Poke (“poh-kay”) means “to slice or cut into pieces,” which is how early Polynesian voyagers prepared the raw fish they caught to sustain them on their journeys to the islands. Today, traditional poke preparation usually includes a marinade of sesame oil, shoyu (the local word for soy sauce), diced onions, seaweed and a sprinkle of chopped kukui nuts, but you can find a dazzling array of seafoods as its base, or even tofu or veggies. Spicy versions may use kim chee or chile-pepper-spiked mayonnaise to kick it up a notch, while avocado can add a creamy touch. Here are our favorite places to savor poke in Waikiki.
Featured Photo: Poke Bar
Barefoot Beach Cafe
Located at Queen’s Surf Beach, on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki, this is an ideal spot to watch the surfers while you chow down. This family-owned and -operated cafe appears to be a snack bar but don’t be fooled. They are whipping up delicious and refreshing dishes, including poke, and offer some of the best views in Waikiki. Open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 10am to 6pm, Friday and Saturday 10am to 8pm, and is grateful for your business. Closed Monday and Tuesday. barefootbeachcafe.com
This breezy little market is the perfect spot to grab some poke before heading to the beach to soak up the rays. The menu features a lot of local favorites, but we recommend the poke bowls, of course! Open daily from 9am to 9pm and are grateful for your service. Coco Cove on Instagram.
You can also get sushi, sashimi and other Japanese dishes at this restaurant in the Pearl Waikiki hotel, but you’d be missing out on some particularly delicious fresh poke. Try some with unique twists such as ume (Japanese plum) and shiso leaf. Open Monday through Saturday 8am to 3pm and are happy to serve you. Closed on Sunday. facebook.com/magurobrothershawaii
Though technically outside of Waikiki, on the bustling mom-and-pop strip of Kapahulu Avenue, Ono Seafood is close enough and good enough to merit the long walk or short drive. Always fresh ahi,salmon and tako (octopus) poke and poke bowls are the main and very memorable event. Open Tuesday through Saturday 9am to 6pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. facebook.com/Ono-Seafood
The founders may have gotten their start with a sushi bar in Southern California, but their Waikiki spot fits right in to the local poke scene with sushi-quality seafood. The build-your-own bowl concept may produce some puzzling combinations to aficionados (hold the pineapple or corn, please!) but the basic proteins (salmon, tuna and tofu among them) and savory sauces like wasabi shoyu or sriracha are top-notch. Open daily 11am to 8pm. ilovepokebar.com
Fish Hook Cafe
Tucked into the Luana Waikiki Hotel & Suites, this bright new jewel box for poke and other home-style breakfast and lunch fare has just 16 seats and an open kitchen. If you can’t nab a spot, get one of the beautifully prepared poke bowls to go. fishhookcafe.com