Poke is not just an outdated form of Facebook flirting. When pronounced 'poh-kay' or 'po-key,' it's a delightful raw fish salad that originated in Hawaii.
And in those islands, it can be found all over: menus, supermarkets, convenience stores, and more.
Primarily influenced by Japanese cuisine, poke is usually seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions.
Though poke is traditionally served as an appetizer, it has evolved to rice bowls and vegetable salad toppings.
We're lucky enough to have a list of excellent poke options here in the desert. To spice things up, we've included a few non-poke dishes that feature chopped raw tuna, such as tuna donburi and tartare. Not exactly poke but definitely related.
Although HUB doesn't specialize in sushi, the downtown restaurant offers a light and refreshing Ahi Poke dish. The tower features avocado, daikon, napa cabbage, quinoa, cucumber, carrot, sesame ginger vinaigrette, wasabi aioli, and fried wontons.
For more information, visit hubdowntown.com.
With sashimi-grade ahi, why sear it? The Tuna Poke Salad features fresh tuna and seaweed on a bed of spring mix greens and a spicy dressing, so there's no carb guilt here.
For more information, visit ginzatucson.com.
For an upgrade from the Spicy Tuna Don, order it Volcano Style. A bowl of sushi rice is topped with spicy tuna, seaweed, sesame seeds, scallions, cucumber, unagi sauce, spicy mayo, and crunchy tempura flakes. A side of miso soup is included.
For more information, visit ikkyutucson.com.
Choose between salmon, ahi, or unagi for the Poke Bowl ($11.95), which also features crab salad, seaweed salad, nori, avocado, tobiko, wasabi tobiko, edamame, and special sauce.
For more information, visit islandplatelunch.com.
Jimmy's Pita & Poke already offers the option to order customizable poke bowls, so feel free to swing by.
Although you can get your poke in a pita, the rice is good enough that you don't really need to make the switch. Jicama is an unusual topping choice but offers a pleasant bright crunch.
The Poki Salad at K Japanese doesn't feature typical salad greens, but rather seaweed salad, squid salad, and cucumber salad with radish, sashimi dice, and ponzu sauce.
For more information, visit kjprestaurant.wix.com/home.
Mo's, formerly branded as PokeZone, offers customizable poke bowls and poke burritos in the heart of downtown (in addition to the burgers now available on the menu). Be aware — the poke burrito is wrapped in seaweed, not a tortilla, so it's like a giant sushi roll.
For more information, visit mbptucson.com.
Mr. An's Tuna Poke is served with diced ahi tuna sashimi, thinly sliced onions, green onions, and wasabi soy vinaigrette over cucumber.
For a modern variation, order the Tuna Tar Tare with avocado and mango in a spicy miso sauce topped with chopped tuna sashimi, tobiko, onion, and scallions.
For more information, visit mrantucson.com.
The Poke Bowl at OBON is available as tuna, salmon, or rainbow. Go for the rainbow if you'd like the biggest variety of seafood.
The bowl is packed with sushi rice, cilantro microgreens, crispy onions, scallions, sunomono (cucumber salad), seaweed salad, jalapeño, avocado, and spicy poke dressing. It's a huge portion but you'll love every single bite.
For more information, visit obonsushi.com.
The Hawaiian Poki Salad features chunks of ahi over iceberg lettuce with carrot, daikon, sprouts, sesame, scallions, and onion with a gingery poki dressing. Make sure to squeeze the wedge of orange over it, as the fruity sweetness and acidity help balance the dish.
Keep up with Sachiko Sushi on Facebook.
The Volcano Spicy Tuna Don also appears at Samurai, towering with rice, spicy tuna, masago, seaweed, scallion, cucumbers, spicy cumber, tempura flakes, spicy mayo, and sweet sauce. A cup of miso soup is included.
Keep up with Samurai on Facebook.
Want something fresh with a Hawaiian twist? Opt for a Hawaiian Poke Plate at Solid Grindz. This simple dish features raw Ahi tuna, two scoops of rice, and is tossed with your sauce of choice, onions, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and sesame oil.
Wanting something fresh with a kick? Get their Creamy Spicy Poke — the traditional poke is elevated with a drizzle of spicy mayonnaise-based sauce.
Keep up with Solid Grindz on Facebook.
For only $7, the Poki Salad at Sushi Cho is worth ordering instead of just the Squid Salad or Seaweed Salad.
Keep up with Sushi Cho on Facebook.
For another affordable ($9.25) similarly-styled Poki Salad further south, check out Sushi Lounge. Chopped sashimi, cucumber, radish, seaweed, and squid salad are mixed with ponzu sauce.
For more information, visit sushiloungeaz.com.
While poke isn't officially on the menu, chef Tommy Begay can whip up a special poke upon request. To indulge in a special meal, sit at the sushi bar and order omakase, which is essentially the chef's choice for the entire meal.
For more information, visit sushionoracle.net.
During lunch hours from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Yoshimatsu offers a wide range of poke bowls. Our favorites is the Chipotle Ponzu Salmon with salmon, cilantro, kiwi, seaweed, daikon sprouts, masago, sesame, cucumber, avocado, edamame, and chipotle ponzu sauce. Our runner-up is the Black Garlic Shrimp & Scallop with shrimp, bay scallop, mango, cilantro, crispy onion, daikon sprouts, sesame, cucumber, avocado, edamame, and black garlic sauce.
For more information, visit yoshimatsuaz.com.
Where's your favorite poke in Tucson? Let us know in the comments.
[This article was originally written on August 18, 2016, and most recently updated on July 16, 2019]
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...