Friday, February 22, 2019
Paddles Up Poke’s motto is ‘Keeping it Raw’
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Dan Landucci says his was the first specialty poke shop in Idaho.
 
Friday, February 1, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

It’s called the Sun Valley Ski Bum. But this ski bum doesn’t come with duct tape on its mittens or twin tips on its skis.

This ski bum encompasses salmon, crab Piranha sauce, wontons, avocado, cucumbers, edamame, Unagi sauce and sesame seeds.

And you’ll find this ski bum not on the ski slopes but in the new 800-square foot Paddles Up Poke cafe adjacent to Hotel Ketchum.

 
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Dan Landucci plans to spend at least one week each month in Ketchum. Cousin Matt Dietz will manage
 

Billed as fresh fast food, the new restaurant brings a taste of Hawaii to the sun-kissed mountains of Sun Valley with raw salmon and other fish served up in Poke Bowls or sushi-type burritos made with seaweed instead of tortillas.

“I grew up deep sea fishing and I was working in downtown Boise when I saw the need for a quick healthy fast food restaurant,” said Dan Landucci. “We were the first poke restaurant in Idaho when we opened in downtown Boise.”

Poke, pronounced poh-kay, means “to section, slice or cut.” Hawaiians have indulged in this meal of Hawaiian-style rice or noodles and marinated raw fish for years, with variations from restaurant to restaurant and supermarket to supermarket.

The trendy niche food found its way to the United States a few years ago.

 
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Poke bowls boast plenty of color by the time scallions, pineapple, sesame seeds, carrots, avocado, raw fish and other foodstuffs have been piled on.
 

At Paddles Up you can build your own poke bowl, choosing from 42 items, including avocado, seaweed salad, calamari salad, smoked chicken, shrimp, crispy wontons, cucumbers, pineapple, chicken, tofu and nine original sauces.

Or you can choose from signature poke bowls.

Eagle Road Rage, for instance, is a spicy bowl containing wasabi shoyu, jalapenos, wasabi cream, siracha and chili flakes, among other things.

The California Invasion boasts crab with Piranha sauce, avocado and more. The Bogus Basin Fan Fav includes tuna, salmon, crab, ginger and spicy aioli. The Fiesta Bowl, which pays homage to the Boise State Broncos’ highlights, features spicy tuna, crispy jalapenos and more.

 
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Dan Landucci snaps a picture of the Catch of the Day next to a sheep’s head that was installed in keeping with Hotel Ketchum’s thing for sheep.
 

And the North End Chicken features smoked chicken breast, Outrigger Teriyaki sauce and edamame, among other things.

“In Boise we often have a line that winds from the counter out the door. But we can get those people inside the shop in a minute and we can be handing their bowl to them a minute later,” Landucci said. “We can build a bowl every 30 seconds.”

Landucci grew up in San Jose, Calif., but came to Boise to attend Boise State University.

 He found his calling peddling food at an early age, selling candy bars and ice cream out of his little red wagon. As he got older, he gleaned fruit from his neighbors’ trees, giving them 10 percent of sales.

 
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Diners can take bowls to go, eating them while walking back to office. Or they can a burrito for the lift.
 

He started writing business plans for a restaurant while yet at college, trying to choose between Dapper Dan’s sandwiches or a hot wings restaurant.

He chose poke, after losing 80 pounds eating a poke bowl containing more than 30 grams of protein that he had developed for his physical trainer. And he chose the name Paddles Up after hearing a river guide use it during a whitewater trip he took on the Lower Salmon River near Riggins.

“Paddles up means to attack the next rapid. It fit with my idea that we were taking a risk but, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” said Landucci, who filed the papers for a limited liability company the day his first daughter was born.

 “Also, I wanted to be Idaho themed, something that inspires the Idaho kind of life. We say we’re a paddles-up experience for on-the-go people looking for something that will fuel their adventure.”

Landucci had hoped to open his second restaurant in Ketchum, given the local population’s zest for being outside and exploring Idaho. But he decided to wait after Hotel Ketchum co-owner Michael Brown happened to stop by his Boise restaurant for lunch and suggested Landucci consider getting in on the  ground floor of his new hotel.

Problem was Hotel Ketchum was undergoing construction at that time.

Landucci bided his time and instead opened a second store at Eagle and McMillan roads in Meridian before making Ketchum his third location. He also hopes to open a Paddles up Poke food truck this summer that he hopes to bring to the Wood River Valley for special events.

Eventually, he’d like to expand to Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls and open a couple more restaurants in Boise.

 “For now, I’m 29 years old and I have two kids and three restaurants,” he said. 

The Ketchum restaurant on Main Street next to Hotel Ketchum is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

Paddles up Poke offers a 10 percent discount to military, police officers, firefighters, teachers and nurses with ID or proof of occupation.

And it’s the official poke shop of the Boise State Broncos.

 “Every time the football team ate at Paddles Up before a home  game, they were undefeated. We’re getting them eating better food than burgers,” said Landucci.

The biggest challenge for the Ketchum restaurant will be procuring fresh fish every day.

Landucci talked Ocean Beauty into making a run to Ketchum from Boise four, rather than three, days a week. And his employees will deliver fish from Boise the other two days.

Hotel Ketchum Manager Shannon Allen says Paddles Up Poke fit with the hotel’s desire to offer hotel guests and townspeople something unique. The hotel still has plans for a restaurant where the Moose Girls Restaurant used to be and, eventually, for a Sheeptown Coffee café.

“I’d give it a 15 out of 10,” added John McLaughlin as he immersed himself in a bowl, along with Allen, Cassie Abel and Eeva Turzian.

 “I love Paddles Up!” added Allen. “It’s something our town has been missing.”

 

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