Though the cubed raw fish has been a staple in Hawaii for generations, last year brought a poke revolution across Orange County. As is tradition with most food trends, local restaurants have given the culinary craze a makeover of sorts with innovative toppings and accessible menus that make it easy for first-timers to transport their palettes.
Get into the Aloha spirit with a taste of the islands right here in Huntington Beach. Here’s our top picks for fresh poke at some of the city’s favorite fast-casual food joints.
Have it your way at this build-your-own bowl shop that boasts a simple menu perfect for poke novices. In just five easy steps, Poki Star customers are guided through a selection of ingredients that are nestled temptingly behind the assembly-style counter. Available in multiple sizes with one, three or five scoops of fish, the restaurant’s bowl is customizable from start to finish. Begin with a base of white or brown rice, salad or chips, then choose from a savory assortment of accompaniments such as crab meat, onion and edamame. Mix and match your fish—the salmon and tuna are popular picks—before adding a generous drizzle of house ponzu sauce or spicy mayo and piling on toppings like ginger, wasabi and masago. Upgrade your bowl with a scoop of black rice, coveted for its intense, earthy flavor. 16475 Bolsa Chica St., Huntington Beach; 714-846-3100
Located just steps from the sand, North Shore Poke Co. offers the perfect eats for the beach. The menu runs the gamut from three sizes of bowls with three, five or seven scoops of fish to tacos, nachos and sandwiches. Raw ahi tuna or salmon are complemented by an array of specialty sauces. For a fresh, light taste with a little kick, opt for the sunset style that offers the traditional shoyu flavor and a spicy twist. 214 Fifth St., Huntington Beach; 714-465-9011; northshorepokeco.com
Another create-your-own eatery, Poke Island offers a modern aesthetic with fast-casual convenience. In additional to traditional base options, customers can also opt to layer their three or four scoops of poke atop a bed of crisp kale. Ahi tuna, salmon, albacore, spicy tuna and shrimp here can be topped with an innovative selection of enhancements that includes a sweet teriyaki/mayo blend and a fiery hot “volcano” Korean chili sauce. 8112 Talbert Ave. #103, Huntington Beach; pokeislandhb.com
The incredible patio and ocean view is reason enough to visit the recently opened Bear Flag at Pacific City’s Lot 579. Stroll into the fun, funky shop at the back of the food hall and check out the case of featuring the day’s fresh catches. Choose from pre-made ahi or salmon salad and order your poke by the pound. Well-marinated and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, this poke can be enjoyed with just the accompanying chips for a satisfying juxtaposition of texture. 21058 Pacific Coast Hwy. #124, Huntington Beach; 714-374-0558; bearflagfishco.com
Rollrritto + Poke Bar
Though it’s not served in the counter-service restaurant’s signature Rollrritto packaging, the poke bowl is equally appealing with a wide range of flavors that allow customers to make it their own. Sushi rice, bamboo rice or mixed greens are simple enough bases, but you can pack on the protein and toppings as you move down the line. At Rollrritto, you’ll find the usual poke suspects—salmon and tuna—along with a healthy number of other options including octopus, scallop, shrimp and albacore to complement sauces such as tangy avocado and creamy jalapeno. You can even bring along a friend who won’t touch raw fish with a 10-foot pole, as the restaurant also serves up sous vide chicken and salmon and organic tofu. Finish off your bowl with a generous array of toppings and garnishes at no extra charge, including a scoop of spicy tuna or crab, egg and seaweed salad. 18581 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach; 657-845-4911; rollrrittopoke.com
Blink and you might miss this hidden Hawaiian gem. Here, you’ll find generous chunks of buttery ahi served super fresh with just sesame seed oil, shoyu, seaweed and salt. Enjoy it in the DHK bowl special atop a bed of hot rice with succulent Kahlua pig, seaweed salad and diced tomatoes. 9842 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach; 714-968-8900; dahawaiiankitchen.com