Mokka, a neighborhood cafe that has operated for ten years, is closing its doors on June 3rd, citing the rising cost of doing business in the Bay Area. Taking its place will be #Poki, a restaurant specializing in the raw fish bowls (and hashtags) that have taken the Bay Area by storm.
Mokka owners Michael and Susan Iida are sad to say goodbye to a neighborhood they've called home for almost a decade, serving coffee, breakfast and lunch. They say that the root cause of their closure is the rising minimum wage, which will be $12.53 in October 2015. "We really feel for those businesses that have been open for two generations, the mom-and-pop places that will close because of it," said Michael Iida. Fans of the coffee shop can stop by for a goodbye party on June 3rd.
"I think a lot of people will be suffering in that city as minimum wage goes up," said Gilbert Dair, real estate agent and co-owner of the property that houses Mokka. "Coffee used to be a huge profit center." Dair said he had little luck attracting SF businesses to the neighborhood, partially because of the stigma of the difficulty of doing business in Berkeley. "I think people aren't familiar with how Berkeley works and didn't want to deal with it."
[Photo: yasuhiro amano]
Meanwhile, another married couple, Jerry Su and Diana Lee will bring a different vibe to the neighborhood altogether, banking on the growing momentum of poke. Fans of the dish, which is raw fish served atop rice, with various sauces and toppings, already know that it is "having a moment," both here and nation-wide. Now Lee and Su, who is a sushi chef at nearby Mitama, are planning to bring it to their corner of Berkeley.
#Poki will offer a make-your-own style of bowl, wherein diners choose their fish (salmon, hamachi, albacore, scallop) or tofu, served atop rice or salad, plus a variety of toppings and sauces. "We wanted to keep it more simple and traditional," Lee told Eater. "We wanted to open our own restaurant with the freshest fish available." Side options will be choice of edamame or salads: crab, seaweed or octopus. Dessert will include macaron ice cream sandwiches from Brick's, a South Bay cult favorite, and Bubbie's mochi ice cream from Hawaii.
#Poki will likely be open for lunch and early dinner, offering a different takeout option to a quiet stretch of Telegraph Avenue. If all goes according to plan, Lee hopes to open by the first week of August. Stay tuned for more details.