Yay! The New Year brings some news of new eateries on the way and already open.

Get your napkins ready. Here we go …

• Poke Fresh: This entrant into the growing poke (pronounced PO-kay) trend is slated to open late this month at the West Market Street Station, home to the new Whole Foods Market 365, in Akron’s Wallhaven area.

So what’s poke? It’s a Hawaiian dish that’s something like deconstructed sushi.

Poke (the word is Hawaiian for “to slice” or “to cut”) bowls typically feature ahi tuna and salmon. Poke Fresh will offer other proteins, including shrimp, chicken and tofu.

The assembly-line setup will allow customers to create their own bowls. They’ll start with a base of rice or Ohio-grown organic greens, add fish or other protein and toppings, including edamame, cucumber, pickled ginger and avocado.

The bowls can be finished off with signature sauces and crunchy bits, such as toasted sesame seeds.

Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free poke bowls will be available.

Poke Fresh is a single-site enterprise so far.

Owner Jonathan Gotschall, 36, previously owned Caroline’s Cupcakes in Jackson Township; he sold it in 2016 to Nom Nom Popcorn, which continues to sell Caroline’s Cupcakes at the site.

Gotschall got the idea to open a poke eatery in Northeast Ohio after patronizing one last year in Washington, D.C. He was visiting his sister, Caroline, for whom the cupcake place was named.

“We ended up going there three out of the four days I was there. We just loved it so much,” Gotschall said. “I saw poke was going to explode.

‘‘It’s all over the West Coast. Poke restaurants are now starting to pop up in East Coast cities.”

Poke Fresh’s address is at 46 N. Hawkins Ave. Website: www.eatpokefresh.com.

Some may remember that Gotschall caused a brief media stir in 2014. Gotschall, a day before ESPN broke the news of LeBron James’ return to Cleveland, posted on Caroline’s Cupcakes’ Facebook site that James definitely was coming back to the Cavaliers. Gotschall, in his post, said he had received the information from a friend who is a member of James’ inner circle.

• Papa Gyros: This small Stark County chain, which has gained a following for its Greek food, will open its first Akron location at 1 N. Hawkins Ave., also in the Wallhaven area.

I couldn’t get an opening date before press time.

A big lighted sign adorns the building that most recently housed Teriyaki Madness, which closed in 2016. Previously, it was home to Caribou Coffee and briefly Peet’s Coffee. Here’s to Papa Gyros, with a menu that includes a lot more than gyros, having more staying power.

The Paxos family owns the Papa Gyros venture, which got its start in 2001 at 2045 Cleveland Ave. NW in Canton. Steve Paxos, former commissioner of the National Professional Soccer League and former owner of the Canton Invaders, heads the Papa Gyros enterprise.

The Akron site will be the fifth. In addition to Canton, there are spots in Green, Jackson Township and Alliance. To see the menu, go to papagyros.com/menu.php.

• Pulp Juice & Smoothie Bar: The Kent-based chain is coming to the old Starbucks at 2279 W. Market St., near Sand Run Road.

Founder Thom Knepp, a 1999 Kent State University graduate, wasn’t available to talk before press time. The chain, which has grown to 20 sites through franchises, began in Kent in 2005.

Its menu features more than 30 fruit and veggie smoothies, including one called Hangover Relief and another named Protein Packer, along with wraps, salads and “energy bowls.”

The chain has one other location in Akron, at 278 E. Exchange St., across from the University of Akron, and in Cuyahoga Falls, Green, Jackson Township, Kent, Macedonia, Streetsboro, Stow and Wooster. Pulp’s website is pulpjuiceandsmoothie.com.

• CoreLife Eatery: This young Binghamton, N.Y., chain plans to come to Fairlawn in June, co-founder Todd Mansfield told me.

As previously reported by Beacon Journal staff writer Rick Armon, it will be part of a new complex replacing the demolished Wyant Buildings, across from Fairlawn Town Centre.

The Fairlawn CoreLife at 2858 W. Market St. will be among more than 30 locations when it opens.

Customers go through a line and choose from fresh ingredients to build their own bowls, starting with a base of grains, greens or broth, and adding protein, such as chicken or beef.

The chain bills itself as focused on “healthy active lifestyles” and says its fresh ingredients are free of trans fats, artificial colors, sweeteners, artificial additives and GMOs. Customers can build vegan, gluten-free, soy-free or paleo bowls, Mansfield said.

“There is nothing on our menu that is not good for you,” he said, repeating his mantra.

So far, there are two other CoreLifes in Ohio, in Strongsville and the Polaris area of Columbus. Its website is https://corelifeeatery.com.

2 Girls Cafe moves

I’m late on a move: 2 Girls’ Cafe & Bakery moved to a new Stow location late last year.

But I’m not too late for the ribbon cutting, which will be at 4 p.m. Thursday at 3707 Darrow Road, which previously was home to Mocha Joe’s.

It’s in the Eddy’s Bike Shop plaza at the southeast corner of Graham and Darrow roads.

2 Girls’ Cafe & Bakery is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. The phone number is 330-928-4644.

See its Facebook page for more information.

