Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Clarissa Villondo
D.C. has latched into the poke craze hard and Poke Papa is here to take complete advantage of it. Located right in Chinatown, the small fast casual joint is cozy neighbors with a Five Guys, but they’re certainly not worried about the competition. Even when I stopped by well after lunch hours to visit, there were still a steady stream of customers picking up bowls to go and eating in. They really seem to be killing it.
The inside is small, but charming, with lots of bright white and touches of wood. The potted plants on every table make it seems a little less cold and add a needed pop of color. Like most of the fast casual joints in D.C., it’s designed well enough to make eating a meal there comfortable.
When it comes to the menu options, Poke Papa doesn’t deviate much. They offer a nice selection of signature bowls, all of which are highly customizable. If you’re a loose canon, you can also just make you own bowl from the wide list of options.
The Onolicious bowl (‘ono means delicious in Hawaiian) is their clear best seller and it’s easy to see why. If you’re new to poke, this is the place to start. It combines marinated ahi tuna, lotus root, ginger, sesame, scallion and onion. It’s the cleanest, freshest tasting bowl on the menu. This is the antithesis off bogging down your Chipotle order with cheese and sauce and avocado. Just eating it feels refreshing.
If you’re a seafood fanatic who needs a little bit more, spring for Da Grinds. It’s chock full of protein including ahi tuna, lomi salmon, spicy tuna, and ceviche. Ours also came with pineapple, tomato, seaweed salad, ginger and masago. It may be the most expensive, but this was my favorite bowl. It highlighted all of the excellent seafood Poke Papa uses in one compact form. This is a good option if you’re looking to try a little bit of everything. I’d come back for this or the Onolicious (depending on the day) in a heartbeat.
Finally, we tasted the K-Pop Bop, a special limited edition bowl that included ahi tuna, salmon, onion, scallions, gochujang, and sesame oil. This was spicier and a little more in your face with it’s flavor. The forbidden rice went well with the dish and added to its richer flavor.
If you want to mix up your lunch game, or are just sick of the fast casual options D.C. already has to offer, Poke Papa has your back.