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California-based customizable sushi restaurant opens in El Paso

Sushi Freak’s menu items include Poke bowls, Poke nachos, Gunshow sushi burrito, and Rockstar roll.

Sushi Freak, a create-your-own sushi restaurant, has made its way from California all the way to the El Paso area.

The fast-casual dining restaurant, which opened its doors on Sept. 13, allows customers to pick and choose what they want in their sushi roll, sushi burrito or poke bowl.

Many Chinese fast-casual restaurants have opened up across the nation like Pei Wei and Panda Express, but the founders of Sushi Freak believe there aren’t any major players in the Japanese restaurant market, which makes them stand apart.

“We’re trying to fill a niche that isn’t there right now in the market. We’re not trying to be a high-end sushi restaurant,” said CEO and co-founder Jenifer Duarte.

Duarte and her business partner, Michael Broder, came up with the concept after working at a high-end Pan Asian restaurant together in Albuquerque.

“There were customers that would get their entree before they got what they were considering their appetizer which was their sushi,” Duarte said.

Duarte said the time-consuming process affected the flow of the ordering process for customers.

Customers with a range of allergies or food preferences would also ask for special requests as well—something that could come across as insulting to master sushi chefs.

Duarte and Broder searched for a way to make the process of making sushi faster without compromising the quality and quantity of the food as well as cater to cus

tomers with special food allergies.

After learning from an experienced master sushi chef and perfecting their business model, Sushi Freak opened up in San Diego near the University of San Diego campus.

Eight years later, Sushi Freak has two locations in San Diego, one in Albuquerque and now El Paso.

While Duarte was in El Paso visiting family, the idea of bringing the restaurant to El Paso crossed her mind. It just so happened that an interest to open a Sushi Freak in El Paso came up after the now local operators reached out to Duarte and Broder.

“We both felt like it would be a really good fit for us. It actually just worked out like a coincidence. Everything fell together perfectly,” Duarte said.

While San Diego is closer to the sea and over 700 miles away from El Paso, Durate promises that the quality of the food won’t be compromised. Customers can expect to taste the quality and freshness of the food—from the vegetables to the hand-made sauces, and most importantly the fish.

A crucial and principal factor for the business is being able to provide options for customers with food allergies and dietary restrictions, including those who may be gluten-free or are allergic to shellfish.  

“It’s really important to not exclude anybody with those kinds of special situations,” Duarte said. “If you do come in and have an allergy, let the order taker know immediately and we have a special-order process.”

Sushi Freak prides itself on being a fun yet comfortable environment. From the comfortable seating to the colorful décor on the walls allowing customers to take selfies and share on social media.

The restaurant also sells merchandise from t-shirts and tumblers to a variety of Asian snacks and drinks like Pocky, Hello Panda and Ramune.

If you’re feeling indecisive, order off of one of Sushi Freak’s regular menu items like the Rockstar roll – made with seaweed, crab mix, avocado and cucumber topped with spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, tobiko, masago, spicy mayo, unagi and mango sauce.

Their Poké Nachos are also a popular seller made with crispy wonton chips topped with tuna and salmon poké, spicy tuna, crab mix, avocado, green onion, furikake seasoning, spicy mayo, unagi sauce and mango sauce.

Sushi Freak is located in West Towne Market Place off Interstate 10 near Artcraft and Paseo Del Norte.

For more information on the restaurant visit their website,

Brianna Chavez may be reached at [email protected].

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California-based customizable sushi restaurant opens in El Paso