When visiting the island, if there’s anything you absolutely must do before jumping back on a plane home, it’s eating fresh poke. Hawaiian for “to cut crosswise,” the cubed, raw fish is, well, cut crosswise, seasoned with house sauces, tossed with fresh vegetables, and topped with crunchy garnishes. It's the most perfect snack, meal, and/or potluck dish the island has ever created. To ring in the new year, we rounded up our favorite places to find this versatile comfort food. Get your daily dose of omega-3s while showing your taste buds a good time.
Oahu (& other locations)
Like the name suggests, fish at this casual seafood deli is always fresh, but it’s the sauces that complete the dishes. Try the traditional shoyu ahi poke, mixed with a thick layer of well-seasoned soy sauce, or their spicy fireball poke, tossed in a spicy and creamy mayonnaise sauce that packs some serious heat. With more than 20 poke options to choose from, the hardest part is narrowing down exactly what your stomach wants and what it’s going to get.
Open since 1949, this family-run convenience institution is tucked in the industrial stretch of Kalihi, and has everything you need to survive: laundry detergent, over-the-counter medicine, boiled peanuts, crack seed, roast pork, li hing slushies, and an almost overwhelming amount of quality poke options. Their ocean-fresh offerings are sliced into generous bites, and can be ordered by the pound, part of a plate lunch, or as a poke bowl. A quick trip from the airport, this hole-in-the wall is the perfect stop for your first meal back to the island. You can pick up that tube of toothpaste you forgot to bring, and take out a massive snack before napping on the beach. Think we call this one a win-win.
Sure, Tanioka's is far from town, parking is terrible, and the line often spills out the door, but one bite of their specialty red ahi, and any ire is forgotten. This grab-and-go eatery specializes in fresh, high-quality poke tossed in just the right amount of seasoning. With tons of tako, shellfish, and non-ahi poke options in addition to bento, plate lunches, and musubi, the most difficult part of your day will be convincing your stomach to be as big as your eyes.
When talking best poke on the island, there’s no discussion that doesn’t include this hole-in-the-wall seafood counter, which offers a simple, no-frills menu packed with classic local favorites. Poke here is made-to-order, with buttery soft ahi and tender tako, flavored with shoyu, miso, sea salt, or wasabi. Parking can be tough, so come with a friend and have them drive around the block while you pick your bowl of seafood bliss. Choose your bowl size, mix and match your favorites over a bed of rice, pick your Hawaiian Sun beverage, and phone your chauffeur, er, friend.
First of all, a poke counter tucked in the back of a liquor store is probably the best one-stop-shop idea ever. Second, their poke is good. Really, really good. Prepared daily with fresh island catches from the Honolulu Fish Auction, their sashimi-grade ahi is cut into thick cubes, giving the tuna a smooth, clean taste. With options like jalapeño ahi, hamachi poke with ponzu sauce, scallop and kim chee tako poke, their selection is one of the best in the island -- and that’s not the wine and spirits talking.
Tucked off a crowded, traffic-jammed street, this tiny grab-and-go eatery is easy to miss when you’re busy trying to beat that yellow light. But don’t be deceived by their exterior -- inside, it’s a seafood-lover’s paradise, with an impressive variety of poke and plate lunch options. The portions are generous, and the prices are so fair it’s almost hard to believe you can find fresh ahi poke in such an innocuous shop. The flavors are so good, you’ll almost forget how much you hate traffic. (We said 'almost.')
Ala Moana (& other locations)
The self-proclaimed home of the original poke bowl began as a pop-up restaurant at farmer’s markets in 2008 before finding brick-and-mortar homes across Honolulu. Signature poke bowls are available, but freedom-loving eaters will delight in their build-your-own bowls. Choose your size, white or brown rice, your poke, and an assortment of toppings ranging from crispy tempura flakes to fish eggs to Japanese favorites like natto and yamaimo.
Helmed by two Japanese brothers who are former fishmongers in Japan’s famous Tsukiji Market, Maguro serves up gleaming red cuts of ahi hand-selected daily from the Honolulu Fish Auction. Of course, there are other fish options to consider at the Kekaulike Marketplace stop -- there’s hamachi kama, uni, and salmon sashimi, with just the right amounts of fattiness -- but when you’re eating at a shop named after a specific fish, you’ll want to honor its namesake by eating it first. Because their fresh, raw maguro is melt-in-your-mouth, don’t-want-to-share-with-your-best-friend good.
An offshoot of Nico’s Pier 38 restaurant, their adjoined fish market features fish straight from the day’s auction block. Like most fish markets, poke can be ordered as a bowl or by the pound. Behind the glass case, the choices are seemingly endless, but you’ll have to narrow your poke bowl choices to three selections: ahi, aku, marlin, tako, mussels, clam, shrimp, a few non-fish options, and house-smoked fish, which rarely disappoints.
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1. Alicia's Market267 Mokauea St, Honolulu
2. Tanioka's Seafood & Catering94-903 Farrington Hwy, Waipahu
3. Ono Seafood747 Kapahulu Ave Apt 4, Honolulu
4. Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquors3496 Waialae Ave, Honolulu
5. Keeaumoku Seafood1223 Keeaumoku St, Honolulu
6. Pa'ina Cafe1200 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu
7. Maguro Brothers1039 Kekaulike St, Honolulu
8. Nico's Fish Market1129 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu
9. Fresh Catch3109 Waialae Ave, Honolulu
Don't be turned off by Alicia's Market's convenience store set up, the poke is high quality, with an insane amount of options, all of which are melt-in-your-mouth good. And hey, if you just ran out of deodorant why not turn an errand into a delicious poke experience?
With a line spilling out the door, you know Tanioka's has to be good. Besides their mouth-watering, perfectly seasoned poke, Tanioka's also serves up high quality bento lunches, tako, shellfish and other non-poke options.
This hole-in-the-wall seafood counter serves up amazing fish from a no-frills, made-to-order menu. Mix and match your favorite fish and seasonings for your perfect bowl of poke.
With one of the best fish selections on the island, it goes without saying that Tamura's poke is really, really good. Sashimi grade ahi tuna, hamachi with ponzu sauce, and scallop and kim chee tako poke are just some of the many made fresh daily options.
Don't let Keeaumoku's exterior fool you, this hole-in-the-wall fish joint serves up seriously high quality poke in generous portions.
The originator of the poke bowl, Pa'ina is relaxed cafe offering creative salads, sandwiches, and rice bowls topped with fish and other Hawaiian fixings.
Hand-selected daily from the Honolulu Fish Auction, the Maguro Brothers' ahi cuts should be your first choice at this Kekaulike Marketplace spot. When tuna is in the name of the shop, it's guaranteed to be top-notch. They also serve up high-quality hamachi, uni, and salmon if you're looking for more variety.
Located at Nico's Pier 38, this fish market serves breakfast and lunch dishes for people on the pier, as well as fresh fish fillets. Breakfast includes a fish omelette and local favorites, while lunch's highlight is the Poke bowl topped with three toppings of your choosing.