If 2015 was the Year of Poke in Orange County for foodies, then 2016 should be the year that the Hawaiian dish becomes as essential a part of OC life as tacos and pho. Since we wrote our first poke list last year, the amount of poke joints in the county has increased dramatically (as has the trend of calling poke “poki”—go figure). To help you distinguish between all of the poke restaurants here, we broke down every poke bowl in Orange County from the most minimal to ones adding quail eggs on them.
Bowls with Unique Ingredients
Low-Key Poke Joint in Garden Grove is one of the newbies in town, but it’s already becoming one of the more popular poke restaurants in the county. Located in the same complex as Brodard Restaurant and 85 C Bakery, it stands out because of its offerings of “boo-tea” rice (a rice blend containing bamboo and green tea) and taro chips as the bowl’s base, and quail egg, corn, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos as toppings. Another restaurant that offers something unique is Poke Island in Huntington Beach, which serves optional sliced pineapples with your bowl if you want some sweetness.
Low-Key Poke Joint, 9904 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (657) 200-6502, Poke Island, 8112 Talbert Ave #103, Huntington Beach, (714) 848-7653; pokeislandhb.com
Bowls with the Most Interesting Sauces
Most poke restaurants will give you choices like shoyu and spicy mayo, but Poke District in Tustin also offers Wasabi aioli and avocado aioli among others. Best of all, they’ll let you get extra sauces on the side if you aren’t satisfied with just choosing one. Here’s what I wrote about them last year:
Though it's only opened about a month ago, Poke District is already building a reputation for its Pokinometry-style offerings. When you get to the counter, you choose between ahi tuna and salmon, pick from an array of amusingly named sauces (Wasabilicious, for example, is Wasabi aioli, and Godzilla is avocado aioli), and then add toppings like avocado, rice, or seaweed salad. The result is, possibly, the most organized-looking plate of poke you've ever seen.
Furthermore, the food truck Poke Hut offers special sauces every week in addition to their usual ones.
Places That Don’t Charge for Avocado
For some people, that extra $1 for avocado is a deal-breaker. Uroko Café in Costa Mesa and Poki Ya in Orange are two restaurants that won’t charge.
Uroko Café, 3030 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, (714) 436-5798; urokocafe.com. Poki Ya, 3616 E Chapman Ave, Orange, (714) 538-9900
Where to Get Poke Not in a Bowl
Besides FINS Poke Fusion (with its poke tacos and tostada bowls), Poki Ya in Orange and Hikari Poki offers poke burritos (or should we say “sushirritos”). Poke restaurant MAR in Santa Ana has something called a Cali poke bowl, which is French fries with garlic ahi poke, pico de gallo, and green onions. Finally, Wow Bento in Irvine serves poke wrapped in soy paper.
FINS Poke Fusion, 28251 Marguerite Pkwy, Mission Viejo, (949) 542-7466; finspokefusion.com
Poki Ya, Poki Ya, 3616 E Chapman Ave, Orange, (714) 538-9900
MAR, 201 E 4th St #137, Santa Ana, (714) 425-8233; squareup.com/market/eatmar
Wow Bento, 10 McLaren, Irvine, (949) 699-0808
Hikari Poki, 24531 Trabuco Rd, Lake Forest, (949) 859-2336; hikaripoki.com
For bowls that will likely never fail you, try the originals: PokiNometry in Anaheim, North Shore Poke Co in Huntington Beach, Bear Flag Fish Company in Newport Beach, and Kawamata Seafood. Below is what I wrote about them previously.
Look carefully at the artwork (the poke bowl) and you'll notice how beautifully the fish sticks to the add-ons (for me, I usually go with crab meat and avocado.) As a result, each wave of destruction—err, bite—is an explosive burst of satisfying and light flavors. Whether you choose tuna, yellowtail, or albacore as your fish, each has a firm yet chewy enough texture - making it the perfect bite.
