NYC, Here's Where To Enjoy Poke Right Now

Perhaps New Yorkers' love for poke was inevitable. Typically served atop a bed of rice, it plays off our love of sushi, burrito bowls, and fast food that still tastes good. When Sons Of Thunder started serving poke back in fall 2015, the restaurant told Hawaii magazine it almost closed its doors because no one knew what it was. Now, new poke places are opening almost every week, with new locations popping up so quickly we have to wonder if one is destined to be the next Chipotle or Shake Shack.

But we still have a lot to learn about the dish — for example, the often-added accent in many spellings of the word ("poké") was added for mainland consumers, presumably to let us know it's pronounced "poh-kay," not like the verb that means "to jab or prod." Poke is also readily available at grocery stores, often by the pound, and simply means "slice" or "chunk." The variety of poke that has really taken off in NYC is ahi tuna, though you can find other varieties, from Scottish salmon to marinated beef, if you look for it. The best way to experience poke, however, is by eating it — and thankfully, there is no shortage there. Ahead, our favorite poke spots in the city right now.

Simple NYC
This hidden Lower East Side spot offers exactly what it's name says: simple bowls. Customers choose between salmon or tuna for raw poke, and a few more options like crab, octopus, salmon or shrimp for cooked poke. Then you can choose which base and "crunchies" you want to add.

Simple NYC, 109 Eldridge Street (between Broome and Grand streets); 646-870-8292.
Photo: via @karabianca.
Wisefish Poke
In Hawaii, poke is fast food, a reminder of the bounty you can take advantage of when you live in a tropical climate in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Wisefish balances the fast food roots of poke with a totally photogenic dine-in experience that includes succulents and exposed brick. All the seafood at Wisefish is also sustainably sourced, meaning you can feel good about every bite and Instagram like.

Wisefish Poke, 263 W 19th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues); 212-367-7653.
Photo: via @ahhitsalli.
Pokéworks would feel immediately familiar to any of us who have lined up at a Chopt or SweetGreen. Aside from the sharing long wait times and clean, minimalist interior, there's also a menu that allows for both pre-made and customizable options. Choose your base (rice, burrito, or salad), protein (including tofu), and a variety of toppings and sauces and you're good to go. And, with three locations and growing, Pokéworks is well on it's way to becoming as ubiquitous as New York's favorite build-your-own chains.

Pokéworks, several locations.
Photo: via @feedkasey.
Sons Of Thunder
Poke and hotdogs... weird, or a match made in heaven? The combo may depend on how you feel about the two foods generally, but we're all for it. After all, in Hawaii, poke is a casual, everyday food, just like our favorite humble sausage. And, at Sons Of Thunder, a laid-back beach vibe is the goal. Since 2015, they've been bringing "Maui breeze and Baja sun" to Murray Hill, along with hand-spun shakes and a rotating draft beer list.

Sons Of Thunder, 204 East 38th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues); 646-863-2212.
Maui Onion
At Maui Onion, you can choose between one of twelve signature combinations to be served as a bowl, salad, burrito, or temaki, (a sushi hand roll that was basically the sushi burrito before we knew what sushi burritos were). Aside from the nearly endless (okay, closer to 100) different ways you can order the different combos, you can get really fresh with one of their juices or fruit teas.

Maui Onion, 35 W. 26 Street (between 6th Avenue and Broadway); 212-377-5120.
Photo: Courtesy of Chikarashi.
A step above the Chipotle-style make-your-own poke joints, Chikarashi's 14 bowls are the brainchild of Michael Jong Lim, formerly of sushi hotspot Neta. Befitting someone with a background in the art of raw fish, at Chikarashi, you can see someone slicing up fish to order, rather than having pre-chopped proteins ready to go.

Chikarashi, 227 Canal Street (between Centre and Baxter Streets); 646-649-5965.
Photo: Courtesy of Red Poke.
Red Poke
Another lunch-friendly spot good for grab-and-go poke in midtown, Red Poke also has plenty of non-seafood options, including beef bulgogi and spicy pork. When something stops being poke and just starts being a delicious grain bowl is a fair question, especially considering bases include quinoa, but more classic options, like the Red Poke, made with plenty of raw tuna and avocado, are solid. The other options can be a good way to tempt vegetarians (or just those cautious of the delights of raw fish) to join you.

Red Poke, 600 9th Avenue (at 43rd Street); 212-974-8100.
Photo: via @nosharzzi.
For whatever reason, Manhattan's poke invasion is firmly rooted in midtown. Another place where hungry office-dwellers can routinely be found in lining up for a bowl, Poketeria offers a wide range of flavors and toppings from the traditional to the surprising. (Basil pesto, anyone?) If you'd rather cut out bases completely, you also have the option to order your bowl "just poke," for those who'd rather just eat the marinated meat of their choice with some mix-ins.

Poketeria, 3 E 26th Street (at 5th Avenue); 212-689-8985.
At Pokéspot, you can transform your poke from ordinary to a crafted creation. You have the choice to choose from one of their signature bowls, like their Spicy Ponzu Tuna or Spicy Salmon or make your own unique bowl. You begin with a base, then you choose proteins, mix-ins, crafted sauces, and toppings. The decisions can get tricky, like whether to choose the blood orange ponzu, sesame shoyu, or add one of the premium toppings, like avocado.

Pokespot, 120 4th Avenue (between 13th and 12th streets); 212-933-0971, and 25 Cleveland Place (between Spring and Kenmare streets); 212-966-5014.
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