I’m a devout sushi lover. If I’m being honest, I’m actually borderline obsessed. My sweet husband no longer asks me where I want to grab a spur of the moment meal because he knows the answer is ALWAYS sushi. It’s not just rolls either, I actually prefer sashimi style and usually am pretty adventurous when it comes to trying all the raw fish options.
My mild obsession with sushi began in college when I was a wee bright-eyed, extremely naive southern gal. I had recently befriended one of the most incredibly creative people I have ever met, Shigeharu Kobayashi…or affectionately known as Shige. His family owns one of the oldest and BEST sushi restaurants in Columbia, SC, and Shige was quite dismayed when he learned that I had NEVER tried sushi before. He sat me at the sushi bar, made me try everything and THEN told me what they were. 🙂
It was the best introduction to sushi because I was able to tell what I liked by the flavor, the taste, the texture without being turned off by any preconceived biases I might have had toward certain seafood just by the name. Fast forward through the past 16 years of a blossoming love of all things sushi. I’m forever in debt to Shige for introducing me.
But this post isn’t about sushi. That was a long a## introduction to bring me to the point of this post which is all about POKE. Insert another raw fish obsession (and one I would not have ever tried if it weren’t for Shige.)
Poke is a raw fish salad in Hawaiian cuisine, and served as an appetizer or sometimes (all the time in my opinion) as a main course. Pronounced POH-KEH, not poke (just in case you were still confused.)
You had me at raw fish salad. Poke really started to pick up some restaurant real estate in Charlotte starting back in 2017. While there are some asian restaurants that also serve poke bowls (or added to their menus when the trend started to get legs), the QC now has quite a growing list of Poke-dedicated establishments.
Last I saw, there were already 15+ places you could get a poke bowl. I’ve been to a few, but here are my current rankings for the growing Poke-dedicated establishments in Charlotte:
- Best All Around: Hi Tide Poke & Raw Bar
It was my first, so maybe that’s why I hold it near and dear as the best so far, but I also think it’s because if you stripped it all down to the core of the cuisine…JUST the meat, their fish is the BEST. Fresh & sustainably caught. Without all the spicy mayo, toppings and other hoopla you add on there, the meat needs to be able to stand out on it’s own, right?!My favorite dishes from Hi Tide include the Poke Nachos (crispy wonton chips topped with ahi tuna & avocado deliciousness) and the Poke Rainbow (seasoned milky queen rice topped with fresh cuts of salmon, hamachi, ahi tuna and all the toppings…come on.) So good.
- Best Toppings (& Best Combinations): Seoul Poke Bowl
This would be my second favorite so far. It’s definitely pricier, but the variety of toppings is really nice, and I like the Korean spin on the menu options as well. My go-to is the Seoul Poke Special ($15.95!), but recently they launched their $3 Poke Tacos on Tuesdays. Yes, they are as good as they sound…and yes, they might be stealing my heart away from Hi Tide…one taco at a time:).
- The New Kid on the Block: Poke Bar
Definitely a chain and you get that feel when you walk in, but for the newbie in town, I thought the bowls were pretty good. For less than $10, you can get 2 proteins, a wide variety of toppings, sauce combinations and more. The portion size was pretty large I thought, especially for the price.
Still on the list for me to try, Umami Pokerito in Pineville. I’ve heard really great things, but to be honest, it might take me awhile to get here because I’m TOTALLY spoiled being within a 10-minute radius from all the others. If it takes me more than 10-15 minutes in the car, I usually punk out. We will see:)
Looking forward to….Pokeatery…this will be the first East Coast location of the rapidly-growing Bay Area restaurant from husband and wife duo Derek and Joann Chung. They are currently scouting areas to open in Charlotte and I, for one, vote for MY amazing neighborhood…Oakhurst. We desperately NEED more restaurants and FAST. Our incredible Common Market can’t be all by it’s lonesome anymore and don’t even get me started on McBonie’s. No.
What’s your favorite Poke in Charlotte and why??