Fresh, local food at Poblanos

Posted: November 14, 2012

The Winchester Star

“Ike” Ismailwala (left) and Babu Samala, along with partner Suresh Kothinti, have opened Poblanos Southwest Grill in the Creekside Station shopping center in Winchester.
Fried Massitas De Puerco is served with rice, beans and side salad at Poblanos Southwest Grill.
Jacqueline Gutierrez is the operations manager and chef at Poblanos Southwest Grill in the Creekside Station shopping center in Winchester. She created the southwest style menu that is heavily influenced by her Cuban heritage. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

Winchester — Everyone deserves to have fresh, healthy and tasty food at an affordable price.

That is the concept behind Poblanos Southwest Grill in Winchester. The three owners — first-time restaurateurs who work in IT — put a great deal of thought and research into designing a restaurant that fits that description.

They wanted to create a place where people, especially children, could avoid the high-fat, greasy foods that are so evident in the average American’s diet.

With Poblanos — named for the chile pepper — which opened Oct. 24, they feel they have hit the nail on the head, said Iqbal “Ike” Ismailwala of Aldie. He co-owns the restaurant at 3035 Valley Ave., Suite 101, with Babu Samala and Suresh Kothinti, also of Aldie.

“The most important thing is we wanted to go for healthy food with local, fresh ingredients,” Ismailwala said.

The result was a southwest style menu that is heavily influenced by Executive Chef Jacqueline Gutierrez’s Cuban heritage. She created the menu in the eight months since she was hired and runs the kitchen with the owners’ blessings.

The restaurant in Creekside Station — the site that previously housed the Daily Grind — serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. All of the food is vegetarian unless ordered with meat, and most of it is gluten-free, she said.

“I want the food to be amazing,” said Gutierrez of Winchester. “Food is obviously what drives the restaurant.”

Walking into the restaurant, there are several things that could immediately capture a customer’s attention.

On either side of the front door are seating areas with couches and coffee tables, for people to grab a specialty coffee and sit down with friends or use the restaurant’s free wireless Internet.

The restaurant is decorated in three colors — red, green and yellow-orange. They are evident from the hand-painted tables to the brightly colored walls to the hot serving bar.

That is where people order. They can choose to have a burrito, rice bowl, quesadilla, taco salad or tacos made right in front of them using the ingredients kept in the hot bar, Gutierrez said. There also is an extended menu made in the kitchen.

At the hot bar, customers can choose from four main meats — grilled chicken, barbecue steak, carne asada (slow-cooked beef) and masitas (pork butt that has been slow cooked, cubed, and flash fried).

The carne asada is slow-cooked beef that is pulled apart and basted in a Spanish sauce, which is a reduction of onions, peppers and tomatoes, Gutierrez said.

The chicken is marinated overnight in a mixture of mojo, oranges, lemons and spices and then grilled and chopped up, she said. The steak is marinated in Poblanos’ adobo, grilled and basted in the house barbecue sauce.

In addition to the meat, people have a choice of red or black beans, white or brown rice, red and green peppers, and grilled onions, she said. There also is lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, homemade guacamole, southwest corn salsa, pico de gallo, salsa verde and tomato fresco.

The creations can be topped with one or more of the house sauces, which are baja, hot romesco, and cilantro lime vinaigrette.

For people on the go, the hot serving bar is a great solution, especially those who don’t have much time for lunch, Gutierrez said.

“Within half an hour, you can come and have a good meal within a good price range and it is healthy,” she said.

All of the kids menu items are made on the hot bar, so children can watch their food being made, Ismailwala said. Providing healthy food options is important to the owners, which is why they decided to make the food more accessible for families. They offer one free kids meal (children 12 and under) with each adult entree purchased on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“We like a family-friendly atmosphere,” he said. “It is a place where people can talk and chat.”

Customers also can order main dishes from the kitchen. Pallomilla steak is a traditional Cuban dish with thinly sliced meat that is seasoned with cumin, salt and pepper, flash fried and toped with grilled onions and peppers.

The Peruvian chicken is marinated overnight, slow roasted and seasoned and toped with casera sauce, which has corn, red onions, tomatoes, cilantro and Cajun seasoning.

The pan-seared cod is seasoned with Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, and lemon juice and pan seared. Then it is topped with tomato fresco, which is a sauce with roasted corn, Cajun seasoning, tomato salsa and butter that is cooked in a pan.

A restaurant with this much emphasis on fresh food almost has to have a salad menu. The most popular is the Create Your Own salad, Gutierrez said.

There also is the Baja salad, which features pico de gallo, southwest corn salsa, cheese, cod and baja sauce. The chicken salad is the same except the meat and dressing are the grilled chicken and the cilantro lime vinaigrette.

“People don’t stick to that; they usually add one or two things,” she said.

With winter approaching, Poblanos’ soups will be a great way for people to keep warm, she said. The restaurant features one to two soups each day and they change regularly. Some of the soups Gutierrez has created so far include chicken and corn chowder, gumbo, cream of sweet onion, chicken tortilla and chicken, brown rice and vegetables.

The southwest style extends to the breakfast menu, where omelets and burritos can be traditional affairs with egg, meat and cheese or feature items such as onions, peppers, grilled chorizo and pico de gallo.

“I really wanted to do something fast for people coming in before work that wouldn’t kill your stomach all day,” Gutierrez said.


Poblanos Southwest Grill, 3035 Valley Ave., Suite 101, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 540-504-7671 or go to

— Contact Laura McFarland at