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A poke dish from Ono Seafood
Hillary Dixler Canavan

Hawai‘i’s 9 Best Poke Spots

It doesn’t get any better, or fresher, than this

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A poke dish from Ono Seafood
| Hillary Dixler Canavan

Hawai‘i wants the rest of the world to know: You’re doing poke wrong. It’s all wrong, from the way it’s prepared (what’s up with all the extra toppings and the kale salad?) to how it’s spelled (poké, poki) to where it’s served (bougie, trendy spots). Poke-like dishes are spreading across the Mainland, but you need to go to Hawai‘i to experience the real thing.

For the uninitiated, poke (which means “to cut” or “to slice” in Hawaiian) is most commonly a dish of raw, chopped fish and onions, seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil. Though you’ll find all sorts of variations on the sauces and ingredients, ranging from cooked seafood like shrimp and clams to even non-seafood ingredients, such as beets and beef, there are really just three types of poke, usually made with ‘ahi, that locals love most. The most common ones are shoyu (the aforementioned with soy sauce and sesame oil), limu or Hawaiian (with limu — the Hawaiian word for seaweed — and ‘inamona (roasted and crushed kukui or candlenut), and spicy (creamy, mayo-based).

In Hawai‘i, poke is most often eaten on its own as a snack, like boiled peanuts, though the idea of serving it over rice — aka poke bowls — is becoming more popular. It’s a casual dish, so much a part of locals’ lives that it’s eaten everywhere — at bars, on the beach, on the couch — usually straight from plastic take-out containers.

And the best poke destinations in Hawai‘i are supermarkets, convenience stores and hole-in-the-wall spots. The more unassuming and out of the way, the better; then you know the establishment is spending its money on fish and not on high rent and useless décor. Because for the best poke, fresh fish is the star. ‘

Part of the Eater Guide to Hawaii

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Fish Express

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3343 Kuhio Hwy
Lihue, HI 96766
(808) 245-9918
Visit Website

This place is one of the few poke spots on Kaua‘i that offers fresh-caught ‘ahi (versus previously frozen tuna shipped in from Indonesia, the Philippines, and other countries). Notable at this spot is the toppings bar — mainly for Mainland tourists to pile on the fixin’s like edamame, kimchi, cucumber namasu (Japanese-style pickles), fried tofu, and more.

Inside Fish Express
Meghan McCarron

2. Kahuku Superette

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56-505 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731
(808) 293-9878

On the North Shore of O‘ahu near Kahuku’s famous shrimp trucks, this somewhat unassuming-looking general store has become famous for its shoyu poke, in which firm ‘ahi pieces are marinated in soy sauce fermented with fresh ginger and other secret ingredients. For a lighter poke, try the limu ‘ahi poke, dressed with sesame oil and tossed with limu, green onions, chili flakes and sesame seeds.

Outside of Kahuku Superette
Meghan McCarron

3. Maguro Brothers

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1039 Kekaulike St #113
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 259-7100
Visit Website

Junichiro Tsuchiya used to be a fish buyer at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market — he says, proudly, “I know good fish.” He and his brother run this speck of a seafood counter tucked inside Kekaulike Market in Honolulu’s Chinatown, serving impeccably seasoned poke. The Hawaiian limu poke has threads of crisp seaweed and a fine dusting of ‘inamona (roasted and crushed candlenut), while the ume shiso is a bright and restrained combination. For an extra-luxe experience, crown a poke bowl with a side of uni.

Poke at Maguro Brothers
Martha Cheng

4. Yama's Fish Market

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2332 Young St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 941-9994
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The nostalgia factor is high at Yama’s, which started in 1980 and is one of the older spots that serves poke as well as heaping Hawaiian plate lunches and local treats like ice cake (basically, frozen artificial juice in a cup) and kulolo (a mochi-like dessert made with taro and coconut). Find about a dozen poke premixed in the refrigerated case, ranging from Korean-style tako (octopus) to spicy shrimp poke. Don’t miss the wasabi ‘ahi masago poke, generously doused with crunchy roe and a hint of creamy wasabi. Pro tip: Grab a bag of taro chips at Yama’s too — they’re perfect for scooping up poke.

