Pogiboy means “handsome boy” in the native Filipino language of Tagalog, and in D.C. it’s also the name of a casual counter-service restaurant serving popular Filipino dishes and creative sandwiches.
Pogiboy is located inside The Block Foodhall DC at 1110 Vermont Ave. NW in downtown D.C. along with Rose Ave Bakery, an Asian American bakery, and a bar operated by the owners of the space. The three-vendor food hall is associated with sister chain locations in Bethesda, Md. and Annandale, Va. that also exclusively house Asian-centric restaurants.
The bar, named Block Bar, is situated directly inside the main door to the left, and on the wall to the right is a geometrically patterned mural with accents of cherry blossoms that reads “The Block.” Just past that on the right is another decorative wall filled with artificial shrubbery and a neon pink sign reading “Love DC.”
Past the bar, in the back of the food hall are the counters for both Pogiboy and Rose Ave Bakery with space in the middle of the room for lines to form. Up a small set of stairs to the left is a communal seating area with 10 small round tables decorated with a faux marble material and pink velvet chairs.
Pogiboy’s menu is displayed with pictures of each dish on three screens above the cashier and is separated into categories of “Pogi specials & small bites,” “burgers & baos,” “Pogi bowls” and “apps/desserts.”
As fans of the blooming onion dish at Outback Steakhouse, my friends and I decided to share the blooming sam-pogi-ta ($11.95) from the apps section to start. The onion is sliced into pickable strings, lightly fried and served with an umami-packed crab fat mayo making for an ideal shared appetizer.
While ordering, the sandwiches with purple ube bao buns caught my eye. Both the tochino burger ($10.95) with pork patty, pickled papaya, grilled pineapple and a secret sauce and the classic pogi burger ($10.95) with a beef patty and caramelized onions are served on the purple buns.
As a seafood lover, I opted for the alimasag, or soft shell crab, bao bun ($16.95) which is also served on a purple bun. Soft shell crabs are blue crabs that have recently molted their hard outer shell, leaving the crab with an undeveloped shell layer so soft that it is completely edible, and in this case fried.
With a vibrant purple bun and fried crab legs sticking out from all sides, the sandwich looks like something out of a cartoon. The ube bun is made in the style of a mantou, a chinese-style steamed bun, and made purple with ube, or purple yams. Tucked in with the fried crab are thick slices of cucumber, cilantro and crab fat mayo.
The ube makes the bun slightly sweeter than your typical hamburger bun and has a softer, moister consistency. The cucumbers were a surprisingly crucial part of the sandwich, bringing a fresh taste and a cool crunch that contrasts the chewy bun and fried crab.
The crab mayo had a distinctly salty, umami seafood flavor with a kick of spice. The mayo combined with the taste of the cucumber, cilantro and fried crab made the sandwich taste like a modified tempura sushi roll.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can try the pogi halo halo ($11.95), a hybrid of shaved ice and ice cream with an ube flavor and toppings of pandan flan, fruit-flavored jelly, red beans, sweet plantains, jackfruit and toasted rice pieces. Or try the pogi turon ($8), long spring roll-like desserts filled with sweet plantains and jackfruit and drizzled with brown butter and banana flavored caramel.
Next time you’re craving a sandwich out of the ordinary, stop by Pogiboy for a satisfying meal.