Popular Poke Chains Ranked Worst To Best

For those unfamiliar with the concept, poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish — the term "poke" means to cut in Hawaiian. While the original version of the dish typically consisted of chopped raw fish such as ahi tuna or Hawaiian albacore with rice or whatever ingredients were around at the time, today's poke bowls are an entirely new beast. Poke bowls, as we know them, usually come with ahi tuna or salmon served over a bed of rice, quinoa, or greens. The final product is then topped with various ingredients such as seaweed, avocado, shiitake mushrooms, red onions, cucumber, edamame, and pickled ginger, as well as a range of sauces.

Over the last decade, the number of poke restaurants in the U.S. has skyrocketed, reflecting the growing popularity of this Hawaiian-inspired food. Not just delicious, poke bowls blend the convenience of fast food with the use of fresh and wholesome ingredients, making them a popular choice for health-conscious consumers. Moreover, they are also often served Chipotle-style, where individuals can customize their orders along an assembly line. This approach gives customers ultimate control over the flavor and texture of their meals, making it easy to accommodate various dietary preferences and restrictions.

Ready to embark on a delicious poke adventure? To simplify your upcoming journey, here is a list of popular poke chains ranked from worst to best.

1. Koibito Poke

With locations in Arizona, Missouri, Nevada, and North Carolina, and three new spots in the works, Koibito Poke was co-founded by the former professional baseball player Todd Stottlemyre. Inspired by Stottlemyre's passion for nutrition and healthy living, the chain serves Hawaiian and Japanese-style bowls with a wide range of ingredients. The term "koibito" means "love" in Japanese, reflecting the care poured into crafting each poke bowl. Some of the more unusual ingredients served at Koibito Poke that you may not find at other similar eateries include spicy crab, octopus, masago, crab mix, and furikake.

While most reviewers seem to have enjoyed their meals at Koibito Poke, some highlight that the chain could offer better value for money. One patron said, "I felt the quality and flavor was overall very good. It did seem that the quantity of the protein was a little light. I was a bit surprised to see the guy pull out a scale as he added the proteins." Another customer said that while Koibito Poke's range of toppings is quite extensive, their quality can be hit-or-miss, adding, "Unfortunately, coming at the end of the day, you always run the risk of old food that's been sitting there. My bowl had stale/burnt white rice, the brussel sprout shavings were really old tasting, and they ran out of the imitation crab mix."

2. LemonShark Poke

LemonShark Poke, a California-based eatery with 10 locations, takes its inspiration from the lemon shark, a picky feeder that seeks out high-quality fish. The eatery strives to embody the discerning nature of its aquatic namesake by offering top-notch ingredients. The chain also values sustainability, as explained by a franchise owner, Lauren Adler, in an interview with RFT: "We go with vendors that have the most ethical practices that we can; like our tuna, for instance, is line-caught by hand instead of net-caught so [we don't] harm other sea life."

Just like most other poke restaurants, LemonShark Poke offers assembly line-style dining with efficient and casual service. Aside from its build-your-own poke bowls, LemonShark Poke also serves a range of signature bowls, burrito-style poke rolls, and Hawaiian hot plates. According to Adler, the chain's pre-set menu dishes are a useful concept. "For some people, it's almost too many options; they don't trust themselves to maybe make the best combination or they're a little overwhelmed, so that's why we have the signature creations."

Despite customers generally appreciating the diverse range of offerings at LemonShark Poke, there have been some who have expressed dissatisfaction with the value for money provided by the chain. For example, one reviewer said "I ordered the double scoop of spicy salmon and spicy tuna ... For the price, it was definitely expensive considering the quality was good but not amazing."

3. Aloha Poke Co.

Started in Chicago by Zach Friedlander as a small stall in 2016, Aloha Poke Co. has now expanded to almost 20 locations across the U.S. With the tagline "Simple ingredients. Simply delicious," Aloha Poke features a relatively small menu of ingredients. Patrons can select one of the chain's three signature bowls or opt for their own combination of protein, mix-ins, and sauces. To make the ordering process even easier, the menu clearly indicates all spicy and raw ingredients, as well as items containing gluten. The chain's ahi tuna is line-caught using ethical fishing practices while its antibiotic-free Atlantic salmon comes from Chile.

