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    I Tried All The Best Poke Places In NYC, And Here's What I Found

    Poke, a Hawaiian speciality, is popping up everywhere in New York these days. As a native Hawaiian myself, I decided to eat my way through the city's top spots to ~investigate~ how legit East Coast poke actually is.

    Hi! I'm Shannon. I'm an assistant health editor here at BuzzFeed, but I was born and raised in Kailua, Hawai'i (on the island of O'ahu).

    FIRST THINGS FIRST! This is poke:

    For context, here are all of the ~official~ ingredients in a poke bowl:

    I decided to try both the poke bowls and the poke plates here in NYC, to make sure I was getting the full scope.

    I went to three restaurants that served their poke in poke bowls, which is basically like fast-food-style poke, and three places that were a bit fancier, meaning I actually sat down and ordered from a waiter or waitress.

    Here's how NYC poke stacks up:

    1. Sons of Thunder, 204 East 38th Street, Murray Hill

    This place is a small fast-food restaurant in Murray Hill, and they describe their menu as “what you might find on a sunny day at a beach shack.” In their eyes, that means Chicago and chili cheese dogs, shakes, and poke (kind of a random mix, I know — but it somehow works). It’s a cute place with a back area full of fairy lights, complete with wooden tables and a skylight window. There’s also a library of children’s books?

    Price: $10.75 for an ahi tuna poke bowl. Menu here.

    Good to know: They have beer and wine on tap!

    My take on this place:

    The poke is fresh, cut in big, soft pieces, and topped with tobiko, white onions, sesame seeds, and furikake. They give you a decent amount of poke in your bowl, and you have the option of ahi, salmon, or tako (octopus). You also get to choose your rice (white or brown), and they give you salad greens, tortilla chips, cucumbers, and ogo (seaweed salad).

    My co-worker and I tried both the "spicy" and "shoyu" styles (different marinades), and they were really, really good and tasted fresh. Plus, the poke was simple and not covered in a ton of sauce, which was great because I love the ahi taste and texture.

    Overall rating: 4 / 5

    2. Wisefish, 263 West 19th Street, Chelsea

    One of my favorite parts about this place is that it has a cool backstory. Wisefish's owner, Drew Crane, started his career in finance, but decided to ~drop out~ and start a poke business. He’s not from Hawaii or anything, but he'd been to Maui a bunch of times and fallen in love with the poke he got there, specifically at Tamura’s Market. Once he realized there weren't many places in NYC to get it the way he got it in Hawai’i — i.e., fast-food style out of Foodland and gas store markets — he decided to fix that problem and open his own restaurant.

    Price: $10.95 for a regular bowl. Menu here.

    Good to know: It gets really crowded at lunchtime. On the upside, the place is an Instagrammer's dream: It's got great light and lots of little succulents on the tables.

    My take on this place:

    Overall rating: 4 / 5

    3. Pokéworks, 63 West 37th Street, Midtown West

    Originally launched in Los Angeles, this fast-food poke chain is located in Midtown West (basically Herald Square), and it caters to pretty much everyone with its crazy amount of options. You can make your own bowls or sushi burritos, and for those who may not like ahi tuna, there are other proteins — including ahi tuna, salmon, shrimp, scallops, albacore, and even chicken.

    Price: $11–12 for a bowl. Menu here.

    Good to know: The line for the restaurant files down the block and has an insane wait if you go around lunchtime. People literally stand there for an hour waiting to get inside and order, much like they do for the new Chick-fil-A, which is right next door.

    My take on this place:

    Overall rating: 3.5 / 5

    4. Noreetuh, 128 1st Avenue, East Village

    This place is a small, on-the-nicer-side restaurant in the East Village. They call themselves "modern Hawaiian," which basically means they serve "artfully crafted" Hawaiian fusion food, which includes mochiko chicken wings, kalua pork croquettes, and teriyaki chicken. Most main courses start around $23, but poke is actually a "pupu" (meaning appetizer or starter dish in Hawaiian) here. Chef Chung Chow, who grew up in Hawai'i, prepares the fish for his poke in house, gutting and cutting the fish fresh in his own kitchen.

    Price: Big-eye tuna poke for $18; calamari poke for $16. Menu here.

    Good to know: You should definitely make a reservation if you're trying to go on a weekend, because it gets packed.

    My take on this place:

    Overall rating: 4.5 / 5

    5. Onomea, 84 Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg

    Onomea is a traditional Hawaiian restaurant in Williamsburg owned by a woman from Hilo, Big Island, where my mom grew up. The whole restaurant is decorated with pictures from Hawai’i, including a wall decoration of the Hawaiian Islands. It made me feel at home, especially when I looked at the menu, which had Hawaiian dishes I’ve never seen available in New York before, like spam musubis, terri burgers, and kalua pig and cabbage.

    Price: $13. Menu here.

    Good to know: Call before you go to make sure they have poke that day, if that's what you're going for. Since the whole place isn't devoted to just poke, it's not a complete guarantee that they have it every day.

    My take on this place:

    The poke tasted like shoyu ahi poke straight from home. It had large white onion and green onion chunks, and furikake on top. The poke cuts were a good size, and the dish was served in a small circle with a little extra sauce and no rice. I thought it tasted great, but I could see how the amount of onion could be overwhelming for some people.

    Overall rating: 4 / 5

    6. Suzume, 545 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg

    Suzume is a small, nicer, Japanese-Hawaiian restaurant in Williamsburg. The poke here is basically served in sushi form, which makes sense, as this is a Japanese-influenced restaurant. You can order a wide variety of food at Suzume, from spam musubis (YUM), to roasted salmon ramen, to the Shoots! (Hawaiian slang for "sounds good" or "see you later"), which is a can of Asahi, a shot of Hell-Cat, and an order of wings.

    Price: $3.50 per appetizer. Menu here.

    Good to know: They open at 6 — a bit later than most dinner places — so don't plan an early happy hour or anything!

    My take on this place:

    Overall rating: 2 / 5

    The overall takeaway? All of these poke places were definitely good — some more than others — but while many poke places have opened recently, it's still not as easily accessible as you'd imagine.

    One of the best parts about eating poke in Hawai'i is that it can be a casual, everyday thing. You can get it everywhere in all different sauces and styles. I grab bowls with my friends on our way to the beach, or eat my mom's amazing spicy ahi poke at home when she makes it for special occasions. But in New York, it can take forever, much like many other things in the city.

    THAT SAID, beggars can't be choosers, and I'll take what I can get. I'm still so incredibly happy that poke has made its way to NYC, and that people here can now join me in my love and appreciation for my favorite comfort-food dish.

    In the end, even though I'm actually about 4,900 miles away from where I grew up, all of this new poke makes me feel a little bit closer to home.