Ryan Lee has had an affinity for poke for years, ever since his first visit Hawaii where the fresh Ahi tuna and rice bowls can be found in abundance. So when the opportunity came up to open his second Coffee Tree cafe on First Hill, he knew poke would be part of the equation.
“I wanted to bring something I had passion for and something I had experience with,” said Lee, who worked for nine years as a sushi and hibachi chef in Dallas before moving to Seattle. “It’s a great location by Harborview and a healthy option for patients and hospital workers.”
Coffee Tree and Poke opened August 1st near 9th and James — just three blocks from the Coffee Tree at 8th and Marion.
What might seem like a strange combination elsewhere, poke and coffee under one roof should be a match made in Seattle heaven. Given poke’s surge of popularity here, perhaps boosted by the screening of a poke documentary at this year’s SIFF, Lee said he expected customers to be relatively familiar with the dish. But after a week, it seems Lee may still be on the forefront of the poke (pronounced po-kay) trend as many continue to come in to inquire about “poke” (pronounced like joke).
In addition to Victrola Coffee espresso drinks and poke bowls, Coffee Tree serves a spicy tuna dish called the First Hill tower, breakfast sandwiches, bubble teas, and smoothies.
Lee took over the space after Kafe Berlin closed in April. The historic German Heritage Society building on 9th Ave just north of James has a long history in Seattle as a social gathering space for Germans in the city. Given the relative scarcity of restaurants in the area, having a restaurant replace Kafe Berlin should come as a welcome addition in the neighborhood.
“People are looking for healthier options, the poke bowl I make is mostly veggies,” Lee said. “With one dish you’re pretty much getting everything and it’s pretty quick.”
Coffee Tree and Poke is open at 613 9th Ave, Monday-Friday 7 AM-7 PM, Saturday 8 AM-3 PM, and is closed on Sundays. Visit Coffee Tree on Facebook for more information.