As Davis Square prepares for an influx of poke restaurants, another restaurant specializing in this Hawaiian delicacy is getting ready to open its doors down the road near Porter Square. Manoa is finishing the buildout of its space on Beacon Street in Somerville and will debut a menu of local and seasonal dishes this fall.
The team behind the restaurant includes Josiah Bonsey and James Acer, friends from college who are ready to bring years’ worth of brainstorming to life.
Bonsey’s family is from Hawaii and moved to the Boston area when he was 10. About two years ago, Bonsey and his brother Sam started dreaming up the poke concept and considered running a food truck or a stand at farmers markets before deciding to pursue a restaurant.
At that time, poke had appeared in Los Angeles but hadn’t quite made the jump to the East Coast, and Bonsey figured there was a market for it in the Northeast. Now, as poke gains traction at fast-casual restaurants around the country, Manoa is poised to ride the wave of interest.
"This is an area that can really support a fresh and creative vision that’s driven by seasonality," Bonsey said. Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a raw fish dish commonly served in shops and convenience stores in Hawaii. Manoa will build upon that concept, with a goal of creating a fast-casual, deli-style experience for customers while sourcing fish and produce locally, Bonsey said.
Manoa took over the former Mixtura storefront at 300 Beacon St. a little more than four months ago, and the restaurant needed more work than expected, Bonsey and Acer found. They brought in designers and contractors to rework the space, which will accommodate 12 to 15 seats.
Right now, they’re filling out the rest of the team, focusing on finding someone with a creative culinary vision who can take charge in the kitchen and take command over Manoa’s menu. Their goal is to keep price points low and ensure customers feel intrigued rather than overwhelmed by the options, especially since customer service is a great part of the Hawaiian spirit, Bonsey said.
The idea will be to concentrate on five or six kinds of poke, including fish and tofu options, and to have some staple meat items on the menu for those who don’t eat fish. There will also be daily specials, and dishes will be tied to seasonal produce. Bonsey and Acer want to find a balance between predetermined menu items and allowing room for customization.
Right now, Bonsey and Acer are aiming for a September opening as they work to finalize the setup of the restaurant and hire additional team members.
- Hawaiian-Style Poke Will Descend Upon Davis Square [EBOS]
- Manoa to Open in Somerville [BRT]
- Manoa [Facebook]