Battle of the Bowls

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It wasn’t that long ago that the only foods served in bowls were soups, salads and sundaes. Now your whole meal may be contained in one well-packed and nutrient-filled bowl.

What’s in it is likely to be something unheard of until fairly recently as well. Poke? Pitaya? Acai? These are not words that were found in most people’s lexicon until the bowl phenomenon rolled into town.

Poke – pronounced PO-keh – means “to cut or slice” in Japanese and it typically refers to raw fish, although many establishments have broadened offerings to include meats and tofu as well. Think of it as amped-up sushi.

 A poke bowl starts off with a base, such as rice or greens, over which you add your choice of protein, then vegetables – avocado, broccoli, seaweed, perhaps – then an umami-packed sauce like soy or ponzu or shoyu (which combines soy, sesame oil, rice vinegar, mirin and lemon). Top it off with sesame seeds, cilantro, crisp slices of garlic or any other trimming you like.

Then there are the sweet bowls, filled with pitaya, also known as dragonfruit, which is the fruit produced by several cactus species. Others start with a tarter mash of acai – ah-SIGH-ee, small purple berries derived from a South American palm tree.

Acai bowls contain mashed acai served in smoothie form that’s then topped with bananas, granola and other fruits. A variation might be a coconut mash in place of the acai.

Whichever your preference, there are plenty of spots around The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in which to satisfy your hunger for a bowl full of healthy and flavorful fare. Here is a baker’s dozen places serving them around the region:

Ada’s Natural Market: Ada’s Juice Bar offers power bowls featuring either an acai-based smoothie sorbet or chia pudding topped with fruits, granola and coconut.

Bahia Bowls: Choose from a bowl of acai, pitaya, Greek yogurt, oatmeal or greens, then add what you like on top of that.

Bentofu Sushi: This is a more full-service place, where you can get sushi, sashimi and cooked fare as well as poke bowls with fish or tofu and all the trimmings.

Eat Smart: This newcomer offers a different type of bowl. Pick four vegetables, two proteins, noodles or rice and sauce. Voila – a bowl is born.

Frutta Bowls: Another newcomer, Frutta Bowls specializes in acai bowls but also offers them with a chocolate whey protein or kale base as well.

Green Cup Café: Acai bowls are popular here as well as bubble tea, salads, wraps and coffee.

PokeBowl Café: In addition to traditional poke bowls, this café offers kani salad, miso soup, octopus puffs, baked mussels and gyoza.

Poke Fusion: Set to open any day now (as of Dec. 28), this poke restaurant promises fresh ingredients and interesting add-ons like jalapeno peppers, pico de gallo, pineapple and wasabi aioli.

Spoondrift Island Bowl: What began as a food truck has morphed into a brick-and-mortar store specializing in poke bowls. Start with a base like rice, quinoa or greens, then add your choice of protein (fish or meat), roasted veggies, something crunchy (like nuts or crisp onions), sauce and perhaps some cilantro or sesame seeds. Lunch is served.

Sweetberry Bowls: If large bowls filled with acai, pitaya, granola, fruit and other healthy and colorful ingredients are your thing, this is your place.

Uhmazebowls: The shop’s motto: “Never eat food you can’t pronounce. Except acai, we’ll help you with that.” And so there are acai bowls, green bowls, pitaya bowls and lots of goodies to put on top. 

Whole Foods Market: Among the extensive offerings in its prepared foods and hot foods section are poke bowls and various sushi items.

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