The stretch of South Broadway near Evans Avenue continues to add new restaurants in a variety of styles. The latest is Turtle Boat, which bills itself as a specialist in "Colorado-style poki salad." Chef/owner Jeremy Song says the spelling of poke as "poki" is intentional, to help Coloradans get past any hesitation regarding how to pronounce the Hawaiian dish — so that they can just enjoy the food.
So poki it is at Turtle Boat, which uses a fast-casual format to present customers with a number of options for bowl bases, proteins, toppings and sides. Song, who opened the place with his brother, Darren, just a few weeks ago in the former Rebellion Pizza space, says he's trying to make poke a Colorado thing, so he's using as many local ingredients as possible — even some fish. The striped bass that's one of the protein options comes from Colorado Catch, a fish farm with a sustainable mission in Alamosa. Turtle Boat also uses greens from nearby Rebel Farms, an indoor, hydroponic vegetable farm at West Evans Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard.
Song says he follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommendations for other fish, so he stocks cobia, kanpachi, Verlasso salmon and ahi tuna (Turtle Boat's only wild-caught fish). Other proteins include tempeh and tofu, and he's working on a housemade, bean-based alternative for vegetarians and vegans.
Bowl bases include white rice, brown rice and mixed greens, which Song gets from Rebel Farms still on the root ball. A selection of mix-ins and dressings add flavor and texture to each bowl, and seasonal side salads include "wasab'amole" (a wasabi-spiked guacamole), "poi'tato salad" (made with taro root instead of potato) and other Pacific Rim-influenced bites.
The local theme carries through to nearly every design element in the tiny dining area. "People take a lot of pride in living in Colorado," Song explains, "so we want to use as many Colorado products as possible." Some of the furnishings were built by local shops like Purpose & Pine, and the high-tech speakers built by the Sound Wall are covered in magnetic skins with art from Vinie Botello, who also painted the exterior murals, along with several other Denver artists.
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Turtle Boat reflects the Colorado lifestyle, Song explains, with light and healthy food — including vegan and gluten-free options — for people who value fresh, local ingredients, plenty of choices and meals that will fuel outdoor activities.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with limited indoor seating but plenty of space on the outdoor patio. Getting there from southbound Broadway is easy, but if you're heading north, turn at Warren or Iliff Avenue and use the alley to get to the parking behind the building.