Island Sushi is no fish out of water
By Josh Koerner
Island Sushi has left a lasting impression on the culinary palette of Northeast Wisconsin over the past nine years. While some diners might get squeamish at the mention of the raw fish dish, the restaurant sought to change that view, according to owner Alison Porter, who said she wanted to help make sushi accessible for everyone.
“I wanted to make it approachable,” owner Alison Porter said of their menu, “I feel like we’re a good place to try [sushi] for people who aren’t sure about it.”
By serving rolls featuring fried chicken, tempura shrimp, and cooked crab as well as offering Americanized sushi, Porter said they have a comfortable space for newcomers and veteran sushi lovers alike to bond over their love of the classic Japanese staple.
Porter said her love for sushi stemmed from her grandmother, Seiko. With traditional rolls and recipes Seiko brought with her from Japan, she made a sushi lover out of Porter at a young age.
As Porter grew up and began to make her own waves in the restaurant industry. She said she never lost her appreciation for her favorite childhood snack.
“I have always loved sushi,” said Porter, “But it didn’t become an addiction for me until I tried it at Ninja.” She was speaking of Ninja Sushi and Steakhouse in Atlanta, GA. “Trying their food; that was the start of it all,” said Porter, “I loved the sushi at home, but when I tried Ninja’s spicy tuna and dragon rolls, I was addicted.”
The sushi she fell in love with in Georgia became much of the inspiration for her menu at Island Sushi, she said. She even ran a few of her American-style recipes past her grandmother who liked Porter’s rolls even more than her own. Armed with a Seiko approved menu, the passion in her heart, and a head for the industry, Porter said she set out to open her first location.
Porter first opened the doors of her Appleton restaurant in 2013. Her all-you-can-eat sushi spot quickly rose to local fame for its hybrid buffet, a-la-carte service style, fun and energetic staff, and a thoughtful menu that was welcoming to newcomers and fanatics alike.
She said that the restaurant enjoyed so much success that she decided to open a second location in De Pere just two years later. They amassed a following there as well.
Porter said both locations were so successful that she had to pull out of the De Pere location to focus more attention on the success of her Appleton restaurant. Near the end of 2019, she returned to De Pere to reclaim the Island Sushi name and restaurant, moving the business to the east side of the city.
She said the east side location has a larger dining space, bigger bar, and many of the same staff members who originally helped make the restaurant a success.
For the future of her business, Porter let it slip that Island Sushi is working on introducing new menu items. This was quite refreshing news as I have had nearly every item on their menu several times – so much so that I can just tell the chefs to roll whatever they want to give me – I like it all.
While Porter wasn’t able to go into more detail, she did announce the return of fan submitted rolls. Keep an eye on the Island Sushi Facebook page in April for a chance to help influence new menu options as early as May.
Josh Koerner grew up in De Pere and has a passion for local food. To know more about his passion for food you can check out his Facebook Page, Josh Eats Green Bay