Poke is flourishing in full-force in South Florida. The tropical dish, hailing from the Pacific Islands, pairs perfectly with our sun-kissed seasons and beachside lifestyle.
In Fort Lauderdale, Memphis Garrett was among the first to bring an eatery focused on the raw fish dish to South Florida with his fast-casual take, Poke House. It was an obsession that began with a trip to Hawaii where Memphis says he stopped for as many renditions as he could, each one purchased from an austere establishment serving no-frills to-go boxes and bowls.
Establishments including gas stations and convenience stores along the outskirts of Maui offer fresh poke paired with poi (mashed boiled taro root) or Spam sandwiches. Mom-and-pop grocers have their own secret recipes, each one unique. And surf shacks peddle several kinds at once; anything from sliced shrimp with a creamy mayo sauce to whole mussels with sesame oil and diced green onions.
These days, you can find much the same experimentation in Broward and Palm Beach counties, where poke is quickly becoming the next design-your-own meal experience. Hungry yet? Here are our top picks for poke bowls in South Florida:
1. Poke Lolo. Just a few weeks old, Poke Lolo is already making waves with its fresh take on the classic poke dish. It's all thanks to chef-owner Thuan Lam, former Phat Boy Sushi owner, who was the first to bring the sushi burrito to the South Florida food scene. Today, he's innovating poke with his newest creation: a poke cone served with mixed greens in place of rice and stuffed into house-made waffle cones. Take your pick of salmon, wahoo, tuna, krab salad, or tofu delicate flavored with any of Lam's fresh marinades including a choice of soy ginger, creamy wasabi, or his own spicy poke. Then watch as the chef packs stacks it along with any of the menu's add-on ingredients, then into your choice of an orange Togarashi (spicy Japanese seasoning blend), black activated charcoal, or mossy-hued green tea waffle cone. Signature bowls include one of the most popular creations — the Pump Fit pictured here — a combination of brown rice, tuna, salmon, avocado, cherry tomatoes, red cabbage, radish, and pineapple in a mango jalapeño sauce. 922 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale; 954-870-7904; facebook.com.
2. Blue Ocean Poke. You know your poke is next level when the menu features chef-driven ingredients and recipes compliments of beloved South Florida chef Dean Max (formerly of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale). At Blue Ocean Poke, no expense is spared when it comes to fish. Co-owner Mike Wylie takes his sourcing seriously, likening the poke restaurant — with a second location coming soon to Boca Raton — to eating sushi on-the-go. Here, the focus is on creating your own bowl: dozens of fresh, healthy ingredients are at the ready, from kimchi to alfalfa sprouts. Four signature bowls narrow the selection from the most traditional Blue Ocean (tuna, edamame, cucumber, shredded carrots, scallions, hijiki wild brown seaweed, and sesame seeds) to the Offshore (salmon, cucumber, cilantro, scallions, edamame, and furikake Japanese seasoning). Health nuts will love the quinoa and spinach options in place of rice or mixed greens. Whatever you do, however, don't miss out on adding Max's Blue Ocean Poke house ginger turmeric sauce to the mix. 250 S. Federal Hwy., Deerfield Beach; 954-708-2060; blueoceanpokefl.com.
3. Poke House. At Poke House in Fort Lauderdale, the menu extends beyond bowls with options including miniature tacos, a trio of steamed buns, poke burritos, and even nachos. There's poke toast now, too, if that's more your style. No matter which way you go, you'll be impressed — but their nacho-take on poke is a highlight. The Pipeline riffs the tortilla with homemade wonton chips instead, drizzled in a creamy chipotle mayo and topped with fat slivers of salmon, salsa, scallions, cream cheese, red tobiko, and avocado. If you go the poke bowl route, the ingredients here are as bougie as it gets with options such as blue crab salad, kale, and forbidden black rice to name a few. If all of the fancy fusion is too much, this is one of the few spots that also offers a truly traditional Hawaiian poke. Order fat cubes of raw tuna marinated in simple secret sauce akin to those you'll find in Maui. 666 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 754-200-4555; thepokehouse.com.
4. Poke Lab Eatery. Poke and sushi burritos are the main focus at the Poke Lab Eatery stand in West Palm Beach's Grandview Public Market food hall. Guests are encouraged to customize their bowls and burritos — AKA pokeritto sushi burritos — using a number of ingredients that range from the traditional (think seaweed salad) to fun (crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos) with the Poke Fire that combines tuna, jalapenos, cilantro, avocado, fried shallots, chili flakes, sesame oil, and spicy aioli. The sustainability efforts go beyond the fish, too: Owner and operator Louis Grayson and his team are committed to being socially and environmentally responsible with all the products they use, including compostable bowls and silverware. 1401 Clare Ave., West Palm Beach; pokelabeatery.com.
5. Pipeline Poke Co. A trio of locals, inspired by poke restaurants along the Pacific coast, decided to bring the idea closer to home with Pipeline Poke Co. in West Palm Beach. The surf-and-sun, ocean-inspired decor make for a perfect backdrop to the create-your-own poke bowl experience. Stop here for unique takes like the Mea Ula vegetarian bowl served with organic tofu, or the Mainlander bowl prepared with grilled chicken in place of fish and brown rice. If you need more options, there's also a choice of Scottish salmon, escolar (white tuna), and poached shrimp. 310 S Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach; 561-899-3288; pipelinepokeco.com.
6. Poke Ice. You'll get the largest selection of add-on toppings and sauces plus a choice of rice-based, mixed green salad, or organic zucchini noodles for your poke bowl at this Fort Lauderdale establishment dedicated to all things poke. More than six protein choices and over 35 add-on ingredients allow you to customize your own poke bowl to the max, meaning you can have a totally different experience each time you visit. Of course, the menu also offers eight signature bowls so all the hard work of pairing flavors properly is done for you. 6214 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-626-0084; poke-ice-llc.business.site.