Eater Seattle confirmed today that Sam Choy’s popular food truck, Poke to the Max, will be taking over the former La Isla de Mojito space between Columbia and Hillman City (5300 Rainier Ave S).
As many know, this is a tricky spot for restaurants. La Isla de Mojito, Grecian Delight, Kawayan, and Kawalli grill have all made a go in the location over the last few years only to eventually close the doors. For many neighbors, the space is cursed…the location where restaurants go to die. However, Sam Choy himself may be the key to making the space work. Choy’s a celebrity chef with a slew of restaurants, trucks, cooking shows, etc. From Choy’s wikipedia page:
Sam Choy is a chef, restaurateur, and television personality known as a founding contributor of “Pacific rim cuisine“.Choy is an alumnus of the Kapiolani Community College Culinary Arts program. One of his first jobs as a chef was at The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. He would then return to Hawaii, where he eventually opened a chain of restaurants.Choy helped develop and popularize Hawaii regional cuisine. In 1991, Choy founded the Poke Festival and Recipe Contest.
In 2004, Choy was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award America’s Classics Award for Sam Choy’s Kaloko in Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. The award recognizes “beloved regional restaurants” that reflect the character of their communities.
Choy has appeared in several Food TV programs, including Ready.. Set… Cook! and Iron Chef America. He is good friends with Emeril Lagasse,who has appeared on Choy’s TV show Sam Choy’s Kitchen on KHNL. Lagasse has also mentioned Choy by name several times in his TV shows; one of those times he was making Poke on his live TV show, and added peanut butter to the Poke – Choy’s “secret ingredient”. In 2015, Choy broadcast a series on YouTube, Sam Choy In The Kitchen.
Choy has designed special Hawaiian inspired dishes for American Airlines first class passengers to and from Hawaii.
In addition, Choy’s truck is very popular, often with long lines at its roving locations around the city and plenty of positive reviews on Yelp.
As many know, this stretch of Rainier between Hillman and Columbia City is about to see incredible change. There’s a major, 4-6 story, 120+ unit development planned for the auto yard directly across the street from this location. With it, the divide (if there is one) between the two neighborhoods will continue to blur.
Interestingly, with Marination’s Super Six opening last year on Hudson, Choy’s new addition will mark the neighborhood’s second Hawaiian food truck-to-brick and mortar business to move in.
Currently, there are no permits filed for the location that provide any clues as to how extensive the renovation to the site will be.