There are four illustrations hanging on the wall inside Lakewood Ranch's Pacific Counter that tell you what the restaurant is all about. One shows Hawaii, the place of origin for poke; another shows Japan, where sushi, of course, comes from; a third shows southern California, which explains the eatery's chilled-out, hyper-color ambiance; and a fourth is an homage to St. Petersburg, where the first Pacific Counter opened in 2018.
Add all that up and you'll have a solid grasp of the fast-casual restaurant, which specializes in bowls that can be prepared with a base of rice, noodles or greens; meal-sized sushi burritos; fancy hot dogs; and plenty of sides and sweets.
The restaurant was opened by co-owners Tanner Loebel, Eric Bialik and Chitthasack Noythanongsay, who had all worked in various roles in the food world beforehand. In addition to the St. Pete restaurant, they also operate a concession stand inside Tropicana Field, the Tampa Bay Rays' ballpark.
"We built our concept on convenience," says Loebel. "We wanted something that was fresh and healthy, but also quick and convenient."
The restaurant offers online ordering, which accounts for 60 percent of its Lakewood Ranch location's sales, and recently began offering delivery through a number of third-party services. Loebel, Bialik and Noythanongsay decided to move into the Lakewood Ranch market after numerous visitors to their St. Pete location from Lakewood Ranch suggested the idea and the three drove down to visit.
"We fell in love with the area," says Loebel, who plans to move to Lakewood Ranch after his family's new home is built.
The flavors at Pacific Counter are clean and vibrant. An "Over the Rainbow" sushi burrito ($11.99) is packed with both raw tuna and salmon. A creamy yuzu sauce, sushi rice and cubes of mango prickle your sweet tooth, while edamame beans offer some chew, and sprouts, fish eggs and sesame seeds round out the flavors. Other burritos and bowls cover a wider range of tastes, with ingredients like barbecued chicken, tofu and mushrooms, and most can be customized however you like.
A bánh mì-style hot dog ($5.99) dresses up a typical frankfurter with cilantro leaves, a daikon relish and sliced cucumbers and jalapeños, all of it cooled down by an avocado and lime dressing. A side of kimchi ($2.99-$5.99) is nice and pungent, and Pacific Counter is also offering Spam musubi ($2.99), a Hawaiian staple. Hawaii, Japan, SoCal and St. Pete—all of it comes together in Lakewood Ranch.
Pacific Counter is located at 11581 E. State Road 70, #109, Bradenton, and is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. For more info, call (941) 739-8039 or visit the restaurant's website.