Growing up in Hawaii, I've naturally had my fair share of good poke. Back home, poke bowls are relatively cheap and easy to come by; it wasn't until I left for college that I realized how incredibly spoiled I was in terms of being able to get my hands on this heavenly food. My friends and I (who all attend school on the east coast) can all agree that it's definitely the top food we miss the most from home (with acai bowls running behind in a close second).

For those of you mainlanders who don’t know, poke (pronounced POKE-AY, not POKE-EE) is a simple Hawaiian dish consisting of raw cubed fish (typically tuna or salmon) marinated in a variety of different sauces. Served over a bed of white or brown rice, poke is usually consumed in the form of a “poke bowl”, i.e. the best thing you’ll ever eat.

With the abundance of such high quality fish back home, one doesn’t have to go to a fancy, expensive restaurant in order to seek out the best poke; in fact, any local would agree that the best places to get a poke fix are the unsuspecting, hole-in-the-wall joints. Although everyone back home has their own poke preferences, these are a few of my personal favorites.

Ono Seafood

Shae Chambers

This place is undoubtedly one of the best poke places in Hawaii (and therefore, probably the entire country). Located close to my high school, it was extremely frequented by students during lunch and free periods. The spicy ahi is a must-try.

Pa'ina Cafe

Shae Chambers

Probably my personal favorite. A poke bowl from here is the perfect reward after a long, tiring hike. Although it’s hard to go wrong, I suggest ordering the Poke Crunch bowl (topped with crunchy tempura flakes) with spicy ahi.

Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors

pork, chicken, rice
Shae Chambers

This place is the epitome of hole-in-the wall. Upon entering, you must walk past numerous shelves stocked with beers, wines, and hards in order to get to the poke bar hidden in the back. Extremely fresh, the poke here is always high-quality. Just make sure to get there early before they run out.

Foodland Super Market

Shae Chambers

If you’re looking for a classic poke experience, this is the place to go. When I hop into the car at the airport upon arriving home, I can count on a two-choice (spicy ahi and shoyu) poke bowl with brown rice and furikake waiting for me, courtesy of my parents.