What is poke? Traditionally, it involves cutting up raw fish and mixing it with ingredients like sea salt, limu (edible algae, mosses, and more that acted as a condiment in the Hawaiian diet), plus ʻinamona (roasted and chopped kukui nuts).
In fact, the recipe is right in the name! In Hawaiian, poke means “to slice, to cut crosswise into pieces.”
But before we dive in, let’s make sure you’re pronouncing poke correctly with a little help from Malu States. In short, remember that an E in Hawaiian is pronounced –ay, so poke rhymes with okay. Avoid the common mispronunciation “po-key” at all costs!
Although a number of poke shops have popped up all over the mainland, there’s no better place to eat poke than its traditional home: Hawaiʻi. Everyone’s got their favorite poke shop, and we’re going to show you ours on Oʻahu. We’ll include spots in Waikīkīand Honolulu, but we won’t stop there. So if you don’t feel like driving into town, we’ve got you covered.
Locations: Honolulu, Kāneʻohe, Pearl City Must-Try: Ahi limu poke (a local favorite, as well as a Guy Fieri pick!)
This locally owned operation showcases Chef Reno Henriques’ love for the ocean and his facility with seafood. Our favorite is his ahi limu poke, but if you like octopus, give his tako poke a try. Or, if you want to try your hand at making poke at home, snag a couple of Chef Reno’s bottled sauces, like his poke marinate and spicy Hawaiian sauce.
Inside this unassuming grocery store on Oʻahu’s North Shore, you’ll find a small but mighty poke counter with some excellent selections. This family-run option also features steak plates and other hot options on Wednesdays for those who might not be fans of raw fish.
Don’t be intimidated by the line out the door at Tanioka’s. It moves fast, and it’s evidence of the quality of their poke. Tanioka’s also does bentos and plate lunches, which give you the chance to try some poke alongside a healthy portion of mochiko chicken. If you’re headed to the North Shore for the day, Tanioka’s is a great spot to stop and pick up lunch.
The Tamura’s stores got their start in the 1920s when Makitaro Tamura opened a store in Waiʻanae. Subsequent generations kept that store going, added new locations, and introduced a new concept—a fine wine & liquor store. Today, the two types of stores have a different feel, but they share a commitment to an excellent poke counter with solid variety and quality ingredients. You’ll find a lot to choose from at Tamura’s, but we’re partial to the ninja ahi poke.
Don’t let the aesthetics discourage you. There’s ʻono poke to be found inside, along with an excellent mixed plate selection. If you’re looking for a hearty option, try the poke nachos. The house-fried chips are robust, making it easy to stuff your mouth with saucy, delicious poke.
Location: 1164 Smith St., Honolulu Must-Try: Cold ginger ahi poke and/or a three-pack of poke bombs
Arrive early to this family-owned local favorite because they often sell out of their most popular selections. The freshness of their poke is unbeatable, and the ahi will melt in your mouth. If you want to truly go deep on their poke, grab a three-pack of poke bombs—poke piled in a deep-fried tofu pocket. Don’t hesitate to snag a few of their other provisions when you stop in, like their kalua ahi (smoked fish) spread or their homemade jerky.
Location: ʻEwa wing of the Ala Moana Mall, Honolulu Must-Try: Crispy onion ahi poke
Getting poke in a grocery store in a mall may not sound like an epic culinary experience. However, on a graph that charts convenience against deliciousness, Foodland Farms in Ala Moana rates pretty high. In other words, there’s a reason that poke bar is always busy.
For bonus points, make a reservation at their whiskey bar, Eleven, or snag a glass of wine at the Bar by R. Field Wine Company for a pre-poke cocktail. Foodland Farms in Ala Moana has a number of different dimensions to explore, and we suggest embracing them all.
Location: 802 N King St., Honolulu Must-Try: Ahi onion poke
To find Tamashiro’s, look for the pink building with the big crab on top. Inside, you’ll find a full market, including an excellent selection of fresh fish, in addition to the broad selection of poke. We like to go traditional with the ahi onion poke. However, you might want to try one of Tamashiro Market’s Frolic Poke Fest winners—the ahi poke with creamy crab sauce (2021 winner) or Da Real Kine poke (2020 winner). Frankly, what’s to stop you from trying them all?
Although this won’t be your cheapest place to get poke in and around Honolulu, the quality is worth it at this unassuming little spot. There is some limited outdoor seating, but you’re better off taking your food to go and finding a beautiful Oʻahu vista that matches the explosions going off in your mouth.
Location: 3585 Alohea Ave., Honolulu Must-Try: Ruger special ahi poke or Hamachi ginger poke
Ft. Ruger Market uses only auction-fresh ahi in their poke, and you can taste the difference. They’ve also got a hot menu featuring Hawaiian and Filipino food, you can satisfy multiple cravings at one spot. Get there early because many poke favorites sell out in the morning.
Location: Inside the Pearl Hotel Waikīkī, with an additional location in the Maunakea Market Food Court in Chinatown Must-Try: Hawaiian limu ahi poke with ʻinamona
In busy Waikīkī, a line out the door isn’t always an indicator of quality. However, at Maguro Brothers, the poke is definitely worth the hype—and the wait. It all comes down to fish selection, which, at Maguro Brothers, is top-notch. This allows them to go easy on the sauces and let the flavor of the fish shine through. For an extra treat, add on a platter of their melt-in-your-mouth sashimi.
Creativity is on display at this poke spot, where you can enjoy several varieties of traditional poke, plus several only-at-Sato’s specials. The macadamia aburi salmon is a stand-out, as is the yuzu kosho punch, which combines citrus flavor with a little heat. Consider topping your bowl with a scoop of ikura (salmon roe) to add some fun texture and taste to any of Sato’s offerings.
Traditional poke fans may look at the bowls coming out of Poke Fix and protest. While classic poke bowls consist of just poke and rice, Poke Fix offers theirs in a style that’s more like what you might see at Chipotle. In addition to poke, you can add three other toppings like edamame, kimchi, tofu, and seaweed salad.
Make no mistake, this isn’t traditional poke, but if you’re willing to color outside of traditional lines—and you don’t want to leave Waikīkī to explore the other spots on this list—Poke Fix Hawaiʻi is worth a try.
Tasting the Best Poke Oʻahu Has to Offer
Poke is one of those things that just tastes better in Hawaiʻi. No matter how authentic the approach or the recipe, mainland poke always seems to be lacking something. (Maybe the missing ingredient is aloha?)
Whether you’re on Oʻahu for a few weeks or for good, make sure you get your fill from these poke spots—and find some new favorites of your own.
Doing an Oʻahu move? We’d be happy to help! (And share some of our other favorite spots with you.) We do mainland moves, interisland moves, and local moves. Just reach out to one of our experts to get started with a complimentary quote.