There’s no need to leave the continent to eat Hawaiian. The state’s cuisine is spreading across the country, driven by the popularity of poke (rhymes with OK). The raw fish bowl served with rice, vegetables, sauce and other toppings, gets its name from the Hawaiian word meaning to slice or cut. “It’s fresh and healthy, and customers get to choose what they want,” says Christine Jan of Ono Hawaiian BBQ, a restaurant chain in California and Arizona that specializes in plate lunches, another Hawaiian staple. She shares some favorite places serving aloha cuisine with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Manoa Poke Shop in Somerville, Mass.
Although half a world away from Honolulu, this Boston-area eatery does poke proud with traditionally prepared dishes. A menu highlight, the Poke Flight tasting platter, comes with a choice of bases, two sides and marinated ahi tuna and salmon, along with spicy tuna, and a rotating special. “It’s very much like what you’d see in Hawaii," Jan says. "They really have the taste of aloha over there in Boston.” manoa.fish
Poke House in Austin, Texas
This build-your-own bowl shop in the Texas capital promises fresh sustainably sourced fish, and it mixes things up with the addition of unique toppings, which include chili flakes, tempura crisps and hot Cheetos. “You don’t see that anywhere else,” Jan says. pokehousetx.com
Island Flavor in Las Vegas
So many Hawaiians have moved to Nevada that Las Vegas is often called the “ninth island.” This spot wins praise for its authenticity and big portions. The menu features poke served raw or fried, Hawaiian or Japanese style. If you’re feeling hungry, Jan says the standout dish is the traditional loco moto, made with a 10-ounce hamburger topped with two eggs and drenched in homemade brown gravy, all on top of a mound of Japanese sticky rice. islandflavor808.com
täkō in Pittsburgh
This popular restaurant offers a surprising fusion of Mexican street food and Asian cuisine, as suggested by its name. (The restaurant serves tacos, and tako means octopus in Japanese.) The poke includes chunks of tuna, seaweed and a spicy soy dressing, and adds whipped lime and rice crackers for a unique twist, Jan says. “They also put raw fish in their tacos.” takopgh.com
Ahipoki Bowl in Scottsdale, Ariz.
This custom-bowl emporium, with locations in Arizona, California and Washington state, stands out for its sauce options, like wasabi citrus or kimchi. You can also get burritos made with poke ingredients. “It really attracts the fitness crowd and people who pay attention to health,” Jan says. ahipokibowl.com
Aloha Eats in Chicago
The Windy City serves memorable plate lunches, a Hawaiian dish with a seasoned protein, two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. While you won’t find poke, you can indulge in short ribs, smoked kalua pork and chicken katsu, which is breaded with panko, fried and served with a tangy sauce. alohaeats.com
Marination Station in Seattle
It’s all about fusion at this multi-location eatery that offers Hawaiian food with a twist, serving familiar Hawaiian dishes in tacos, rice bites and quesadillas. Jan suggests the Kahlua pork sliders, although they’re also available with Spam, another island favorite. marinationmobile.com
Heavenly Island Lifestyle in Honolulu
You’ll have no trouble finding spectacular poke in Hawaii’s capital, and Jan particularly likes this surf shack-styled spot because it focuses on local ingredients. “They cover all the traditional Hawaiian dishes with a very fresh and local take,” she says. “Diners can’t go wrong with the Big Island Ahi Poke.” heavenly-waikiki.com
Blue Monkey in Nashville, Tenn.
After all that healthy poke, Jan suggests indulging in traditional Hawaiian shave ice for dessert. This food truck has been cooling off Nashville since 2010, with soft snow balls topped with cane sugar-sweetened syrups. Authentic flavors include Hawaiian lemonade and island-favorite POG, a blend of passionfruit, orange and guava juice. bluemonkeyshavedice.com
Chikarashi in New York
This Manhattan eatery is named for chirashi, a Japanese dish similar to poke. The restaurant started in Chinatown and plays up Korean and Chinese flavors. The standout dish, the Sichuan Chili Salmon Bowl, features Atlantic salmon, spicy mayonnaise, pickled daikon radish and more, Jan says. “It’s a more elevated dining experience, a different perspective on Hawaiian poke.” chikarashi.com