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F.C. Gets a Taste of Island Cuisine With New Poké Restaurant Opening

The popularity of the Bowie, Maryland location (pictured) is why the local business was able to expand into Falls Church. (Photo: Patricia Leslie)

Healthy beach cuisine is on the menu at a new restaurant opening on Jan. 18 at Idylwood Plaza on Leesburg Pike.

Island Fin Poké will serve up traditional “Hawaiian poke” (pronounced “poh-KAY” to rhyme with “okay” ) or “farm-to-fork” fare in one dish meals of fish, rice, homemade sauces and up to 25 toppings of fruit and mixed raw and crunchy veggies.

A three-scoop meal which is enough to satisfy most and more is $14.

The food is “all locally and responsibly sourced,” always fresh and never frozen or processed and comes preservative-free, according to co-founder, Mark Setterington, who with his buddy, Paul Reas, founded the company in 2017.

Although styled “fast casual,” the owner prides his restaurants on better service than most competitors offer. At Island Fin Poké, “you get a full service experience.”

When eating in is eating out again, “you won’t find garbage containers in the dining room here, and we refill drinks. It’s weird in a good way.”

A poké bowl starts with a base of spring mix or white or brown rice, topped by three choices of protein (salmon, spam(!), tofu, octopus, chicken, shrimp, tuna, and more), up to six “mix-ins” (corn, onions, furikaki are some), sauces (shoyu, island fin fire, wicked wahine plus others) and toppings which include choices of cucumbers, pineapple, seaweed salad, wasabi peas, chili oil, pickled veggies, sesame seeds, and nine crunchies like coconut, wonton crisps plus, plus.

“Most say ‘I’ve never tasted anything like this,’” Setterington said in a telephone interview.

Bonita Lewis Bell is the Falls Church franchisor making a dive in the restaurant business which marks the restaurant’s first entry in Virginia.

In a telephone interview, she said she was a three-year transplant to McLean from Connecticut, a lawyer who still practices but looking for “something different to do. This was an easy entrée and is a fairly simple concept.

”It’s healthy and is all fresh.”

She explained Fin Poké’s food is not sushi which “can be a little off-putting for some. Really, this is a simpler version of sushi. It’s customizable.”

SIMILAR TO HOW fast-casual food spots like Chipotle and Cava work, customers at Island Fin Poké get to choose what goes in their poké bowl while selecting from a variety of ingredients and toppings (Photo: Patricia Leslie).

She surfed the Tysons Corner corridor for the best location for her new restaurant until she found 7501 Leesburg Pike with its proximity to residences and businesses, and there Island Fin Poké will launch.

Bell thought the “Falls Church community would be open to this concept.”
Her next target is Vienna with its similar demographics to Little City’s.

In 2019 she and Setterington began restaurant talk until their calendars were upended by Covid-19.

Opening during the pandemic was not on the menu. The virus docked some plans for a while but now all systems are full steam ahead.

Island Fin Poké also has a location in Bowie, Maryland, its first area restaurant. Due to the health crisis, Bowie closed early on for seven weeks.

“Prince George’s County was hit hard,” Setterington said, “but we let every franchisee decide what’s best locally.”

Restaurateur Bell has “high hopes. People are looking for other dining options now. I am hoping we defy the odds and bring something new and different. We’ll have carry out and dine in, too [when covid breaks]. The space is really built for the pandemic. You come in one way and leave out the other.”

Curbside pickup is available, too, Setterington said.

At their galley, “you put in your bowl what you like. We let you taste things.”
And the bowls, by the way, are made from recycled materials, and the utensils are plant-based.

In Hawaii “ohana” means family, Setterington said.

Upholding ohana and traditional Hawaiian standards in their cuisine and throughout the restaurants are vital to their success, he believes.

“We don’t have customers, we have guests; we don’t have employees, we have team members.

“You’ll know exactly what we are when you come in,” he said, for “we want every guest that walks through our doors to know they are a part of the family.”

For more information, visit Island Poké’s website