Is Poke the Next Cupcake? And How Long Will THAT Last?

Is Poke the Next Cupcake? And How Long Will THAT Last?
Luster Kaboom
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Are cupcakes finally over with? Jesus, I hope so. And not just because I hate cupcakes, which in their late-20th-century incarnation always seem to involve a tower of brightly colored icing, too tall to fit into any mouth. I don’t like a dessert that dares me to eat it.

I shouldn’t get too excited about the death of the cupcake trend — or the wind-up of any food fad, for that matter. Because food trends always come back. Always. The worst ones, too.

Remember when Italian ice was the big thing? Fortunately, that one didn’t last. Gelato was trendy for awhile; now, it’s taken a backseat to boutique “creameries” where ice cream is made on the premises and flavored with Dijon mustard or kiwi rinds. (Hey, let’s count our blessings that no one’s thought to open a “Food That’s Not Supposed to Be Savory But Is!” stand.) The gourmet hamburger hung around a little too long, crashing and burning with Burger Rush, whose Central Avenue location came and went in what seemed like a few weeks. Fancy burgers will be back, no doubt, and next time they’ll be stuffed with lavender, or deep-fried and drizzled with chili-infused honey. You watch.

Ramen seems to be hanging on. And frozen yogurt is back — again! I like both of these, but it’s not any of these cuisines, good or bad, that bother me; it’s the velocity with which food trends come and go that’s giving me whiplash. (Is whiplash a trend yet?)

This year’s hot new food thing is poke, a quick-serve rice bowl featuring diced, raw fish tossed with chopped vegetables and ridiculous toppings like seaweed or masago. Which sounds just as good or bad as the next trend.

But last April, when I heard that a chain of poke bowl restaurants called Ahipoki had moved into town (joining a host of others, including Poki Bar Central, Ocean Poke, and Tokyo Joe’s), I had the same response as when all those frozen yogurt shops started popping up on every other street corner: Where the hell did that come from — and how long will it last?

In a breathless and deeply under-punctuated press release, Ahipoki this month announced three new locations are about to open in Phoenix — one at Cityscape, another in a former Jersey Mike’s, which probably suggests that submarine sandwiches are so last year.

That’ll bring Ahipoki’s grand total up to at least five stores in the Valley, including one in Chandler and the one currently offering poke (that sounds filthy) to people in Scottsdale. If nothing else, this will give us all an opportunity to find out if poke, a Hawaiian dish, isn’t really just sushi in a bowl. But we’d better act fast. Any day now, Ahipoki may be replaced by a chain of artisanal sausage shops. Or a brine-pickled French fry stand. Or a cricket burger café.

Sound disgusting? Don’t worry. Just close your eyes and count to 10, and these places, and the food trends they’re trying to force on us, will be gone, too.

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