Aloha Poke Co. has received mixed reviews from poke aficionados, with some praising the chain and others complaining that it lacks so-called authenticity. One satisfied patron callled Aloha Poke Co.'s offerings "unbelievably delicious," adding "I chose the customized option and did the ahi tuna on a bed of brown rice with five items and a sauce. [...] The amount of tuna was generous, and for a first time visit, I could not have made a better selection." However, another reviewer didn't agree, saying, "The poke at this restaurant does not seem to me like true Hawaiian Poke, and the atmosphere was not like the poke places I have seen in Hawaii. [Maybe the chain] could change its name to Chicago Poke, for example — then people would not expect a Hawaiian type restaurant."

4. Pokémoto

Recognizing the absence of poke restaurants in New England, Thomas Nguyen took a risk by founding the first Pokémoto eatery opposite Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2017. And his gamble has paid off. Today, the chain boasts over 35 locations across the U.S. The restaurant offers a range of signature bowls such as Miso Salmon, Sweet and Spicy Shrimp, and Sesame Ginger Chicken. Customers can also create their own mix-and-match poke bowls from a range of proteins such as ahi tuna, salmon, shrimp, chicken, tofu, and lobster seafood salad. Some of Pokemoto's other standout ingredients include mango, ogo seaweed, hijiki seaweed, mandarins, pickled daikon, and black caviar tobiko.

Pokémoto has garnered predominantly positive reviews from patrons, with many expressing their satisfaction with the establishment and its food. One happy customer said that her dish was "absolutely delicious," adding, "I didn't think I [would like] poke but the lady recommended a crab and shrimp poke ... so yummy and better than sushi in my opinion. Glad I went." While another customer called Pokémoto their "favorite lunch spot," they also said that its dishes can be somewhat inconsistent, explaining, "The fillings can be hit or miss as far as amount for the price. I get a regular bowl and usually pay $18 after tax and tip and sometimes I'll get my money's worth or sometimes I won't or I'll have toppings missing."

5. Big Fin Poké

With just two locations in Maine and one location in Massachusetts (one outlet is currently in the works), Big Fin Poké lags behind other poke chains in the franchise department. This limited presence, however, doesn't mean that the restaurant lacks scrumptious cuisine and a wide range of ingredient options. Customers can choose from a variety of bases for their poke bowl or a "pokirrito" (sushi burrito). Big Fin Poké's range of proteins includes tuna, salmon, albacore, cooked shrimp, fried tofu, fried chicken, and cooked beef. There are also mix-ins, toppings, sauces, and crunchy garnishes. For those overwhelmed by the chain's diverse "build your own bowl" offerings, Big Fin Poké also offers pre-set menu options.

Patrons seem happy with Big Fin Poké's fare and lineup of choices. One happy customer said that the chain was one of their favorite restaurants, adding, "They have tons of options for building your own poke and their poke favorites look awesome as well. The flavor combinations are amazing, the food is fresh and healthy, not to mention very filling." Not everybody agrees, however. One reviewer described the chain as "good, not great," elaborating, "I got the wasabi salmon poke bowl. It was good, but not good enough to warrant the $15 price before tip for a regular-sized poke bowl to go that doesn't even fill you up."

6. Island Fin Poké

With more than 25 locations and close to 20 outlets in the works, Island Fin Poké is definitely expanding its reach across the States. Founded in 2016, the chain prides itself on "transporting you from every day to a surf shack on the beach" with its responsibly-sourced seafood and a list of over 20 toppings. Just like other poke restaurants, Island Fin Poké lets its patrons construct their own bowls or select their meals from a roster of different menu options.

Island Fin Poké has received mostly positive feedback from customers. Emma Barhydt from the Greenwich Sentinel praised the chain for its choice of ingredients, saying, "Island Fin Poké has curated a selection of ingredients robust enough to delight the adventurous but familiar enough to entice the pickiest of palates. [...] It seems there are no wrong answers when it comes to Island Fin Poké so make sure to stop it for a bite." Not everybody is as enamored with Island Fin's offerings, however, with one reviewer saying, "I've had more robust poke bowls before, I do find the fish to be cubed a bit small and lacking flavor in some instance, but overall the meal does the trick of holding me over until my next poke adventure."

7. Sweetfin

With close to 20 locations in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County, Sweetfin is slowly but surely establishing itself as a prominent name on the country's poke scene. Not only does the chain offer delectable dishes, but it's also transparent about the origins of its seafood. For example, its yellowfin tuna has been certified as Dolphin Safe by Friend of Sea. Additionally, the chain's salmon is responsibly farmed in British Columbia, where every stage from feed to production is closely monitored.

