Pokéz bohemian bistro

Keeping busy behind the counter.

Walk a few blocks east of the Gaslamp Quarter and you’ll encounter a casual alternative to Downtown’s trendy hot spots. Located on E Street between 9th and 10th Street, Pokéz offers Mexican food in addition to both vegetarian and vegan options.

At Pokéz, the servers wait on you while wearing jeans, T-shirts and flip-flops, punctuating the bohemian atmosphere. The usual staple of chips and salsa is provided, but don’t expect free refills. The first basket is on the house and additional helpings are 75 cents each. Similarly, Pokéz offers canned soda, so free refills are also not on the menu.

But the menu is where Pokéz really shines. It offers the usual Mexican suspects, a great deal, if not the majority of which, are available as vegetarian dishes. And several others can even be ordered vegan with no animal products whatsoever. This is a plus for vegetarians who might otherwise not be able to eat these typical meat dishes.

Pokéz storefront, downtown San Diego.

“I never get to have flautas,” said Kym Piekunka as she admired the three vegetarian flautas she was about to eat, “so it’s fun to have a vegetarian option you don’t get at most Mexican restaurants.”

The food comes quickly – in about 10 minutes – and is served piping hot with generous portions.

I ordered “Tom’s Deep Plate,” which is essentially a build-your-own taco dish featuring beans, rice, sour cream, guacamole, salsa fresca and your choice of corn or flour tortillas. At the end of the meal, the cost of two good-sized dishes and two sodas was about $11.

But don’t wait for the waiter to deliver your check when the meal is done – take it up to the register.

Pokéz offers the relaxed experience of a walk-up taco shop with the restaurant quality of being waited on. The atmosphere has “college” written all over it and appeals to coffeehouse sensibilities without sacrificing food quality.

Originally published in The Daily Aztec.

  • Mark

    Terrible service, bad ventilation, but great food and prices.