My 7-year-old son has been nattering at me for weeks to give in and download Pokemon Go, so that we, too, can cruise about the city in search of virtual Pikachus.
I haven’t quite caved yet, but I did take him, his sister, and one of their buddies to lunch at Poke Mon on Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland’s entry in the poke trend that’s been popping up in cities around the country this year.
Poke, for the uninitiated, is not a trading-card game governed by a byzantine series of rules that are virtually unintelligible to anyone over the age of 14. It’s Hawaiian-style raw fish — in this case, lightly-seasoned bite-sized chunks of ahi, salmon, poached octopus or albacore. At Poke Mon, it’s served in bowls, over satisfyingly sticky white or brown rice, or a pile of greens if you’re feeling especially virtuous.
You can go with their suggested combos, or build your own bowl, which is a great choice for picky kid eaters — think of it as akin to a frozen yogurt place where you can pick your own toppings. Those include cucumber, kale, nori, grapefruit, red radish, fried garlic and addictive, tiny, Japanese puffed-rice crackers called bubu arare. It’s finished off (but not drenched) with a sauce — my pick is the original, with shoyu, ginger, sesame oil and chile, but spicy-averse kids may prefer the garlic ponzu, with its hit of citrus. You can add sesame seeds at your table for an extra boost of flavor.
My kids are big sushi fans, and so this seemed like a no brainer for them. Plus I’m always looking for healthy, fast-casual, locally-owned lunch spots around town to take the kids. Poke Mon checks all those boxes.
My daughter, who is a vegetarian, sadly wouldn’t go for the fresh tofu-and-kale bowl, but she ordered off the sides menu and polished off all her miso soup ($3), seaweed salad ($3) and a side of rice ($2). (There’s also mac salad, as befits any Hawaiian plate-lunch place worth its coconuts, as well a green salad, and a side of kimchi.)
Don’t be afraid to ask the patient servers about unrecognizable ingredients on the menu, either. Doing so for my son’s build-your-own bowl netted him a version with the aforementioned bubu arare — two thumbs up from him — plus some inamona, or toasted kukui nuts, which gives some nice texture to the meal. For $1 extra you can add avocado to your bowl, which might help out kids who balk at unfamiliar ingredients. As for me, I loved my generously portioned ahi bowl with delicate brown rice, cucumbers, radish, sweet onion and roasted shiitake ($12.75). We were all charmed by the communal water dispenser filled with fresh citrus and the sturdy, kid-friendly plastic cups.
The space isn’t huge, but there are sunny outdoor tables and a decent amount of counter seating, too. Consider going for dinner, when lunchtime crowds have thinned.
We’ll be back, and by then, perhaps I will have given in to my son’s pleading. Rumor has it that Poke Mon is a good place to catch a MagiKarp, after all.
1485 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Tuesday-Sunday 11 am-9 pm, 503-894-9743, pokemonpdx.com.
You don’t have to hop a flight to get a taste of Hawaii.
Ate-Oh-Ate: If you’re looking for healthy, look elsewhere. This is down-and-dirty Hawaiian, loco-moco style. Think Kailua pig and spam musubi, with a big ol’ scoop of mac salad on the side. 2454 E Burnside St.
808 Grinds: Solid poke and plate lunch choices, with a newly opened brick-and-mortar location in Beaverton, and a well-loved downtown food cart, too. 10100 SW Park Way.
Wailua Shave Ice: No Hawaiian meal is complete without shave ice. This food cart has both offbeat flavors like banana horchata and classics like mango. Plus, it’s walking distance from Poke Mon. 1212 SE Hawthorne.
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