By now, you’ve likely heard of—and maybe even eaten—poke (pronounced POH-kay). The wave of this Hawaiian raw-fish dish trend, which washed over the West Coast a few years ago, has finally hit Charlotte in recent months. From fast-casual spots such as the new Seoul Bowl on South Boulevard to upscale restaurants like Park Road Shopping Center’s CO, the bowls of deconstructed sushi have become a fast favorite around town.
“Poke started in Hawaii where fisherman would come straight off their boats, cut up the fish, and add in things like seaweed, onion, tomato, salt, and soy sauce,” says Jeffrey Schreiber, the executive chef at Hi Tide Poke & Raw Bar in Dilworth. Today, the raw cubes of cut-up seafood are generally served in bowls over rice featuring colorful—and inherently Instagrammable—toppings like bright green avocado, purple radish, and orange tobiko.
Poke’s popularity comes in part because it’s flavorful, generally light, and satisfying, but also because it’s highly customizable and reasonably priced. Almost all poke shops offer make-your-own bowls. At Seoul Bowl, $10.95 starts you with a two-protein option, while at the new Umami PokeRito, one protein choice starts at $7.50.
For the poke novice, though, Schreiber suggests starting with a signature bowl. Those have been created for the optimal spiciness, crunch, and flavor. “The Poke Rainbow is our biggest seller and it’s what I’d suggest if I were introducing a newcomer,” he says of a $10 bowl that features salmon, Hamachi, and ahi tuna. “We choose toppings that we think best exemplify the proteins. Really, though, poke is like any dish—it’s about what you like.”
Here’s a list of 16 places you can get your poke fix or try for the first time:
11318 N Community House Rd., Suite 203
Price: Regular bowl for $10.95 (two proteins), large bowl for $13.95 (three proteins)
Must-try menu items: The Hawaiian Classic (ahi tuna, red onion, scallion, cucumber, avocado, shredded nori, sesame seeds, house poke sauce), Salmon Classic (salmon, sweet onion, scallion, cucumber, edamame, sesame seeds, kaiware, house poke sauce) and Spicy Ahi Tuna (ahi tuna, sweet onion, scallion, masago, cucumber, shichimi crunch, pickled ginger, spicy mayo)
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
3609 South Blvd., Suite D
Price: Regular bowl for $10.95 (two proteins) and large bowl for $13.59 (three proteins)
Must-try menu items: Classic bimbimbap (bulgogi beef, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, daikon, fried egg, served with homemade gochujang chili sauce and sesame oil), Ohana Sake (salmon, spicy crab, scallions, masago, dried onion, kim chi, avocado, cucumber, served with homemade sweet wasabi aioli sauce) and Super Soy Bowl (tofu, edamame, avocado, cucumber, carrots, scallions, masago, seaweed salad, wasabi peas, served with homemade soyu sauce)
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
919 South McDowell St.
Price: Regular bowl for $8.95 (3-oz protein), large bowl for $12.95 (5-oz protein)
Must-try menu items: The Poke Rainbow (salmon, hamachi, ahi tuna, scallions, pickled red onion, red cabbage, sweet corn, cucumber, limu/ogo, carrots, mandarin orange, jalapeno/serrano salad, shuyu sesame oil, seasoned milky queen rice) and Spicy Ahi Tuna (pickled red onion, wasabi peas, carrots, mango, tomato, limu/ogo, sweet corn, creamy togarashi sauce and unagi sauce, seasoned milky queen rice)
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. and closed on Sunday
4201 Park Road and 7416 Waverly Walk Avenue
Signature Bowl Prices: $9.50 – $12
Must-try menu items: Cambodian (tempura shrimp, spicy crab, avocado, cucumber, pickled carrots, spicy aioli, served over maze gohan rice), Spicy Salmon Crunch (spicy salmon mixed with avocado, cucumber, masago topped with tempura flakes over spring mix, edamame, pickled carrots, seaweed salad, served over maze gohan rice) and Korean (marinated wok steak, sunny side egg, kimchi, edamame, cucumber, pickled carrots, bean sprouts, sweet and spicy gochujang sauce, served over jasmine rice)
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
7510 Pineville-Matthews Rd, 5A
Signature Bowl Prices: $10 – $15.25
