, and the result is a superior product served quickly."

Loebel was the founder and owner of FoodNow delivery service, acquired by Bite Squad last year. Partner Eric Bialik was general manager at Grille One Sixteen from 2013 to 2016, as well as the general manager at Ciro’s Speakeasy in 2011 and 2012. Partner Chitthasack Noythanongsay, better known as Chef Tock, has played significant roles in local sushi restaurants including Kiku’s, Samurai Blue, Sushi Rock Grill and Roy’s.

The restaurant has already gotten a ringing endorsement: Beginning in May 2018, Pacific Counter will be the official caterer for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and coaching staff, providing post-practice and post-game meals. A specific opening date for the restaurant is not yet known, but St. Petersburg-based firm Wannemacher Jensen Architects is handling the design and build out.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.

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