Do not let the name confuse you. The Terracotta Pub isn’t about planting flowers or eating shepherd’s pie.
Instead, the new restaurant is Turlock’s first poke bowl place, offering the Hawaiian-inspired raw seafood dishes along with some Mexican fusion offerings and other traditional favorites. The unusual combination is a distillation of manager and Turlock native Nick Chan’s college experience at Chico State University.
“It’s just all the food I loved in college,” said the 26-year-old Turlock High graduate. “I just loved having a beer, watching sports, eating poke and Mexican food.”
So at Terracotta Pub you can order yourself a build-your-own poke bowl, or a fusion poke burrito or poke tacos. But you can also order a traditional carne asada burrito or chicken tacos or even loaded nachos with no raw fish in sight. And they have six beers on tap and big-screen TVs for your sports-viewing pleasure.
Located across from Stanislaus State University on Crowell Road in the former Cosmo Burgers spot (which before that was Alcatraz Burger), the restaurant has been open for about a month. Chan owns the restaurant with his parents, Carol Li and Anthony Chan, who worked for some 15 years at area Chinese restaurants.
With their new place, the family hopes to attract hungry students and others interested in more healthful eating.
The large overhead menu walks those unfamiliar with poke bowls through the process. Pick your base (white rice, brown rice, mixed greens), your sides (from options like crabmeat salad, avocado and cucumber), your protein (three scoops of salmon, tuna, ahi tuna, shrimp, scallops or tofu or any combination of those), your sauce (ranging from spicy mayo to traditional poke and house sauce) and finally your toppings (from a dozen options like ginger, wasabi, crispy onions and seaweed salad).
Everything, except avocado and additional protein scoops, is included in the $12.99 price tag, so go crazy if you want to try everything. The result is a raw seafood/rice/salad bowl that’s both colorful and filling.
Chan and his family are the restaurant’s only staff currently. Since opening, they’ve made a few adjustments to the menu, and could make more depending on popularity. The more experimental options, poke burritos and tacos, were a way to set themselves apart, Chan said.
Still, he said, not everyone is familiar with the concept and some are wary of the raw foods. But tastes are changing in their favor.
“I’ve been surprised by how many people have experienced poke before,” he said. “Around 10 years ago, no one liked raw seafood like this. But there are still some people who are new to it, and we’re happy to explain.”
The current decor is largely from the old Cosmos Burgers, which closed in the spring. Chan said the space imagery should change eventually, but for now, they’re focused on getting the word out about their poke.
“If you like sushi, you should definitely give it a try,” Chan said. “You can customize it to your taste, so you’re basically getting a giant sushi bowl.”
And about that name, which might otherwise conjure up either images of a lush garden or an English pub? Chan said it comes from the famed Terracotta Army built for the first Emperor of China around 210 BC.