5. Ahi Assassins Fish Co.

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2570 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 439-4045
Visit Website

Behind the counter at this tiny takeout-only place, customers can watch as whole ‘ahi are broken down into ruby-red cubes. Fisherman Joshua Schade and his partner Erika Luna went from selling fish from the back of his boat to this spot wedged into the second-floor corner of a mixed-use plaza, offering only fresh, locally caught ‘ahi. On the menu are about a dozen poke options, from the spicy Lunatic to the slightly sweet Special Oyster (tossed in thick, dark Chinese oyster sauce), all of the same pristine quality that a fisherman would feed his family.

Spicy poke and dip from Ahi Assassins
Frolic Hawaii

6. Ono Seafood

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747 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-4806
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With quite possibly the highest popularity-to-parking ratio in the entire state, you’ll have to fight to get one of three parking stalls at Honolulu’s beloved spot for poke bowls. But it’s worth it for Ono Seafood’s simple offerings that highlight fatty, fresh chunks of ‘ahi. Poke preparations like the Hawaiian-style bowl with crunchy limu, coarse sea salt, and nutty ‘inamona are tossed to order. Don’t wait to eat: Bliss is found in the pairing of cool fish and hot rice.

A poke dish from Ono Seafood
Hillary Dixler Canavan

7. Tin Roof

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360 Papa Pl y
Kahului, HI 96732
(808) 868-0753
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There’s only one poke bowl option a day at Sheldon Simeon’s hole-in-the-wall spot, which serves odes to Hawai‘i comfort food, but be sure to order it, whatever it is. Simeon’s poke specials — based on what’s fresh and what he’s in the mood for —  are all sure to combine layers of flavor and texture. Think spicy ‘ahi studded with furikake rice crackers; seared swordfish poke with kimchi daikon and crispy wonton shreds; or kinilaw, a Filipino-style ceviche with added coconut milk.

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8. Kaohu Store

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1833 Kaohu St
Wailuku, HI 96793
(808) 244-0943
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Locals head to this long-standing neighborhood convenience store in Wailuku for its red hot dogs (yup, they’re a bright, artificial red), and fresh ‘ahi poke in varieties like the Ninja Spicy, slicked in a creamy sauce sprinkled with furikake. Don’t leave without trying the pohole salad, made with tender fiddlehead fern shoots harvested on the island.

A post shared by Kaohu Store (@kaohustore) on

9. Suisan Fish Market

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93 Lihiwai St
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-9349
Visit Website

Get here early (between 4 a.m. and 11 a.m.), when fishermen unload their catch, for a glimpse of massive marlin with their spears sliced off; mahi piled in buckets; and, of course, ‘ahi, with their silvery, torpedo-like bodies. Then, head next door to the market (open at 8 a.m.) and sample the sparkling fresh poke. There, find the usual suspects as well as Suisan’s pièce de résistance: the Kohala mix poke with uhu (parrotfish) and ‘opihi (limpet), one of Hawai‘i’s most prized and rarest ocean delicacies, harvested by prying the suckers off rocks in the surf.

A variety of poke from Suisan Fish Market
Frolic Hawaii

1. Fish Express

3343 Kuhio Hwy, Lihue, HI 96766
Inside Fish Express
Meghan McCarron

This place is one of the few poke spots on Kaua‘i that offers fresh-caught ‘ahi (versus previously frozen tuna shipped in from Indonesia, the Philippines, and other countries). Notable at this spot is the toppings bar — mainly for Mainland tourists to pile on the fixin’s like edamame, kimchi, cucumber namasu (Japanese-style pickles), fried tofu, and more.

3343 Kuhio Hwy
Lihue, HI 96766

2. Kahuku Superette

56-505 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, HI 96731
Outside of Kahuku Superette
Meghan McCarron

On the North Shore of O‘ahu near Kahuku’s famous shrimp trucks, this somewhat unassuming-looking general store has become famous for its shoyu poke, in which firm ‘ahi pieces are marinated in soy sauce fermented with fresh ginger and other secret ingredients. For a lighter poke, try the limu ‘ahi poke, dressed with sesame oil and tossed with limu, green onions, chili flakes and sesame seeds.