What makes Sweetfin stand out from the poke chain pack is its collaborations with renowned chefs to bring limited-time offerings to its menu. Just some of the big names that have graced the restaurant's kitchen include former "Top Chef" contestants Shirley Chung and Richard Blais. Besides its chef-driven poke dishes, Sweetfin also offers customizable and signature bowls and burritos. Unlike most other poke chains, Sweetfin also has a selection of specialty bowls including The Immunity Bowl, The Brain Booster, and The Keto Bowl.

Whether customers build their own poke bowl or select an offering from the chain's set menu, they can rest assured that their meal will be both satisfying and healthy. "Someone can come to Sweetfin and have kind of a healthy yet indulgent meal that's craveable and not feel bad about eating with us," the co-owner of Sweetfin, Seth Cohen, said in an interview with the Business Journal. "Whether they're gluten free or vegan or pescetarian or keto, [...] we have something for them."

8. Just Poké

With 19 outlets in the Pacific Northwest and several food trucks across the Puget Sound, Just Poké was born out of two friends' nostalgia for a small poke shack in Maui. Embracing the ethos of "Eat Clean, Act Right, and Live Well," Just Poké aims to do right by its vendors, employees, and, of course, customers. In particular, the brand thrives on nurturing meaningful connections with local small-scale partners while actively investing in eco-friendly inventory.

While Just Poké serves the typical signature bowls and build-your-own bowls, the chain also offers torched bowls, adding a smoky twist to seafood poke. The three torched bowls on offer include Shrimp Tempura with Torched Crab, Torched Mentaiko Salmon Bowl, and Torched Eel Donburi Bowl.

Just Poke's eco-friendly philosophy seems to be paying off, with the chain garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews from customers. One patron, who tried their first poke at Just Poké, raved about the experience, saying, "I got a mix of the original and spicy poke with edamame beans and brown rice. It was soooo good! The fish was so fresh, and the seasoning brought out the flavors perfectly. Even the 'normal' size is a generous serving, which left me feeling full but light." Another contented reviewer also commended the restaurant, stating, "Great flavors and always extremely fresh. Staff is friendly and readily will walk you through the basics. Servings are very generous so be careful if you think you want a large!"

9. Poke Bros.

Poke Bros. has done exceptionally well since opening in 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. Currently boasting around 80 locations, the chain continues to experience steady growth across the Midwest and East Coast. Unlike other poke restaurant founders, Poke Bros.'s three proprietors are quick to admit that they discovered the Hawaii-inspired dish during a trip to California, not Hawaii. The chain's communication representative, Braden McGlone, explained the concept behind the franchise, saying, "If you want a really quality and healthy quick lunch option it is great. You can be in and out in 10 minutes and have a bowl of fresh ingredients. It's a really fresh option that is quick and easy" (via Greenville News).

Like most other poke restaurants, Poke Bros. operates on an assembly line basis, where customers move along the counter to customize their bowls. Firstly they choose between different types of rice or salad and select their protein from a range of raw and cooked seafood or chicken. Next, customers build their bowls by selecting from a lineup of veggies, toppings, and sauces. Those confused by the sheer range of what's on offer can opt for one of the chain's signature bowls. One of the standout options includes The Duke with salmon, tuna, shrimp, seaweed salad, cucumber, edamame, sweet onion, jalapenos, ponzu, OG Sauce, and gochujang.

10. Pokéworks

Pokéworks has come a long way since opening its doors to hungry customers in New York City in 2015. Conceived by a group of friends who developed a taste for the dish during their sojourns in Hawaii and were left yearning for a poke fix upon their return home, the chain now boasts over 60 locations across the U.S. Standing testament to its success, Pokéworks also has a presence in Canada, Taiwan, and Mexico. With an eye on expansion, there's a plan to open even more locations in 2023.

The secret behind the franchise's success is simple — fresh, healthy, and delicious meals. Unlike numerous other poke joints, Pokéworks goes beyond poke bowls, presenting an array of unique options such as poke nachos and poke burritos. The poke burritos stand out — they're giant seaweed sushi rolls stuffed with raw fish, rice, and various other ingredients.

Customers are invited to select from a huge range of ingredients, including six different bases and 10 types of protein such as ahi tuna, organic tofu, salmon, seasoned lobster, and chili garlic chicken. There's also a variety of mix-in ingredients, sauces, toppings, and crunch that includes garlic crisps, wonton strips, peanuts, and sesame seeds. Alternatively, patrons can order from the restaurant's "Signature Works" menu section, which includes options such as Umami Ahi, Sweet Sesame Chicken, and Yuzu Ponzu Salmon.