Fish-lovers, rejoice! A new poke (POH-kay) restaurant opened in the heart of downtown Boise. Located on Ninth Street across from Freak Alley; Paddles Up Poke opened its doors on May 1 and has been going strong since. Co-owners Jordan Tapangco and Daniel Landucci got to know each other after moving to Boise—Tapangco hails from Alaska, while Landucci came from California. Both were passionate about starting a business and felt a poke place was the right idea for this growing, youthful urban area.
If you're unfamiliar with poke, it's traditionally raw cubes of marinated, seasoned fish (usually tuna), often tossed with vegetables and sauces. Popularized in Hawaii, poke is such a culinary staple there, Honolulu Magazine referred to it as "Hawaii's hamburger," and Paddles Up Poke is as chill as a burger joint. The dining experience is similar to what you find in Chipotle or Subway: Food is ordered, prepared and paid for all at the same counter. You can design your own poke bowl or choose from a handful of menu selections, which include quirky "burrito" and "nacho" options. We ordered from the menu and got the nachos, which featured a mix of tuna, crab, cucumber and edamame on a bed of potato chips. The staff was patient with our questions as we stumbled through the menu and there was almost no wait for our food.
The interior of Paddles Up is clean and contemporary, with a handful of raft-related prints and a few potted succulents on white and gray walls; and fewer than 20 small black tables dotted across a brown, stone floor. It lives in the sweet spot where the food is fast but the space is cozy and inviting, welcoming you to take a breather from the breakneck pace of life.
The food was excellent. Even an untrained tongue (and an amateur nose) can pick up on the care Paddles Up takes in offering the freshest stuff possible in a land-locked state. The burrito was a bit difficult to bite into, only because seaweed is not as yielding as a tortilla—you might want to keep the paper wrapper on while you dig in. The potato chips at the bottom of the bowl were take-it-or-leave-it but if you like kettle cooked chips, you might enjoy the flavor profile.
We really liked Paddles Up Poke. The food was filling and everything costs either $10.99 or $12.99; a hard bargain to beat for fresh raw fish. We recommend it for anyone who loves sushi, especially if you're picky. The make-your-own menu is a godsend.
For those already familiar with Paddles Up, be on the look-out for new specials, as we heard Landucci and Tapangco are planning to reel in unique and big-flavor regional fish options in the near future.
Known on Yelp and Tumblr as PizzaTom and PizzaKen, Tom Bowers and Kenny Katayama have diversified—but they still love pizza.