Seasoned Chef Brings Poke Bowl Popup to Haddonfield

Chef Ralph Patrick Fernandez has over 30 years experience in the restaurant business as an Executive Chef and Culinary Director working at notable restaurants such as Moshulu in Philadelphia and Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino. Now running his own hospitality group, he helps open other restaurants by providing consulting on design, kitchen operations, and menu development.

While doing some restaurant consulting in Boca Raton, FL last year, he came across poke bowls and fell in love with them. He had embarked on a healthy journey that saw him losing more than 60 pounds. He attributes his weight loss to eating fresh, clean, and raw meals. Poke bowls fit right into his new healthy lifestyle and diet.

So, when COVID hit, he wanted to create a concept that would appeal to the new restaurant industry (fast take-out/delivery) and something healthy and delicious. He immediately decided poke bowls would tick all of the boxes.

“I just really love poke bowls. They are not only healthy, but quite satisfying and you don’t have to sacrifice flavor,” Chef Fernandez told South Jersey Food Scene.

He launched Poke Xpress as a popup operating out of Denim BYOB at 116 Kings Highway East in Haddonfield. He and Chef David Murray worked together at Denim American Bistro when it was in Cherry Hill. He was a consulting chef in 2019. When he needed a space to create and sell his poke bowls, he turned to Murray.

Murray had temporarily shut down Denim BYOB in August to go on vacation and prepare for reopening in September, which he is hoping will include indoor dining at a limited capacity. In fact, he’s added a new upstairs dining area which will allow for more socially distanced indoor dining. He was more than happy to help his friend Ralph use the restaurant’s kitchen to host the poke popup.

“I couldn’t be happier to see my friend and former chef’s dream become a reality,” said Murray. “A month ago when we launched Poke Xpress out of the Denim kitchen for a one-day pop-up the positive response was so strong, Ralph decided to turn it into something. I will offer as much support as I can and know he will be a welcome addition in town.”

Poke Xpress offers a few signature poke bowls ($14.50) or your can build your own ($12.50) starting with a base, protein, sauce, choice of toppings, crunch, and extras. Base options include white rice, brown rice, quinoa, or a mix of all three. Protein options include ahi tuna, salmon, spicy tuna, spicy salmon, cooked shrimp, or cooked chicken.

The menu also features signature salads with your choice of chicken, salmon, or shrimp.

Hours are Monday thru Saturday from 11 am until 8 pm. You can place an order on the Toast app to pay with a debit or credit card or call (856) 520-8114 if paying by cash.

Unfortunately, delivery is not available at this time. Orders must be picked up at the restaurant. They will happily bring it to your car on Kings Highway or in the parking lot in the back.

The goal is to find a permanent strorefront in downtown Haddonfield. They’ve got a strong lead and hope to be securing it very soon. An annoucement will be made as soon as it is a done deal.

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