Grille could reopen

I’m also late on a closing, and hopes of a reopening:

The Uptown Grille at 3883 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls, closed late last year, but it could reopen under another name if Mat Forestal, who worked at the family-style eatery, can raise enough cash.

Forestal said the restaurant, a little south of Steels Corners Road, had gained loyal customers, some of whom have pledged money to help launch a new restaurant at the site.

Forestal figures he needs roughly $20,000 for equipment, including a dishwasher, and working capital. He said he would pitch in $5,000 to $10,000 of his own money.

As of early this week, a GoFundMe campaign had raised $2,000 of a $5,000 goal.

The campaign is dubbed Bring Back the Grille, though Forestal said it would be called Esprit de Corps Grill, a reference to his Marine Corps background. Forestal would like it to be a gathering place for local veterans and to host fundraisers for veterans’ causes.

The campaign is at www.gofundme.com/bringbackthegrille. There also is an Esprit de Corps Grill Facebook page.

Swensons expands

You can now get a Galley Boy in University Heights.

The double-patty burger, as well as onion rings, shakes and other yummies of Swensons, Akron’s iconic drive-in, are all available at the new one at 14510 Cedar Road, near Beachwood. It opened Dec. 30.

Last spring, Susan Infeld, then mayor of University Heights, told me that “people are literally jumping up and down” at the news that Swensons was coming. It is the eighth Swensons in Northeast Ohio and the second in Cuyahoga County; there’s one in Seven Hills.

Late last year, Columbus Business First reported that Swensons is eyeing a spot at 7490 Sawmill Road near Dublin for what would be its first Columbus-area restaurant. Swensons spokeswoman Crystal Griffith told me she couldn’t discuss that.

The expansion comes after California private-investment firm Spanos Barber Jesse & Co. said in May 2016 it had completed an investment in Swensons. Griffith said the investment will not change the tried-and-true “customer experience.”

The chain started in 1934, when Wesley T. “Pop” Swenson opened up a small hamburger hut on South Hawkins Avenue in Akron’s Wallhaven neighborhood.

He had been selling sandwiches out of his car to students at the newly constructed Buchtel High School. The original restaurant was replaced with a new model in 2005.

Little has changed over the years. Customers still pull up and make sure their lights are on; curb servers run to take orders and make sure burgers arrive fast.

Chili Challenge

Will Akron firefighters keep their title at the 12th annual Chili Challenge?

The event features chili made by city departments and local businesses. Each team, using a recipe of its choice, makes 10 gallons. Attendees get to sample the chili, get their tummies very full and cast votes for People’s Choice.

It starts at 11 a.m. Jan. 19 at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron. Cost is $10 for six 4-ounce samples and a soft drink; one sample costs $1.50. Proceeds benefit the burn unit at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Last year, firefighters won the People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice awards after being shut out in 2016, the first time in the history of the city-organized event that the firefighters flamed out.

Don’t worry about the weather; this is an indoor event, with seating in the Commons area of Lock 3. The event will go on until the chili runs out.

I’ll be on the judges’ panel, and I hope to snag some recipes for you.

Wine events

• 35° Brix, 3875 Massillon Road, Green, will offer a five-course dinner featuring wines from Alexandria Nicole Cellars, at 7 p.m. Jan. 18.

Jeff Welch, national sales manager, will present five 90 points-plus rated wines from the Washington winery. Cost is $79 plus tax and tip. Call 330-899-9200.

• Papa Joe’s, 1561 Akron-Peninsula Road, in the Merriman Valley, will host a Huge Napa Valley Wine Dinner (love that simple and fun name) at 7 p.m. Jan. 26, and a Valentine Champagne Dinner at 7 p.m. Feb. 16. Cost and menu for both events will be available later. Call 330-923-7999 for reservations.

• Ken Stewart’s Lodge, 1911 N. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Bath, will offer a six-course wine dinner featuring the wines of Caymus Vineyards of Napa Valley, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31.

Roger Blottenberger from the Wagner Family of Wine (which includes Caymus) will be on hand.

Courses include smoked salmon samosa, shaved asparagus salad, eggplant caponata cavatappi, charcuterie and cheese plate, Colorado rack of lamb and dark chocolate pavé. Cost is $145, plus tax and tip. Call 330-666-8881.

Polish spaghetti dinner

Eat Italian at the Polish American Citizens Club of Akron from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday.

The Polish spaghetti dinner will include meatballs, bread, salad, dessert and coffee or tea. Cost is $9 for adults and $4 for children. Call 330-253-0496. The club is at 472 E. Glenwood Ave. in North Akron (entrance on Dan Street).

Burns Night festivities

Reminder: The Scottish American Society will host its Burns Night celebration Jan. 26. It’s open to the public.

The celebration will be at the Stow Youth Baseball Party Center at 4157 Hudson Drive (north of state Route 8). Festivities will run from 6 to 10 p.m.

Cost is $35 for adults; $30 for society members; $20 for seniors (90-plus); and $25 for children ages 12 or younger.

Checks made out to the “Scottish American Society” should be sent by Friday to Liz Belvin, 3165 E. Waterloo Road, Akron, OH 44312. For information, go to www.scottishamericansociety.org.

Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at www.facebook.com.