56-505 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731

3. Maguro Brothers

1039 Kekaulike St #113, Honolulu, HI 96817
Poke at Maguro Brothers
Martha Cheng

Junichiro Tsuchiya used to be a fish buyer at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market — he says, proudly, “I know good fish.” He and his brother run this speck of a seafood counter tucked inside Kekaulike Market in Honolulu’s Chinatown, serving impeccably seasoned poke. The Hawaiian limu poke has threads of crisp seaweed and a fine dusting of ‘inamona (roasted and crushed candlenut), while the ume shiso is a bright and restrained combination. For an extra-luxe experience, crown a poke bowl with a side of uni.

1039 Kekaulike St #113
Honolulu, HI 96817

4. Yama's Fish Market

2332 Young St, Honolulu, HI 96826

The nostalgia factor is high at Yama’s, which started in 1980 and is one of the older spots that serves poke as well as heaping Hawaiian plate lunches and local treats like ice cake (basically, frozen artificial juice in a cup) and kulolo (a mochi-like dessert made with taro and coconut). Find about a dozen poke premixed in the refrigerated case, ranging from Korean-style tako (octopus) to spicy shrimp poke. Don’t miss the wasabi ‘ahi masago poke, generously doused with crunchy roe and a hint of creamy wasabi. Pro tip: Grab a bag of taro chips at Yama’s too — they’re perfect for scooping up poke.

2332 Young St
Honolulu, HI 96826

5. Ahi Assassins Fish Co.

2570 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96826
Spicy poke and dip from Ahi Assassins
Frolic Hawaii

Behind the counter at this tiny takeout-only place, customers can watch as whole ‘ahi are broken down into ruby-red cubes. Fisherman Joshua Schade and his partner Erika Luna went from selling fish from the back of his boat to this spot wedged into the second-floor corner of a mixed-use plaza, offering only fresh, locally caught ‘ahi. On the menu are about a dozen poke options, from the spicy Lunatic to the slightly sweet Special Oyster (tossed in thick, dark Chinese oyster sauce), all of the same pristine quality that a fisherman would feed his family.

2570 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96826

6. Ono Seafood

747 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
A poke dish from Ono Seafood
Hillary Dixler Canavan

With quite possibly the highest popularity-to-parking ratio in the entire state, you’ll have to fight to get one of three parking stalls at Honolulu’s beloved spot for poke bowls. But it’s worth it for Ono Seafood’s simple offerings that highlight fatty, fresh chunks of ‘ahi. Poke preparations like the Hawaiian-style bowl with crunchy limu, coarse sea salt, and nutty ‘inamona are tossed to order. Don’t wait to eat: Bliss is found in the pairing of cool fish and hot rice.

747 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

7. Tin Roof

360 Papa Pl y, Kahului, HI 96732

There’s only one poke bowl option a day at Sheldon Simeon’s hole-in-the-wall spot, which serves odes to Hawai‘i comfort food, but be sure to order it, whatever it is. Simeon’s poke specials — based on what’s fresh and what he’s in the mood for —  are all sure to combine layers of flavor and texture. Think spicy ‘ahi studded with furikake rice crackers; seared swordfish poke with kimchi daikon and crispy wonton shreds; or kinilaw, a Filipino-style ceviche with added coconut milk.

360 Papa Pl y
Kahului, HI 96732

8. Kaohu Store

1833 Kaohu St, Wailuku, HI 96793

Locals head to this long-standing neighborhood convenience store in Wailuku for its red hot dogs (yup, they’re a bright, artificial red), and fresh ‘ahi poke in varieties like the Ninja Spicy, slicked in a creamy sauce sprinkled with furikake. Don’t leave without trying the pohole salad, made with tender fiddlehead fern shoots harvested on the island.

1833 Kaohu St
Wailuku, HI 96793

9. Suisan Fish Market

93 Lihiwai St, Hilo, HI 96720
A variety of poke from Suisan Fish Market
Frolic Hawaii

Get here early (between 4 a.m. and 11 a.m.), when fishermen unload their catch, for a glimpse of massive marlin with their spears sliced off; mahi piled in buckets; and, of course, ‘ahi, with their silvery, torpedo-like bodies. Then, head next door to the market (open at 8 a.m.) and sample the sparkling fresh poke. There, find the usual suspects as well as Suisan’s pièce de résistance: the Kohala mix poke with uhu (parrotfish) and ‘opihi (limpet), one of Hawai‘i’s most prized and rarest ocean delicacies, harvested by prying the suckers off rocks in the surf.

93 Lihiwai St
Hilo, HI 96720

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