Truck brings Hawaiian food to Philadelphia

Poi Dog adds something new to the variety of food trucks on Main Campus.

Poi Dog Snack Shop sets up shop on Main Campus every weekday except Wednesday. | BRIA TOPPER / TTN
Poi Dog Snack Shop sets up shop on Main Campus every weekday except Wednesday. | BRIA TOPPER / TTN

A new food truck on Main Campus looks to bring a more tropical taste to students as the temperature begins to warm up.

“Poi Dog is a Hawaiian term for a mixed person or dog. Well, mixed anything really,” said Chris Vacca, one of the owners of Philly’s first Hawaiian food truck. “Our truck is just that.”

Vacca and his partner, Kiki Aranita, have been planning out Poi Dog Snack Shop since January of this year. After months of preparation, the new food truck hit Main Campus earlier this month.
This isn’t the first time the two have worked together in the kitchen.

“Chris and I met while in grad school. We also worked together at the Foo Truck,” Aranita said.

The duo came up with the idea after Philadelphia restaurateur Jose Garces’ taco truck closed. They realized that buying Garces’ truck would give them all the equipment they needed to start up Poi Dog, so they took advantage of the situation and purchased the truck.

Both owners bring a special something to Poi Dog. Aranita grew up in Oahu, Hawaii and Vacca has a special love for tacos, creating the true poi dog combination seen on their menu.

“We thought combining the two foods we make best would set us apart from other trucks, despite that there’s no other Hawaiian food trucks in Philadelphia,” Aranita said.

Poi Dog Snack Shop’s menu contains both sweet and savory snacks, Hawaiian tacos and plate lunches. The two Foo Truck veterans dish out island foods like Spam Musubi, a World War II-era dish made of grilled Spam with white rice and a Nori wrap.

For students looking to stay away from canned meat, Vacca and Aranita also offer coconut butter Mochi, a sticky-sweet rice cake.

Poi Dog also offers house-made Chili Peppah Watah for all customers who want to spice up their dish a little more.

Since Hawaiian food is unknown to most East Coasters despite its unique and traditional identity, Vacca and Aranita said they are happy to share it with Philadelphia and Temple students.

“We chose Temple’s campus because we didn’t need additional permits to operate here,” Aranita said.

So far, Poi Dog’s crispy fried chicken katsu, shredded kalua pork and flavored rice have been top sellers, Aranita said.

“My favorite item on our menu would be the pork belly taco or tofu poke,” Vacca said. “Both are full of flavor.”

Although Poi Dog’s menu has many dishes with pork or chicken, the truck also offers some vegan and vegetarian-friendly options.

“All of our desserts are vegetarian. Our tofu poke is vegan and all of our food is gluten free,” Aranita said. “We’re currently working on more options for those with special diets.”

Tara Partyka, a sophomore psychology major, said she decided to try out Poi Dog Snack Shop last week and said she enjoyed Vacca and Aranita’s efforts.

“The service was just as good as the food, and the food was beyond delicious,” Partyka said.

Poi Dog Snack Shop plans to serve lunch four days a week ­ every weekday minus Wednesday –on Main Campus. The truck is located across the street from Tuttleman Learning Center.

Bria Topper can be reached

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