Tucked away in a non-descript parking lot, it would be easy to overlook Da Poke Shack. But for poke lovers on the Big Island, that would be a giant mistake.
Located in Kailua-Kona, on Hawaii’s West Coast, Da Poke Shack is a tiny food outlet that packs an enormous punch when it comes to flavor. Da Shack specializes in poke, a Hawaiian dish featuring seafood (usually tuna) cut into small cubes and served (usually raw) with sauces, toppings, and sides. Da Poke Shack advertises that their poke is “always fresh, never frozen,” and we’re pretty confident that’s the understatement of the century. Their poke is so incredibly, deliciously fresh that when you visit, you may actually see fishermen delivering freshly caught tuna, or the staff butchering the fish right in their kitchen. We can say with some certainty that we’ve never eaten anything fresher in our lives.
There’s not much to say about the shack itself. It’s a small storefront with a tropical straw overhang, and a bright, playful sign. Two picnic tables frame the front door and are the only available seating. Truly, this is a strictly takeout spot. Inside, the walls are lined with framed photos, and articles detailing the shack’s many awards, arranged around a giant, wall-mounted tuna. A drink cooler sits to one side, stocked with soft drinks, juices, beer, wine, and hard seltzers. Everything is neat, clean, and inviting, but honestly, we’d still order poke here if it was being sold out of the backseat of someone’s car. It’s just that good.
Let’s get to the important stuff. Behind the counter, a large menu is displayed for folks to peruse while they wait in line. Those ordering poke bowls or platters can choose between nine different ahi poke variations, ranging from traditional style, dressed simply with limu kohu and Hawaiian salt, to a rotating poke of the day, created around the chef’s inspiration of the moment. They also offer other seafood pokes, such as spicy scallops, several octopus-based options, fresh garlic shrimp, and taegu. Each of these dishes is accompanied by your choice of more than a dozen sides, including potato and macaroni salad, seaweed salad, and kim chee cucumbers.
Everything we ordered was unbelievably fresh, absolutely bursting with flavor, and completely delicious. We’d recommend the entire menu if we could, but here are a few of our very favorites:
This ahi poke is flavored with spicy Hawaiian chili pepper aioli and was easily the most ordered item during our visit. Packing just the right amount of spice, the heat of the sauce and the cool sweetness of the ahi combine to make a heavenly flavor profile that allows the tuna to be the star.
This award-winning poke is mixed with seaweed, roasted kukui nut, and Hawaiian salt. The relatively simple preparation achieves a fresh, savory flavor that we found to be intoxicating. In this case, the whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts.
While the poke is the star at Da Poke Shack, the side dishes should not be overlooked. One of our favorites were the kim chee mussels. The tangy spice of the kim chee marries beautifully with the salty sweetness of the mussels, creating a flavorful, unique, and umami-packed bite.
With the ability to mix and match your poke and sides, the combinations are nearly endless. We’d love to hear what you created, and which parts were your favorites!
-Because their tuna is delivered fresh daily, Da Poke Shack has limited amounts of poke to sell. Once something sells out, it’s gone for the day. In fact, on busy days, they’ve been known to close early because everything has sold. For this reason, you’re going to want to get there as early as you possibly can.
-There are two different meal sizes available: poke bowl and poke plate. A bowl includes two selections of poke and one side, while the plate features four selections of poke and two sides. The plate is absolutely huge and can easily feed two or more people. We definitely recommend sharing.
-With advanced notice, Da Poke Shack can provide you with sashimi or fresh cut ahi tuna filets you can take home and cook. They also offer poke and sashimi platters for large groups.
-Want to design your own poke blend? With advanced notice, you can build your own, custom flavor profile. There’s a one-pound minimum for this, so it’s best to share with friends and family.