We didn’t even know we needed poke bowls and now we just can't get enough. Poke (for those thinking this is an article about a certain popular game) is a Hawaiian staple of an oh-so-fresh mix of raw fish with accouterment like seaweed salad and avocado, served over rice (or lettuce).
Poke bowls are trending across the U.S. and have been welcomed with open arms in our health-conscious city. Here are the best places in Austin for one of the coolest food trends:
The Big Kahuna
The owners are originally from Maui and started this little truck in San Marcos. Now you can find them in Allandale, serving poke bowls alongside traditional Hawaiian dishes. Pork sliders, chicken skewers, loco moco, and sweet potato fries are on offer, but the fresh ahi and mahi mahi steal the show.
Café No Sé
You might be surprised to see a poke bowl on this fancy menu. Most of the other spots in Austin doing this thing are pretty casual about it, sticking to the traditional format of build-your-own with standard mix-ins. Not Café No Sé. For a cool $16, your poke bowl gets leveled up, big time, with Cerignola olives, pickled jalapeño, pistachio, grapefruit, and big eye tuna. Pair with a chilled Riesling to make the poke pop.
Mongers Market + Kitchen
You may not always find poke here but when you do, hop to it! Because Mongers is also a market, the menu changes regularly to accommodate the fresh catch each day. Their version isn’t a poke bowl — it’s poke served with the traditional seasonings as more of an appetizer or side. Regardless, if you’re looking for excellent ahi, you’ll find top quality here.
Originally a Korean restaurant, the owners ripped out the inside and created a build-your-own counter, not unlike Subway. Patrons choose their fish; a base; two sides; add-ins; and a topping (sesame, crispy garlic, furikake). Their menu still reflects some of the Korean specialties if people in your party prefer Korean fried chicken, seafood pancake, or kimchi fries.
The founders hail from Hawaii and Venice Beach, California, and opened their second store in Austin on South Congress. Their made-to-order bowls are a little pricier than the competition, but we're talking about the spot that started it all. Bowls consist of rough cut sashimi grade ahi mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, onions, and sesame seeds. Customers have about 15 different ways to customize the bowl. Finish it off with a shave ice made with organic fruit.
This Korean fusion spot has the lowest priced poke bowl in town at $8. Their bowls may not satisfy the poke purist, but folks who are pinching pennies may not care. Options are tuna or salmon and white, brown, or sushi rice and they’re typically topped with panko. If you’re feeling daring, opt for a side of Seoul fries, fries with kimchi, choice of meat, cilantro, and spicy mayo.