Theo Martin, one of the owners of Columbia City Caribbean restaurant Island Soul, has been trying to open a new restaurant in Kirkland for going on two years now. Announced in 2021, Arleana’s was a particularly personal project for Martin — he spent a big chunk of his childhood in Kirkland, and the restaurant is named after his mother, who took Martin in after he bounced around 14 foster homes as a child.
“Island Soul and its generous community has given me the wings to follow my dreams and create a legacy for my mother,” Martin says. “It is important to me as a Black business owner that I not only create and build, but to also expand and grow.”
But he faced a bunch of obstacles that delayed the planned 2022 opening. The major issue was that due to supply chain constraints, it was impossible for Martin to secure vital restaurant components like a hot line or refrigeration. “We had the people, we didn’t have the equipment,” Martin says. His suppliers often couldn’t even give him a good estimate on when to expect equipment, creating a lot of frustration. “It’s tough on the landlord, it’s tough on us the owners, it’s tough on the bank, it’s tough on the staff, it’s tough on everyone,” he says.
On April 8 Arleana’s will finally open its doors, with a French-influenced Caribbean menu from executive chef James Gibney that features a lot of seafood items like salmon tartar, panko-fried cod with plantain chips, and even a whole lobster. There are also jerk lamb pops, goat curry, and a vegetarian platter with jerk tofu. It’s a slightly gussied-up version of the flavors on the original Island Soul menu, and should be a standout in Kirkland from day one.
Arleana’s is at 312 Central Way, Kirkland, WA, and will be open seven days a week.