Pacific Counter to build chef-driven poke bowls, sushi burritos on the 600 Block

How do you feel about a sushi robot? The downtown St. Pete newbie has one.

click to enlarge A rendering of downtown St. Pete's Pacific Counter, set to premiere sometime in summer. - Wannemacher Jensen Architects
Wannemacher Jensen Architects
A rendering of downtown St. Pete's Pacific Counter, set to premiere sometime in summer.

Downtown St. Pete’s 600 Block is getting its own speedy destination for create-your-own poke bowls and sushi burritos. Scheduled to launch in summer, Pacific Counter — a fast-casual meets chef-driven newbie — plans to mix top-notch ingredients and technology under one roof at 660 Central Ave.

A sushi robot, for example, will help partners Tanner Loebel, Eric Bialik and Chitt Noythanongsay pull off Pacific Counter’s burritos. Flown in from Japan and billed as the first of its kind locally, the machine can churn out up to 1,200 sheets of burrito bases per hour.

“While the concept is fast-casual, our entire menu is chef-driven with a focus on integrity and consistency,” said Loebel in a statement. “We are marrying top-of-the-line ingredients with innovative tech, and the result is a superior product served quickly, which our customers can enjoy in a relaxed and fun environment.”

The Bay area isn’t unfamiliar territory for Loebel and his fellow partners. Loebel founded FoodNow and owned the restaurant delivery service until last year, when it was acquired by Bite Squad. A former general manager of Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club, Bialik most recently served as the GM for Grill One Sixteen between 2013 and 2016. And Noythanongsay, known as chef Tock, is a food industry vet who played significant roles in several sushi restaurants around town, including Samurai Blue, Sushi Rock Grill and Roy’s, where he trained under celeb chef Roy Yamaguchi.

click to enlarge How the fast-casual interior will look. - Wannemacher Jensen Architects
Wannemacher Jensen Architects
How the fast-casual interior will look.

With an emphasis on fresh produce and quality seafood, the restaurant’s food costs $3 to $12, while drinks are $2.50 to $5. Expect 10 signature builds that come as a burrito or a bowl — among them three vegan options. But diners can also choose from a selection of bases, proteins, toppings and house-made sauces to customize their cravings.

Specials are set to rotate daily alongside limited-time “wave items,” depending on their availability and the seasons. The signature Dole Whip (a soft-serve pineapple dessert available in cup or float form), Frostee Kirin (essentially a Kirin beer topped with frozen foam) and Sake Slush (self explanatory, right?) are also menu highlights.

Oh, and, although the restaurant hasn’t premiered yet, Pacific Counter will become the official caterer for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in May, serving up post-practice and -game meals led by chef Tock for the team and coaching staff.

Once its doors on the 600 Block do open, however, delivery is expected, as are to-go and catering programs. Pacific Counter’s anticipated hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with extended hours until midnight for late-night guests on Friday and Saturday.

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