North Shore Poke Co:
We all want to have a perfect day, and now we can: pick up some poke from North Shore Poke Co. and then eat it at the beach (you're welcome.) While the breeze hits your face and pier musicians perform an acoustic cover of the Black Key's "Little Black Submarine," you'll be chewing on cold, raw ahi that's been bathed in soy sauce umami. Then for dinner, come back and grab another in a different flavor like Sunset and Haleiwa.
Bear Flag Fish Company:
Some say simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication, and that reigns true at market-restaurant hybrid Bear Flag Fish Co. For fish, they offer yellowtail, mahi mahi, opah, and they stick to the basics: soy sauce, sesame seeds, green onions, Sriracha, and ahi salad leaves. Eat them in sushi style, with either brown or white rice, or opt for a side of warm tortilla chips—all of which are the perfect touch. Tip: they have two locations—one at Newport Peninsula and another at Crystal Cove promenade - so if one's too busy, you know where to go.
Tucked away in the corner of a residential area is a tiny, unassuming kingdom of delicious fish. The name of the local gem? Kawamata Seafood. One defining characteristic of the poke bowls here is balance. If someone came up to me and said Kawamata uses precise measurements for fish to sauce ratio, I'd believe it. Find yourself intrigued? Run to the ATM first. Yep, it's cash only.
PokiNometry, 184 South Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim, (657) 208-348; pokinometry.com
North Shore Poke Co., 214 5th Street, Huntington Beach, (714) 465-9011; northshorepokeco.com
Bear Flag Fish Company, 3421 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (949) 673-3474; 7972 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, (949) 715-8899; bearflagfishco.com
Kawamata Seafood, 26881 Camino De Estrella, Dana Point, (949) 248-1914; facebook.com/kawamataseafood
Places to Get Poke in South OC
Because poke isn’t spreading as fast in South OC as it is North OC, South OC deserves its own category. For good poke bowls but also poke tacos and tostada bowls, try FINS Poke Fusion in Mission Viejo. There’s also Wow Poke in San Juan Capistrano which offers free miso soup and tea.
FINS Poke Fusion, 28251 Marguerite Pkwy, Mission Viejo, (949) 542-7466; finspokefusion.com. Wow Poke, 10 McLaren, Irvine, (949) 699-0808
Where to Go If You Want Additional Food Other Than Poke
If eating poke alone isn’t doing it for you, try the pho (yes, pho!) at Poki Naya or the bento boxes at Poke Yaki. If you like eating your poke bowl alongside sushi rolls, there’s Tommy’s Sushi in Tustin, Garage Fish in Anaheim, Full Moon Sushi in Tustin, and Shinkou Sushi and Poke in Laguna Hills.
Poki Naya, 12012 Knott St, Garden Grove, (714) 891-4880
Poki Yaki, 7855 La Palma Ave #4, Buena Park, (714) 739-0146
Tommy’s Sushi, 1051 E Main St, Tustin, (714) 544-5241
Garage Fish, 2717 W Lincoln Ave, Anaheim, (714) 886-2779
Full Moon Sushi, 498 E 1st St, Tustin, (714) 508-0312; fullmoonsushi.jimdo.com
Shinkou Sushi and Poke, 24881 Alicia Pkwy, Laguna Hills, (949) 340-3714; shinkousushi.com
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Sometimes, all you need is a quick, traditional poke bowl to get you through lunch hour. Places with basic fish options and sauces are Poki Monster in Irvine, Poke Dot in Irvine, Poki Town in Anaheim, and Lovfish Sushi Poke in Garden Grove.
Poki Monster, 105 W Lambert Rd, Brea, (714) 256-0850; 13771 Newport Ave, Ste 10, Tustin, (714) 838-8029; pokimonsterbowl.com
Poke Dot, 17921 MacArthur Blvd, Irvine, (949) 250-5956; pokedotlove.com
Poki Town, 2883 W Lincoln Ave, Anaheim, (714) 821-1890, pokitownoc.com
Lovfish Sushi Poke, 12902 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, (714) 591-5481