Where to Pokéworks in Harvard Square.
What for A taste of Hawaii in Cambridge — raw, cubed salmon and tuna served atop rice, kale noodles, greens, or in burrito form. The island snack is usually tossed with soy, sesame oil, onions, and salt, but you can get creative here, with add-ons such as organic tofu and blanched kale. There's another branch in Davis Square.
The scene A soothing, clean refuge from the rain at the busy corner of Church Street and Mass. Ave. You know the fast-casual drill: Stand before a counter; pick your base, protein, and toppings from behind a glass divider; move down the line and choose a few sauces. If you're of a certain age, or an oldies fan, hum the strains of "In the Year 2525." A few guys sit at the counter facing the street, staring at their phones. Passersby stop and gaze in the window, including a twinkly-eyed older fellow in fleece. He smiles to himself, maybe remembering the neighborhood as it once was. Edie Sedgwick, where have you gone?
What you're eating Poke bowls: tubs of organic brown or sushi rice topped with your choice of raw fish: ahi or albacore tuna, salmon, shrimp, or scallops. For non-pescetarians, there's chicken or tofu. Next, choose as many mix-ins as you desire. Edamame? Seaweed? Orange slices? Then it's time for a squirt of sauce (here, a helpful server might steer you away from disaster — do you really want to blend wasabi aioli with cilantro?). Proceed to top your creation with avocado, pickled ginger, wasabi, green onions, and on and on. Finally, choose a "crunch," like garlic crisps or toasted rice puffs. If you're not confident in your ability to customize a meal on command, choose from signature bowls, such as Spicy Ahi, with green and sweet onions, or Sweet Ginger Chicken, topped with spicy ginger sauce.
Care for a drink? There's a cooler with cans of Spindrift sparkling water and Hawaiian Sun tropical fruit drinks.
Overheard Relocation fantasies; workday travails. "It would be a perfect job, if only I could move Harvard to New York City!" a woman in a canary yellow trench coat tells a friend. A cashier chats up a young woman ordering lunch. "When I'm done here, I have to go to the other location. Haven't you ever had days when you worked more than you should?" he asks. She nods. He brightens. "But I'm also a gardener. Soon I'll start gardening!" A man and woman eat in companionable silence in front of the window, until he finally asks her about the day's plans. "I need to shower," she murmurs. "Get organized."
1440 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge, 617-441-2999, www.pokeworks.com
Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.