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Meet Jason Novak and Kelly Britton of Eagle Rock Poke Shack

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jason Novak and Kelly Britton.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Our family relocated to LA from Chicago in 2016. We’ve worked for years in the music industry, booking bands, tour managing and running festival shows, as well as launching a service-industry focused charity called Darkest Before Dawn (www.db4d.org).

After a couple of years in Los Angeles, we were given a unique opportunity to open a poke style restaurant in the Eagle Rock area. Both of us had a history in the food industry, loved the cuisine and the neighborhood, so we decided to take the plunge. A true “mom n pop” (and daughter), we pulled together the financing ourselves, took a quick crash course in restaurant operations, and opened the place a month later! We kind of soft-opened, and then just stayed open, making friends and fans in the area, no press, just word of mouth and neighborhood support.

Once in a while, we still look at each other and ask… “what the hell are we doing here again?” But then somebody finishes their meal and takes the time to tell us just how good it was, or how much they loved it… and then it’s easy to remember why.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I think the hardest thing right away is the difference in running a business in the state of Illinois vs. California. Let’s just say they don’t make it easy here! Also, you assume you are going to live at the restaurant full time, but you really don’t understand what that commitment means until you are literally living there, day in and out.

The key to customizing and personalizing the Shack as a true local business means the owners running the show and maintaining the face of the restaurant. No vacations, no breaks and no calling in sick! Every time you start to pull ahead there is always something to battle, a piece of gear to replace, an unexpected challenge to address. For the first couple of years, its like a baby, and needs constant attention.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Eagle Rock Poke Shack – what should we know?
We consider ourselves a fun, offbeat and non-commercial alternative to poke cuisine and culture: cold, raw fish served over warm rice, with fresh crispy produce and mouth-watering sauces. We insisted right out of the gate to only offer fresh toppings, nothing canned, with the utmost respect and care given to the fish. That means small-batch preparation as we go through the day, vs. larger amounts prepared early and open to faster oxidization.

We offer variations such as black spicy rice, wonton chips, gojuchang and crispy garlic chili oil, homemade miso-ginger soup, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, and our own smoked Kalua Pork. Our plan was to infuse more homemade flavors and interesting tweaks than your basic, corporate chain-style poke. As newcomers to the cuisine and California in general, we fell in love with poke, but then quickly learned that many people saw it as an overdone food trend, not to mention simplistic and even low quality… who wants low-quality raw fish?

Our attention to detail and personal infusion to the cuisine is key. Poke originated as a simple, humble, fisherman’s snack, fresh raw fish with rice, a little soy sauce and maybe some scallions. We want to make sure to offer that simplicity, while pushing more interesting textures and flavors, along with vegan and pork options. At the Shack, we try to keep the music loud and weird, the vibe loose and retro, and our customers smiling and satisfied!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I don’t think we’d still be standing without the help of our daughter Giorgia, Carlos Lizarraga and our Chicago pal of over 30 years, Billy O’Neal. They have been our support system since the day we opened, not just as employees but as family, and the only people who could get the job done when we desperately needed to tap out.

We also learned a lot from Rob and Rhonda at Masa of Echo Park, who were very generous with their knowledge of the business (also great friends and excellent confidants). Locally in Eagle Rock, I really have to tip my hat to Jeff, the owner of Walt’s Bar, and Ray Ray from Swork! Thanks boys.

Pricing:

  • Small poke bowl / 1 scoop fish / 5 toppings / 3 finishes: $8.95
  • Regular poke bowl / 2 scoop fish / 5 toppings / 5 finishes: $11.50
  • Large poke bowl / 3 scoop fish / 5 toppings / 5 finishes: $13.95
  • Specialty poke bowls: $11.95 – $13.95
  • Kalua Pork soft tacos, sandwiches + rice bowls: $6.95 – $11.50
  • Spicy Tuna Wonton Nachos: $11.95

Contact Info:

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