A fast-casual concept, Kona Poké has been serving Hawaii's version of ceviche in Lake Mary since January of last year. Poke traditionally mixes the flavors and textures of diced raw fish, vegetables, seasonings, and sauces in a bowl.
"Poke is essentially a repackaging and extension of sushi with a lot more variety, better price point, and faster delivery since diners don't have to wait for the chef to roll their food," says Ernie Falco III, who founded the concept with Matthew Ting, co-owner of several Tijuana Flats locations in Daytona Beach and Orange City. "Our product is simple to make, and it travels well in bowls with sealed lids, tamper-resistant containers, or bags. Our prep time is five minutes, and generally we get food to clients under 15 minutes."
Launching a project during a nationwide shutdown seems counterintuitive, but Falco and his team are confident. "For big square-footage players and people who were already having a hard time, this epidemic was the nail in the coffin for them," he says. "Those persisting are having to do more with less and learning to leverage systems to gain a foothold in the takeout market, but to our advantage, we already have a successful delivery-business operation. We feel like this is a good time to maximize our model."
Meanwhile, Kona Poké's outposts in Lake Mary, Sanford, and Satellite Beach are operating at 75 percent capacity with the addition of an online market offering fresh meats, produce, dry goods, beer, and wine. A video on the concept's Facebook page educates viewers about the company's contact-free food preparation and delivery guidelines.
For Falco and Ting's virtual project in Miami, the duo has partnered with Reef Kitchens, which will prepare meals at a commercial space in Brickell. The delivery-only service will offer the concept's menu created by James Beard Award-nominated chef Henry Moso, who owns Kabooki Sushi in Orlando.
Poke bowls include the Salmon Lover, assembled with spicy seaweed salad, cucumber, edamame, and onion crisps over rice and then topped with a lemon tartar sauce ($12); and Birds of Paradise, a vegetarian bowl of tofu marinated in house ginger dressing that also includes sweet onions, edamame, cucumber, avocado, green onions, mango, and sesame seeds over sushi rice splashed with sweet heat sauce ($10.50). Build-your-own poke bowls, with more than 40 ingredients to choose from, will start at $11.25. Kona Poké will also offer kids' bowls with tuna ($6) or chicken ($5).
Falco says the goal is to reach 100 locations nationwide in the next few years. "We keep our business simple and want to scale it. It took a sizable financial and personal investment to get where we are now. We have paused on brick-and-mortar for now, but despite what's going on, it is essential for us to keep momentum."
Kona Poké delivery will be offered through third-party services, including Uber Eats, Postmates, and Grubbub.
Kona Poké. 155 SW Third St., Miami; konapokebowls.com. Opening slated for mid-May.