Where To Find The Best Poke Bowls In LA
photo credit: Holly Liss
Have you eaten lunch in Los Angeles in the past year? Then you’ve definitely eaten poke. It’s not surprising that this Hawaiian grocery store standard has taken over the city - sometimes it’s nice to mix up that Angeleno diet of sushi and kale with a dish that regularly combines the two together. Plus, it’s usually served in plastic pint tubs, casts the illusion of healthiness, and can be easily eaten at a desk.
The thing is, poke is pretty often kind of terrible. Get your toppings all wrong, or end up with not-as-fresh-as-it-should-be fish, and you might as well have had a sad Caesar salad along with everyone else in the office. To help avoid this, we went out and ate our weight in raw fish to help you find the very best spots.
Poke is rarely worth any kind of drive, especially not one that involves the 405 South, but Jus' Poke in Redondo Beach is 100% an exception to the rule. There are five different options of pre-marinated fish - the original has a strong sesame thing going on, and the spicy version is creamy and tasty - all made with tuna. The servings are enormous and a lot of the crowd are local office workers popping in to pick up lunch. There’s definitely not much in the way of ambiance in this tiny roadside spot, but that doesn't stop it from feeling like Oahu anyway.
A new option in the already crowded Venice poke scene, Wild Poke is also one of the best. There are set bowls or build-your-own options, and the big chunks of sushi-worthy tuna are as good as you'll find. We are very down with the spicy option - the sriracha mayo adds a creamy factor and the crispy garlic is a nice touch. Yes, this is poke worth braving the boardwalk for. Just this once.
You can't mess with the toppings at Ohana Poke Co., but telling these guys what to do would be like telling Spielberg how to direct dinosaurs. Sometimes it's best to let experts take the lead. Although they do the traditional ahi shoyu bowl, there are also some great alternatives, like the Korean octopus in a chili base. All bowls come with a side (the ponzu glass noodle are a good choice) and are topped with traditional furikake and very untraditional wasabi peas.
Yes, Sweetfin is treacherously close to Third Street Promenade. No, you don't have to be a tourist or a shop assistant on your lunch break to go there. These guys take customization to a whole other level - your base could be rice or kelp noodle and a cucumber slaw thing. You choose a fish (or tofu), and pile on sauce and toppings like ponzu lime and wasabi-toasted coconut. PSA: proceed with caution. There are so many options that it's easy to go wild and end up with something inedible.
The people who work at Spinfish REALLY love their jobs. Like greeting you extremely enthusiastically, dancing behind the counter, and having poke bowl-building races while they make your lunch, love their jobs. If you can get through such enthusiasm between meetings, it's also worth your time. They have signature bowls or you can build your own - the fish is fresh, and there are a bunch of side options like seaweed salad that you should definitely get involved in.
If Chipotle served poke, it would be a lot like Wiki Poki. The whole experience feels familiar - get in line with the area’s many hungry office workers and load up on big servings of proteins and lots of topping and sides options. There’s not much seating, but everyone’s taking food back to their desks anyway, so you’ll still probably snag a spot.
Mainland Poke is the poke place West 3rd Street deserves. It’s pretty, you can switch out the usual rice for kale (because California), and you can make your bowl any which way you want. You can combine a number of proteins - tuna and salmon is our move - pile on the toppings, and go to town with the spicy shoyu sauce.
For a long time (you know, since 2010), this Venice Beach counter had LA’s poke market all to itself. Right off the boardwalk, there’s pretty much always a long line and lots of tourists involved, so clearly they're not sweating the competition. The move here is to call in a takeout order and walk right past the line to pick it up. There are a bunch of bases and toppings to add on, and the fish is always fresh. A decent option if you’re in the area.
There are many, many options at Poke N Roll, another build-a-bowl option giving Glendale residents their daily raw fish. We're into the tuna here (skip the free scoop of imitation crab, because what even is that stuff?), but you can get two different types of fish if that’s your thing. There are lots of toppings on board (you won’t regret the crispy onions), and sauces too.
Pokemix keeps things relatively simple, which probably makes sense for Pasadena. There’s a choice of fish, including scallops and spicy tuna, more limited toppings like corn, cucumber and seaweed salad, and sauces added at the end. Hard to complain about that.
This Carson strip mall spot isn’t our favorite on the list, but wins multiple points for authenticity. The fish is pre-marinated and scooped out of a deli case onto warm rice - no fancy toppings or sides. There’s a single counter to eat at, but you probably won’t be sticking around - there is quite literally no atmosphere here. Check it out if you’re in the area though.