Poke, pronounced POH-kay, is a Hawaiian food staple. You can buy it at the grocery store, the liquor store, or even at high end restaurants. Chef Sam Choy calls it “Hawaii’s soul food,” and we agree. Poke bowls really do showcase Hawaii’s melting pot of flavors. Whether you like your poke with limu, shoyu, wasabi or even avocado, you just can’t go wrong.
So if you’re thinking of visiting the Big Island, here are some of our favorite spots to get a poke bowl.
Hale I’a, Da Fish House
61-3665 Akoni-Pule Hwy, Kawaihae, Right across the Minit Stop
If you blink, you might miss this little hole in the wall. We wanted to order shoyu poke, but the Aunty running this place had just run out. She told us to wait 15 minutes and had someone in the back butcher some fresh ahi. It was worth the wait! The chunks of fish were just the right size and the ratio of rice to fish was perfect. The bowl also included a side of either ocean salad, crab salad, or Korean taegu. Our friends had the spicy ahi and had only good things to say about it. This is a MUST stop if you’re on the way to Kohala or Waikoloa.
Da Poke Shack
76-6246 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona
Once ranked Best Restaurant in the United States on Yelp, Da Poke Shack is also located in the middle of nowhere. If you’re driving along Ali’i Drive, keep your eye on the addresses. This tiny establishment is located right in front of an apartment complex. Parking is limited. The poke here is a little fancier and the fish is cut into very small pieces. Some of the options are Kimchi tako poke, Dynamite Poke with avocado, Spicy Garlic Sesame Poke, and of course the old favorites Hawaiian style or Shoyu. The menu is always changing and there are tons of sides to choose from.
Umekes has multiple locations in Kona and the flavor of their poke is consistently good. They have a wide variety of poke styles and sides to choose from, so you might want to peruse their menu beforehand. Some of the sides worth mentioning are their Pipikaula (smoked meat) and Ho’io salad (made from fern fronds). Umekes has also won the Sam Choy Poke Contest two years in a row. One of their winning creations is the Poke bomb, which is a cone sushi topped with poke. It’s the perfect combo of sweet, vinegary, and savory.