We’re guessing that you’ve seen a poke bowl shop (or three) pop up around your area lately—unless, that is, “your area” is under a rock. Poké, pronounced “poh-kay,” means to cut crosswise into chunks in Hawaiian. It’s the name of a traditional island dish, made up of marinated raw fish cubes. It’s also the hot new craze (for good reason).
People are hooked on the poke trend right now. For people that are raw seafood lovers and looking for the best sushi in San Diego, you might consider trying poke instead. In San Diego, poke bowl joints seem to be popping up overnight. Step aside fish tacos and craft beer; it’s poke’s time to shine in the San Diego sunlight.
While there’s certainly no shortage of poke in San Diego, not all raw fish salads are created equal. Luckily, we’re here to guide you on a San Diego tour to the standout spots. Because the below restaurants are all amazing, it didn’t feel right to rank them from best to worst (or vice versa). Instead, we’ve awarded each shop a first place, a gold medal, or another grand, prestigious prize for their standout signature. So, enjoy one, enjoy them all; here are the top five places for poke in San Diego.
#1 It’s Raw Poke Shop
Photo Courtesy: It’s Raw Poke Shop
It’s Raw Poke Shop is for the poke purists of the world. Don’t come here for a delicately garnished Instagrammable bowl or poke the Chipotle way (“ChiPokile” as quipsters say). This hole-in-the-wall shop serves up no-nonsense poke, classic island-style. Run by a family from Oahu, It’s Raw brings poke back to basics: quality catch and delicious marinades.
This is about as far as you can get from The Cheesecake Factory’s encyclopedic menu. It’s Raw keeps things simple but leaves little to be desired. Choose from a few types of fish marinated in a few different sauces. For a light bite, get one scoop of poke and rice. For the “big kahuna appetite,” get a poke plate with your choice of two scoops of fish and rice.
Their side dishes represent true Hawaiian grub, including macaroni salad, Laulau, and spam musubi. Food comes in to-go boxes, as there’s no seating inside. Here, the draw isn’t crazy toppings, experimental sauces, or hyper-trendy décor; it’s the sustainably-sourced and perfectly seasoned fish that captures the taste of Hawaii.
No seats, no problem—It’s Raw is a stone’s throw away from the beach so you can enjoy your poke while watching surfers at the nearby Sunset Cliffs. Two shakas up!
- Gold Medal Awarded For: Authenticity – It’s Raw keeps the heart and soul of the traditional Hawaiian dish alive.
What to Order
Everything is onolicious, so you can’t go wrong. However, if you’re one of those invariably indecisive folks we’ve got your back, here’s what the locals love:
- Kimchi Ahi – Melt in your mouth ahi tuna in garlic, spices, and vinegar. The flavorful marinade is their spinoff of Korean kimchi goodness.
- Furikake Salmon – Salmon soaked in a soy glaze with sweet and spicy notes. Topped off with furikake, a traditional Japanese seasoning with seaweed flakes, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar.
#2 PB Poke House
Photo Courtesy: PB Poke House
PB Poke House has garnered a reputation for its impeccable service. They understand the aloha spirit and embody ohana vibes, greeting guests with big smiles and treating them like family. On top of that, they have great poke.
PB uses local fish and marinates their poke the Hawaiian way. You can even buy poke by the pound like one would at a Hawaiian grocery counter. Their signature bowls get loaded up with generous portions of protein and pair fantastically with their handcrafted lemonades, which come in a variety of fruity flavors that are sure to delight your taste buds.
And saving the best for last—if you’re looking for a dessert fix, PB is also known for its macarons and mini cupcakes.
- First Place Awarded For: Friendliest Staff – There’s nothing quite like great service paired with a delicious meal.
What to Order
Popular menu items at PB Poke House include:
- 51/50 Bowl – Combo bowl with half spicy garlic/half spicy ahi poke. Topped off with green and white onions, seaweed and crab salads, hot serrano peppers, and furikake flakes.
- Strawberry Mint Lemonade – People rave about PB’s hand pressed lemonades. Infused with fresh strawberry and mint, this refreshing beverage is the perfect complement to a poke bowl and a walk on the beach.
