Food & Drink

Why Is SF Experiencing a Tidal Wave of Poke Restaurants?

Published On 08/24/2016 Published On 08/24/2016
Ramen Bar
Ramen Bar | Kevin McCullough
Amani King/Courtesy of Hook Fish Co.
Kevin McCullough

The Ramen Bar

Financial District

The hero at this fast-casual collaboration between Chefs Ken Tominaga and Michael Mina is obviously ramen, but the selection of poke bowls are a great option for when you’re looking for something healthy, light, and filling. Choose from tuna, salmon, or octopus, all of which can be served over a mix or rice (brown or white) and salad or just salad. The tuna is incredibly popular, as is the poke trio, which is a mix of all three.

Pacific Catch

Pacific Catch

Inner Sunset, Marina

The Hawaiian poke at this small Bay Area chain restaurant is real highlight. There are six different types to choose from, and it comes served with wonton crisps, seaweed salad, and daikon salad. Or just wonton crisps if too much salad isn’t your thing. The original (ahi tuna, sesame-soy marinade, and spicy seasonings) is our go-to when we want something healthy, tasty, and light, but we’re also fans of the indulgent macadamia nut or the serrano when we’re in the mood for a bit of a kick.

Poki Time

Poki Time

Inner Sunset

This casual café is about to open two more locations in the Marina and Daly City, but for now the Inner Sunset location is the place to go for a satisfying poke bowl with tons of toppings. You start with a base (rice, mixed greens, kale, half and half), then pick your fish (salmon, tuna, yellowtail, crab meat), then choose a sauce (sesame shoyu, spicy mayo, ponzu, wasabi), and finally add your toppings, which range from edamame to onions to avocado to jalapeño. So... not your traditional poke, but still damn tasty and very affordable.

Limu & Shoyu

Lower Pacific Heights

The focus at this casual Lower Pac Heights eatery is offering customizable poke bowls, but also serving fresh, sustainable fish, and taking care of the environment. Choose from house poke bowls or create your own with fish options like albacore, Arctic char, ahi, and octopus. There’s even a tofu options for vegetarians.

Shannon McLean

Liholiho Yacht Club

Tenderloin

If there’s one dish everyone talks about at Liholiho, it’s the tuna poke with sesame oil and radish, served with a nori cracker. Chef Ravi Kapur is not serving up traditional Hawaiian fare by any means, but that’s the glory of eating at his restaurant. Everything is inventive and modern, but maintains the “Aloha Spirit” that’s so important to Kapur.

And stay tuned for Hook Fish Co. opening soon in the Outer Sunset.

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1. The Ramen Bar 101 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

The financial district's Ramen Bar specializes in a lighter, Tokyo-style chicken-based broth spiked with a salty dose of soy. The space is cavernous, optimized for long lines, and likely designed to make your gut-busting ramen dish seem like an appetizer -- a designation which, given the abundance of other savory dishes (like the duck broth bowl with crispy miso duck wing), you might want to aim for.

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2. Pacific Catch 1200 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

Over the years, this Mexican chain has recruited waves of new fans using delicious dishes that ride on food trends in addition to speaking to local tastes. The seafood tacos (mahi mahi, cod, shrimp) are excellent by the highest of Californian standards, as are the popular fried platters of calamari, and the Hawaiian poke bowl that comes in six varieties. It's all standard bay area fare, but it always comes out perfectly fried, salted, and sauced, making Pacific Catch a go-to destination for catch-up cuisine, audible conversation, and creative cocktails to go along with it all.

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3. Poki Time 549 Irving St, San Francisco, CA

The cafeteria-style preparation of poke dishes here resembles your friendly neighborhood Chipotle: diners start their order by choosing their base, then load it up with their choice of fish, sauce, and toppings. The portions are offensively generous, but the ingredients are so fresh and succulent, you'll have zero problem finishing a large-size bowl, even with avocado. If you've got time, enjoy your meal in the endearingly decorated space, which features polaroids of customers and sea paraphernalia.

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4. Limu & Shoyu 2815 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Pacific Heights)

Cozily nestled in Pacific Heights, this counter service eatery is constantly abuzz for its delicious seafood poke. There's two ways to go about the sustainably-conscious menu -- either you can select one of their house bowls, or build your own -- and everything is made to order, which accounts for the ingredient-forward flavors that are just as healthy as they are delicious. Pro tip: try the He'e bowl, which highlights Spanish octopus alongside wasabi shoyu, masago, cucumber, and kimchi amongst others.

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5. Liholiho Yacht Club 871 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (Nob Hill)

Liholiho Yacht Club is a pop-up restaurant that found a permanent home in Nob Hill...and isn't a yacht club by any means. The kitchen serves a mash-up of Hawaiian, Californian, and Southeast Asian flavors, led by dishes like poppy seed steamed buns with beef tongue, tuna poke on a nori cracker, and twice-cooked pork belly. Aside from an à la carte menu, there's a family-style tasting dinner that's served at the Ohana Table, a communal table in the front of the restaurant.

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