Long before it was one of the mainland’s most Instagrammed foods, the fresh poke bowl was a Hawaii resident's go–to lunch. Poke, meaning “to cut,” describes large chunks of fresh raw fish (think: ahi tuna, salmon or shellfish) that are marinated and served cold over rice. Seasonings range from soy sauce, limu (seaweed) and sesame seeds to a creamy, spicy mayo and salty furikake.
The popular bowls can be found at roadside markets and convenience stores across the islands. And while spots like Pokeworks and PokiNometry in NYC and L.A. are spreading the poke love across the mainland, nothing beats the Hawaii original, which is simply prepared and widely loved. When you have a 365–day growing season and fish sourced directly from the Pacific Ocean, freshness is a way of life for local Hawaii residents. Here, some picture–perfect bowls that promise major lunchtime envy and may even convince you to hop a plane to the poke motherland.
Owned and operated by Top Chef star Sheldon Simeon, this local lunch counter takes classic Hawaii lunches to the next level. Its poke is no exception, with fresh fish and killer sides that change daily.
This unassuming sushi counter within a Kauai supermarket is a local favorite. Lunch crowds return again and again for the famous Gorilla Bowl—a killer combo of ahi, ono (wahoo), salmon, cucumber and sweet Maui onion—not to mention the close proximity to the beach.Photo: Eskimo Candy Seafood Market & Deli via Facebook
This beloved Maui market and deli has been serving up fresh fish since 2003. In addition to fish tacos and burgers, Eskimo Candy offers four kinds of ahi poke, plus a spicy wasabi aioli that takes the bowls over the edge.Photo: Courtesy of Tamura's Express
Part market, part wine store, part poke lover's dream, Tamura's Express makes a Sunrise Poke Bowl that has become something of an island–wide obsession. With ahi chunks, Sriracha, mayo and sweet–and–salty furikake, this is a bowl that’s impossible not to crave.
This family–owned counter is a local favorite that dishes unique takes on the classic, like sesame–crusted ahi, wasabi poke and kimchi tako. The addition of rice, sashimi and creamy sides makes any bowl a veritable fish lover's feast.