#3 Poke 1•2•3
Photo Courtesy: Poke 1•2•3
Three is the magic number! Started by three locals, Poke 1•2•3 was so successful that it now has three locations across San Diego (Liberty Station, Imperial Beach, Coronado). They serve poke three ways—bowl, noritto, and poke wave—and customize bowls in a three-step process. If you’re wondering, a noritto is a take on a burrito, filled with poke and wrapped in a nori sheet and a poke wave is their house special hand roll, basically a poke taco.
In addition to their creative presentations, Poke 1•2•3 has stellar vegan options. They offer a long list of proteins, including organic tofu. All of their sauces are also vegan—yes, even the spicy mayo. They put a California twist on the Hawaiian classic, making it the best spot for veggie lovers and health nuts.
- Number One For: Vegans – For some of the best poke in San Diego that takes into account both traditional and humane-conscious folk, there’s 1•2•3.
What to Order
Though the “choose your own adventure” approach is part of the fun of ordering, norittos are a must-try item for vegans and meat-eaters alike. We recommend:
- Pono Noritto – Stuffed with organic tofu, beets, pickled veggies, avocado, edamame, cucumber, cilantro, green and crunchy onions, and your sauce choice.
#4 Good Time Poke & The Grass Skirt
Photo Courtesy: Good Time Poke
Good Time Poke is in a strip mall in Pacific Beach. But don’t be deceived by its humble location and unassuming four-table interior. What by day a is grab-and-go poke place turns into a tiki bar and lounge by night. Behind the shop’s stainless-steel freezer door hides The Grass Skirt, Good Time Poke’s alter-ego restaurant.
If you just want poke, Good Time’s seven signature bowls won’t disappoint. However, if you’re looking for a full dining experience, The Grass Skirt will knock your socks off. The speakeasy is enriched with Polynesian flair and has a drink menu as decked out as its tropical interior. They have a fantastic rum selection and serve killer cocktails in eye-catching cups with curly straws. Who knew cocktails and poke paired so well?
- Best in the West For: Dining Experience – For an awesome experience that entices beyond what meets the eye: Good Time Poke (and Grass Skirt) does not disappoint.
What to Order
Whether out front or in the back, you’ll want to sample the bowls and buns:
- Grass Skirt Poke Bowl – Your pick of shoyu tuna or albacore served with seaweed, tobiko, cucumbers, nori, avocado, and crispy onions.
- Pork Belly Bao – Steamed buns with tender pork belly and garnished with sesame, gochujang, peanuts, and cucumbers.
#5 Hi Poke
While we understand traditional Hawaiian poke enthusiasts, there is also something to be said about options and customization. If you want poke your way, you’ll love Hi Poke. They have veered away from the traditional, instead, providing variations of the dish better adjusted for the mainland palette.
This is the ChiPokile-style we were talking about before. The DIY poke spot has five stations: base, protein, flavor, toppings, and crisps. Yes, crispy things get their own section (there are that many choices). In addition to white rice, they also offer brown rice, mixed greens or nacho chips as an alternative base and have cooked as well as raw proteins. Load your bowl to your heart’s delight. Here, you can find happiness in a bowl. Toss on cucumber salad, pineapple, cilantro, edamame, or avocado. Or better yet, add them all! Whatever your taste buds desire, you can add.
- Local’s Choice Award For: Best Selection of Choices – Chipotle might have a wide selection of burrito bowls, but Hi Poke has an even greater selection of the best poke bowls in San Diego.
What to Order
If DIY isn’t your thing, here’s what we recommend from the signature menu:
- Hi Poke Classic – Ahi in house sauce with cucumber, ginger, masago, sesame, and green onions over rice.
- Fresh Coconut – So refreshing! Perfect with poke—just get it.
After Hawaii, San Diego might be the next best place to get poke. Fresh catch is abundant along the Pacific Coast, and if you stick to the right spots (ahem, above), you can enjoy your poke locally sourced and of the highest quality. Perfect for beachside grubbing. You can enjoy your poke at one of the best beaches in San Diego, but just be sure to keep the sand away from your bowl.
Michelin. 6 Things To Know About Hawaiian Poke. https://guide.michelin.com/us/en/washington/washington-dc/article/features/poke-hawaiian-raw-fish-dish