Himalayan and Hawaiian soul food restaurant set to open in Cooper Center

Storefront with old Taco Grande sign still up.
A new sign is coming for Momo & Poke, which is aiming to open this week in the former Taco Grande location.

Conrad and Lauren Hise saw their first foray into the food business go up in smoke — literally. An arson fire destroyed their food truck in 2018, just months after the couple launched the venture.

But the Hises have persevered, and now they have teamed with another food truck owner to start Momo & Poke, a Himalayan and Hawaiian soul food restaurant in the Cooper Center. The carryout eatery has taken over the former Taco Grande space at 8733M Cooper Road (see map), and the Hises say they are hoping to have their soft launch on Wednesday.

“This is a blessing, one year [after the fire] to be opening our own place,” Conrad Hise said.

A native of Oahu, Hise has long wanted to help bring Hawaiian cuisine to a bigger audience. For Momo & Poke, he’s teamed up with friend Sujit Shakya, who owns the Himalayan Soul Foods food truck in Washington D.C. The Hises will specialize in Hawaiian food, particularly Poke, while Shakya will bring in the handmade Momo dumplings and sauce every day.

“My friend he does Himalayan dumplings, very simple handmade dumplings. Veggie, pork, chicken,” Conrad Hise said. “My food is authentic from Hawaii. Everything I do is from scratch … you get that authentic taste.”

Poke restaurants have become a hot trend in the D.C. region over the past few years, but Conrad Hise said he hasn’t been impressed with many of them. Some use frozen fish or non-authentic ingredients, he said.

“They throw anything in there, soy beans, weird stuff,” said Hise.

Authenticity is so important to the Hises that they even order their soy sauce from Hawaii, saying the quality is worth the extra effort — and cost.

The Hises have been working since May to renovate the interior of their new space, with fresh paint on the walls and new counters. They were able to reuse much of the kitchen equipment, cutting down on the time needed to open. A new exterior sign should be installed this week, Conrad Hise said.

As they get their feet under them, Hise said they’ll look to offer weekly specials depending on the local fish market. A grand opening will likely be held sometime in August, and eventually Momo & Poke will deliver through GrubHub.

You can follow Momo & Poke on Facebook here and see their website here.