When Priyanka Lewis and her team opened Main Street Noodles in 2017, they shouted the news from the mountaintops for all the hungry masses to hear. Five years later and Lewis took a decidedly more low-key approach to announcing her company’s latest venture, Main Street Poke.
“We just thought we’d open and let the food speak for itself,” Lewis explained. “It’s another great option on Main Street. There are already so many great establishments on Main Street, ‘the little food row,’ we call it.”
Whistler’s first dedicated poke bar opened quietly this month, just around the corner from its sister restaurant, Main Street Noodles, from which the small takeout eatery borrows in both spirit and staff. Since the short-lived Shred salad bar closed down in 2018, Lewis and her team have used the space as a prep kitchen for the noodle bar, but, not wanting to let valuable retail storefront go to waste, they came up with a concept similar to Main Street Noodles, allowing customers the chance to build their own bowl from scratch.
“Obviously it is prime real estate, so we decided we were going to try to find something that would work for the space,” Lewis explained. “I feel like there’s a trust in Main Street Noodles, which has been there since 2017. So we investigated some ideas and some research on the trend of where poke was going and wanted to offer another healthy option for Whistler for lunchtime or for delivery.”
First, diners select their base, from either the traditional sushi rice, quinoa, leafy greens or tortilla chips, before choosing a sauce, all of which are gluten-friendly. There’s the classic house shoyu, ponzu, spicy mayo, maple sesame, creamy wasabi, miso ginger or coconut Korean.
“We wanted the sauces to be unique and I feel like that’s what differentiates us,” Lewis said.
Then, it’s time for the poke. Guests can go with the beloved ahi tuna, salmon, scallops, chicken or tofu (there are also spicy varieties of the salmon and tuna), before loading their bowl up with toppings, which includes everything from edamame and cucumber to corn, crab, pineapple and spicy seaweed. Top it all off with a bit of crunch for texture, with options like crispy onions, chili flakes and furikake, a savoury and sweet seasoning.
“It’s a really good concept for vegans, because all the sauces are gluten-friendly and a lot of the sauces are vegan,” Lewis said.
In the coming weeks, the restaurant will also include a list of favoured pre-made bowls for those who are either new to poke or can’t decide what they want.
“For those that don’t know what poke is or find it overwhelming, we’re coming back with pre-determined bowls where we’ll recommend sauces that go together,” Lewis said. “It’s a decent-sized meal. It’s ingredient-heavy, so we feel like we’re offering a really good healthy option because you can get your veggies, your greens, and it’s a great lunchtime option, or a lighter dinner option.”
Given how costly commercial real estate has become in the village, Lewis sees the model Main Street Poke is utilizing—a small space and staff with a simplified menu that is easy to execute—as an effective one for new restaurateurs looking to get their foot into the market.
“I definitely think this model is great for a new business owner as well because we’ve made it very simple seeing as we already have two establishments we’re running,” Lewis said. “The reason we did a build-your-own was because we wanted to make it simple for new hires and staffing. It’s not overly complicated for them to learn either and because we have somebody dedicated to our prep for Noodles and now Poke, that’s where the magic happens.”
Main Street Poke is open from noon to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Delivery is available daily from 5 to 8 p.m. Learn more, and order online, at mainstreetpoke.ca.