Must-try menu items: Umami (spicy crab, tuna, salmon, hamachi, mix green, masago, furikake, avocado, yum yum sauce), Spicy Miso Chicken (chicken, mix green, red cabbage, cucumber, carrot, cilantro, kimchee, togarashi pepper) and Spicy Mexican Sushi (salmon, grilled shrimp, cilantro, cucumber, mango, avocado, pico de gallo, chipotle aioli)
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
225 East 6th St. (inside 7th St. Public Market) and 505 East 6th St. (dinner service only)
Price: Small bowl for $8, large bowl for $14
Must-try menu items: Tuna Poke (diced tuna, avocado, edamame, tossed in a ginger soy sauce with masago, green peppers, shallots, scallions)
Hours: Monday – Tuesday 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Wednesday – Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. and opening soon on Sunday
720 Governor Morrison St., #E130
Must-try menu items: Yama Sushi Bowl (bluefin, tuna, salmon, avocado, soy bean, cucumber, oshinko, seaweed, masago, scallion with homemade specialty sauce on top) and California Sushi Bowl (avocado, soybean, kani, carrot, cucumber, oshinko, seaweed, scallion and house made specialty sauce)
Hours: Lunch: Closed on Monday, Tuesday – Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Dinner: Closed on Monday, Sunday – Thursday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
2000 South Blvd., Suite 510
The only poke bowl: Poke Bowl (tuna, wasabi soy, mango, ika sansai, masago, wakame salad)
Hours: Monday – Wednesday 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., Thursday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m
1714 South Blvd.
Price: $10 – $11
Must-try menu items: Tuna Noodle Poke (cold – miso-ginger noodles, marinated tuna, ginger, lime, cilantro, jalapeño) and Sushi Rice Tuna Poke (cold – marinated raw tuna, ginger, lime, cilantro, jalapeño, fried wontons)
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 12 a.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
8662-5 J.W. Clay Blvd.
The only poke item: Ahi Poke appetizer (sub shrimp chips for fried or regular rice)
Hours: Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
6601 Morrison Blvd.
The only poke bowl: Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl (diced ahi tuna, cucumber, mango, shallots, scallions, cilantro, macadamia nuts, tossed in sesame soy with kimchee dressing)
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday noon to 11 p.m. and closed on Sunday
4310 Sharon Rd
Price: $12 – $27
Must-try menu items: Spicy Poke Dip (spicy tuna poke with salmon and yellowtail, seaweed salad, served with wonton chips) and Premium Combo Platter (7 piece mix of seasonal shashimi, 4 pieces of seasonal nigiri, 4 piece Mrs. Woodbury’s Fresh Find and spicy tuna poke with salmon and yellowtail)
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
2440 Park Rd
Price: Poke ($11) plus adding a side of sushi rice ($2). Total: $13
Poke menu items: Poke with a side of rice
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – 11 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – midnight, Saturday 12 – 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – midnight and Sunday 3 – 11 p.m
1217 The Plaza
Must-try menu items: This modern Japanese sushi restaurant will have lunch specials, bento boxes, rice bowls, noodles, fried rice and specialty sushi.
101 S. Tryon St.
Opening Date: Spring 2018
Must-try menu items: A grab-and-go concept specializing in fresh sashimi, nigiri, specialty rolls, small plates, customizable salads and poke-esque bowls along with sake, canned wine and local beers.
Hours: Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday noon – 6 p.m.
350 E. McCullough Dr., Suite 110
Opening Date: Spring 2018
Must-try menu items: At King Fish Poke, they’ll be offering 35 ingredients with main courses, homemade signature drinks and desserts like mango sticky rice.
Hours: Sunday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Photos: Hi Tide Poke & Raw Bar, Poke Cafe Charlotte, @BallantyneBabe, @hellomynameisdespair, @sophiamlai, @atl._.noms, Yama Asian Fusion, O-Ku, Wu’s Cajun Seafood, Love Sushi, Sushi Guru, Cowfish, @jaybrabbs, Sukoshi, King Fish Poke