First things first: The tasty food trend hailing from Hawaii is called poke and it rhymes with "okay." As in, okay, let's try this interesting, colorful food from the islands! With new poke eateries sprouting up all over town, it’s the perfect time to sample this delectable, summery dish.
So what is poke? The word comes from Hawaiian for “to cut or slice.” Impress your family with this fun trivia: the dish was first conceived by island fishermen who would cut off and season pieces of fish from their catch for a quick, on-the-job snack. Traditionally made with raw ahi tuna, today’s poke restaurants serve up bowls centered around cubes of raw fish or other proteins and dressed up with a variety of accompaniments. Think rice, sesame seeds, cucumber, green onion, avocado, arugula, seaweed, edamame, flavorful (and sometimes spicy) sauces and much more.
Poke is a must-try for the adventurous eaters in your family. If they like sushi, they’ll love poke, too. For the more cautious, try a mix and match option so kids can pick and choose fixings. And if you’re wary of raw fish for little ones or expecting moms, eateries generally offer choices for cooked seafood, tofu and even chicken or pork. Channel the islands on these still-sunny days and say aloha to one of these family-friendly poke spots.
1200 Third Ave., #100, Seattle; 222 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue
With a fondness for sustainable, local and seasonal seafood, this casual chain with locations in Seattle and Bellevue keeps things simple with fresh flavors. Choose from signature selections or create your own from a variety of protein choices, savory mix-ins and crunchy toppings such as lotus chips or toasted rice puffs.
220 Blanchard St., Seattle
Wooden barrels serve as tables at this hip Belltown spot, where the fully-customizable poke bowls play with funky flavors such as coconut green tea infused rice or ranch chipotle dressing. Six all-cooked proteins such as grilled chicken, beef and shrimp are available, along with unlimited add-ons, from crispy onions to crabmeat salad.
235 Rainier Ave. S., Renton
The no-frills space tucked away in a Renton strip mall serves up authentic Hawaiian fare with serious flavor. Big Island-born owner Jaydean Gabriel sources farm-fresh ingredients flown in straight from Hawaii to create exciting recipes like the California Dreamin’, a fam-friendly option that subs imitation crab for raw seafood. Finish off with a real lilikoi lemonade served in cute Mason jars.
625 S. King St., Seattle
Bright, cheery and colorful, this bustling bar in Chinatown is perfect for the poke beginner, with traditional, build-your-own, or ‘pokerrito’ wrap options. Little ones get their very own, albeit short, menu with all-cooked items. Desserts of authentic shave ice or Dole pineapple whip floats make for a sweet finish.
117 Kirkland Ave. #117, Kirkland; 278 106th Ave. N.E., Bellevue
Two Seattle brothers founded this eco-friendly Eastside eatery after discovering poke at a Maui beach shack. Build your own bowls and get an extra serving of veggies into the kiddos with a choice of two salads on the side. There are currently two Eastside locations and 10 new shops planned for opening in the next year.
More island treats
There’s more to Hawaiian cuisine than poke! The islands are famous for traditional delicacies such as stick-to-your-ribs barbecue, saimin (a ramen-like soup), and the hot-weather favorite of the islands, shave ice. Beach getaway not in the cards? Here’s where to give these tropical treats a try locally.