J-Petal and Poke: Curious Cuisine

by: Aine Moriarity

We’ve all come across weird attractions every now and again. Maybe that booth at the fair had really creepy-looking prizes. Maybe that store only sold clothes appealing to a really small niche. And this restaurant definitely combines two cultures almost no one would pair together.

J-Petal & Poke can be found in multiple states, its most prominent location is at 3242 N John Young Parkway. In other words, it’s in the Loop near the Petco. It is a self-proclaimed “Japanese crêpe and poke kbowl restaurant.” According to staff, the establishment is rather popular among teens and young adults.

The menu is odd, to say the least. The crêpes available come in either sweet or savory flavors. The poke (pronounced poe-key) bowls are some sort of rice or vegetable bowl with various toppings. Strangest of all is the “Light Bulb Drinks,” which seem to be, well, various drinks served in empty light bulbs.

The restaurant itself is clean and colorful; the walls are painted green, while the furniture is black with red accents. Only one booth has people seated at it, so it’s rather quiet aside from the music playing over the speakers. The music is usually a pop or rap song, mostly in English, but sometimes in Japanese.

To order, my family and I approach the counter in the back. The setup – various food items arranged in rows – reminding me of Subway. As my companions construct their bowls, I decide to order a Chicken Teriyaki crêpe instead, alongside some mango-and-lemon flavored sparkling water in a light bulb. We can see the food being made on the other side of the counter, and everything is neatly handed to us on a tray.

As we sit down, I look at the receipt and my stomach sinks a little. Each food item we ordered costs close to $10 – not much on its own, but it stacks quickly – and the light bulb drinks cost about $5 each. I note to myself that it’s probably best to eat here in small groups.

The crêpe, wrapped in thick paper, is eaten like an ice cream cone. The vegetables are cold but create a pleasant contrast from the warm chicken and sauce, as well as the crêpe itself. My mother hands me a bite of her bowl, with similar results. My sparkling water is fruity, but subtle in its sweetness. Chunks of mango come up through the straw. No matter what I eat, everything tastes…no…feels, light and healthy.

The selection may seem strange at first, but one could quickly get used to it. The restaurant bursts with character, from its colors to the staff to the assembly line. You might want to be cautious with your wallet, but each bite of fresh food certainly justifies what you do buy. 9/10!

PS: They let you take the light bulb home with you after you’re done!