Poke (poh-kay) is a staple dish from the archipelago state of Hawaii that draws influence from Japanese and other Asian cuisines — it’s so popular that you can find poke counters at local grocery stores. Poke in Hawaiian simply means “to cut crosswise into pieces,” so dishes consist of sliced up proteins, rice, veggies, other various toppings and a sauce on top to bring it all together. In recent years it has gained popularity throughout the mainland, and Colorado is no exception. The Polynesian dish may have changed to fit the American palette as it moved its way across the ocean, but that doesn’t take away from its deliciousness and the unique innovations local chefs and owners are creating. Here are 10 poke places you should check out in Denver.
Where: 2231 S Broadway, Denver.
Hours: Monday and Wednesday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The Lowdown: Turtle Boat opened back in 2017, and it prides itself because it features local ingredients, innovations and art. Colorado striped bass is a menu item that’s locally raised near Alamosa by a sustainable second-generation family farm. Another menu item features mixed greens locally grown by Rebel Farm — a family owned and operated facility in Denver committed to natural and sustainable practices. Its dressings include a house dressing (a gluten-free option is also available), spicy mayo, yuzu vinaigrette and ginger coco amino. Its menu also has vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options.
Rocky Fin Poke Bar
Where: 1245 E. Colfax Ave., Suite 103, Denver.
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The Lowdown: This spot is a modern poke bar where its fish is purposely not pre-marinated (like traditional poke), so customers bowls can be made to order. It provides great service with their friendly staff and also tries to provide the healthiest, freshest and delicious raw ingredients. Its prices are reasonable and based on how many scoops of protein you order. Protein options include tuna, salmon, spicy tuna, shrimp, tofu, shrimp and chicken. Customers have a variety of sauces to choose from to top off their poke, including: shoyu, spicy shoyu, spicy aioli, pepper-oni, ponzu yuzu, sweet onion, creamy sesame and Rex sauce.
Denver Poke Company
Where: 1550 Platte St., Denver.
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
The Lowdown: Denver Poke Company allows customers to pick one of its five signature bowls or build their own. The restaurant seeks to provide the freshest sushi grade fish every morning. Fish are never frozen and brought in whole every day, so its poke is prepared fresh daily. Another perk is that everything on its menu is 100 percent gluten-free. It may be a bit pricier than other poke places, but the freshness of the ingredients and friendliness of the staff makes up for it. They have a long list of toppings to choose from including an ogo seaweed mix which is typically hard to find this inland on the mainland.
Where: 2420 17th St., Suite 102, Denver.
Hours: (Fall/Winter) Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: An extremely knowledgable staff at Poke House provides customers with the help they need to create their perfect poke bowl. You can either pick one of their four signature bowls or create your own. If you or someone you know isn’t a fan of raw fish or wants to eat something other than poke, it has a few Hawaiian house specials to choose from which include: aloha chicken, chicken katsu and steak bowl. Customers can also enjoy other side dishes like some creamy, Hawaiian mac salad, miso soup, basil popcorn chicken or spam musubi (request to add some hot cheeto dust for an extra kick).
Ohana Island Kitchen
Where: 2563 15th St., Suite 105, Denver.
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The Lowdown: Husband and wife duo, Louie and Regan Colburn, opened up Ohana Island Kitchen in 2016. Louie was born in Japan and raised in Hawaii, and he began his culinary journey shortly after his service with the Air Force. Louie’s island background inspired him to bring the Aloha spirit to the Mile High City. Ohana’s menu may be small, but it’s charming and made with love. Some of its menu items include: kalua pork bento box, shoyu poke, spicy tuna poke, Kings Hawaiian sliders, spam masubi, mac salad and Hawaiian guava cake.
Where: 1573 S Colorado Blvd, Denver and 9555 E Arapahoe Rd #10, Greenwood Village.
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: The friendly staff and numerous items to choose from a Poké Concept will make you want to return for more. When trying out different poke places, you typically see the same number of proteins and sauces, but Poké Concept goes a bit beyond. Its menu includes standard proteins such as tuna, salmon, yellowtail, spicy tuna and spicy salmon, but it also includes octopus, scallop, shrimp, grilled eel, Hawaiian BBQ chicken, spam and tofu as well. Customer’s can choose from 10 sauces to top off their bowl, some include: classic shoyu, sesame sauce, black garlic shoyu, wasabi aioli and spicy aioli. If building your own bowl is overwhelming, they also offer four signature bowls. There are also plans to open up a location in the Union Station area in the near future.
Where: 208 E 7th Ave., Denver.
Hours: Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturday 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: Sushi Cup has brought a unique twist to poke in the Denver area by combining Hawaiian, Korean and Japanese food together. Customers can build their own poke bowls or sushi burritos, but it wouldn’t hurt to try one of its 18 signature poké bowls. They not only have poke but also sushi rolls, which include: the dyno, rainbow roll, the Hawaiian, the cobra and a sushi doughnut. There are a variety of sauces and toppings (including kimchi) to choose from, so combinations are endless. It has dishes available for its vegetarian and vegan customers to indulge in as well.
Where: 2449 Larimer St., Denver.
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The Lowdown: Self-taught chef, Celeste Pfeiffer, grew up cooking in the kitchen with her Thai mother and American “country boy” father. She has traveled all around the world — exposing herself to different foods and cultures. Pfeiffer has also been traveling to Hawaii since she was young and eventually developed a love for Hawaiian cuisine, which inspired her to open up HI TIDE. The menu offers a handful of small plates including kalua pork slides and poke nachos. Customers can either make their own bowls our choose one of the seven craft bowls, which include: OG tuna, spicy garlic yellowtail, green curry salmon, black bean tofu, Korean orange yellowtail, Hawaiian kulua pork and yuzu salmon. All of its craft bowls are gluten-free optional as well.
Where: 3501 Wazee St., Suite 100, Denver.
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Lowdown: Zeppelin Station recently added OK Poke to its international food line-up where it sits alongside Injoi Korean Kitchen, Vinh Xuong Korean Bakery, Namkeen and Au Feu. OK Poke’s owners, James Samara and Brendan McManus, come from a diverse culinary background and operate other popular spots like Lucky Pie, Mighty Burger and El Jefe. The menu is simple and it favors fresh ingredients, well-made sushi rice and seasonally available local toppings. Customers simply fill out a paper menu — making ordering easy and efficient. There are three signature bowls available, but customers can build their own bowl as well. They have traditional sauces you can mix and match to top off your poke bowl, including: ponzu vinaigrette, ginger dressing, sweet soy, yuzu miso and spicy aioli.
Where: 8101 E Belleview Ave., Suite B1, Denver; 3003, 1128 S Colorado Blvd, Denver and 216 16th St., Suite 100, Denver.
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Downtown Hours: Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
The Lowdown: PokeCity describes poke as a deconstructed, flavorful version of sushi. This franchise unfortunately doesn’t offer signature bowls to choose from, but its staff can help customers create bowls they’ll enjoy. Tuna, spicy tuna, salmon, scallop, shrimp and octopus are the six proteins customers can select. Its sauces include: sesame shoyu, wasabi shoyu, yuzu citrus, spicy aioli and its house sauce. You can also buy macaron ice cream to satisfy your sweet tooth.