LemonShark Poké is now open in Wheaton, Ill. and features five self-pour taps offering craft beer to patrons.

*Original Source: Kane County Chronicle

WHEATON – People with a yen for sushi ingredients prepared with a Hawaiian flourish won’t have to travel far thanks to LemonShark Poké, which launched in March in Wheaton’s Danada Square East.

It’s the latest venture for Wheaton businessman Mike Kessler, and was the first LemonShark franchise to open in Illinois.

For those unfamiliar with poké, it’s the Hawaiian word for slice or cut crosswise into pieces. A classic main ingredient is chopped ahi tuna atop a base of rice or other option to which Asian toppings and sauces are added.

At LemonShark Poké, a fast-casual concept complete with a self-serve craft beer tap wall, patrons can pick from a variety of poké bowls or customize their own from about a dozen protein ingredients ranging from tuna to salmon, other seafood and vegan offerings. Sauces – from orange ginger to wasabi mayo – offer a range of heat levels and flavor profiles, along with a gluten-free soy sauce.

“Our most popular bowl that has some good spice to it is the Maui Heat Wave,” Kessler said, noting the hotness factor can be moderated.

[Photos by Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com]

He said staff is happy to explain the options to those unfamiliar with the tropical Hawaiian favorite, and to offer sampling of anything diners want to try.

“The tuna is raw; it’s wild, line-caught tuna from the Pacific,” he said, noting it’s no-nets certified so that it keeps dolphins safe and supports sustainable fishing. “It’s AAA, sushi grade. As part of the franchise resources, [the] corporate office … tracks fish from the boat to restaurant, setting high standards of quality.”

His eatery recently added a “vegan tuna,” Kessler said.

“Ahimi is a tomato-based product to give you the look and feel and taste of tuna,” he said. It joins the vegan dietary choices of vegetables and tofu.

Kessler got his start in the food business as a former partner in Shane’s Deli in Wheaton. He owns Orangetheory Fitness locations in Elmhurst, Wheaton, Carol Stream and Rockford.

“Growing up, I was always very drawn to Japanese culture,” he said. “I liked sushi [and poké has] a lot of the same kinds of flavors, obviously with a Hawaiian flair. I thought [it would be] a healthy food alternative with the fitness [work] I’m doing.”

One of the choices as a base for a poké bowl is forbidden rice.

“[It] is a black sweet rice [with] more depth of flavor,” Kessler said, noting it has higher protein and is lower in carbs. “The savory flavor from the rice is a nice option.”

Other choices for the base include brown or sushi rice, local greens, crispy wonton and soba noodles.

A favorite both as an entree or a twist on the traditional poké bowl is the fried coconut shrimp, Kessler said, noting his personal favorite is the tempura mixed bean.

A focal point in the restaurant’s light and airy setting is the craft beer selection featuring the iPourIt system.

“We have some nice entrees, appetizers and small bites items that pair well with the beer wall,” Kessler said, noting it utilizes an RFID – or radio frequency identification – card to register purchases. “I like [the] maker craft beer movement. It’s very cool to explore different varieties. The response has been great around that.

“We have five taps; [the] main goal is to highlight local breweries if we can,” he said, mentioning Solemn Oath Brewery of Naperville among them. “We also look for things that pair with the food – [on the] lighter side – fruitier – to keep the Hawaiian theme.”

The iPourIt technology allows customers to pour their own beer without waiting and make their own buying and pricing decisions, iPourIt marketing specialist Emily Maassen said in an email.

“By that, I mean they can pour as much or as little as they want and sample a variety of products without having to purchase an entire pint or glass; they are only charged for what they pour,” Maassen said. “The [RFID card] is … scanned at each tap before pouring to track the amount and product poured.”

And for diners looking for a nostalgic taste of Hawaii, the restaurant serves a spam musubi appetizer. Kessler said a local family of Hawaiian descent recently picked up 20 orders of the sweet and salty dish to take to a family gathering.

Other menu items range from egg rolls to soup and Asian salads. The restaurant offers outdoor seating and delivery service.

If you go

WHAT: LemonShark Poké

WHERE: 135 Danada Square East, Wheaton

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

INFO: 630-634-2211; www.facebook.com/lemonsharkwheaton; lemonsharkpoke.com; www.ipouritinc.com

For more articles about iPourIt operators, click here.