Center City’s Poi Dog Philly, a restaurant specializing in Hawaii’s local foods, is closing permanently. Co-owner Kiki Aranita said the decision was driven by loss of income following the coronavirus-induced shutdown.
Aranita, who hails from Hawaii and Hong Kong, opened the storefront near 21st and Sansom in 2017 with business partner and Bryn Mawr College classmate Chris Vacca. Before that, Poi Dog had operated as a food cart on Temple University’s campus.
Aranita said the restaurant’s business relied on Center City’s lunch rush and the steady catering work from nearby offices — all of which disappeared in mid-March, when the restaurant temporarily closed.
It resumed takeout in June, but with “virtually no foot traffic on 21st Street” and high operating costs, the owners decided to wind down operations.
“There is no scenario that can justify the high cost of operating a storefront in Rittenhouse while keeping prices as low as possible for a menu that was entirely made from scratch,” Aranita said.
On Wednesday, Poi Dog’s last day of business, they’ll be selling preorders of their best-sellers (including Spam musubi and ahi poke), plus offerings from former employees who have gone on to start their own businesses. There will be lechon from Chance Anies, who owns the Filipino food cart Tabachoy Philly, and kombucha from Jamaar Julal. Preorders can be placed on Poi Dog’s Square site.
Before it clears out of its storefront, Poi Dog is giving away all of its restaurant and kitchen equipment — including deep fryers, tables and chairs, and cookware, “pretty much all you need for starting a restaurant,” Aranita said. Interested parties who are launching a food business should fill out the form at poidogphilly.com/makana for pickup before Friday.
Aranita and Vacca also sold Poi Dog’s food truck, which would frequent the Headhouse Square Farmers Market, Bryn Mawr’s Clover Market, and the Art Star Craft Bazaar at Penn’s Landing in happier days.