I love to find small businesses that have a great business model, good service and are inviting and create an atmosphere of warmth. Here on the mainland, we Hawai`i expats especially get excited finding businesses owned by Hawai`i expats. I’ve found Ono Poke, a fresh poke store located in Edmonds, Washington. They specialize in offering poke (poh-kay), which is essentially cubed raw salads with assorted sauces and spices.
Owner Steve Ono named his poke shop using a play on words two-fold: ono (oh-noh), which means delicious in Hawaiian and his last name. Born and raised in Windward O`ahu, Steve first moved to the mainland a number of years ago for work. After being laid off in 2016, he decided he wanted to get out of his previous industry and try his hand at food and beverage. Growing up with family who worked restaurants, it was in his blood.
Ono Poke is a small little deli that offers a big punch and is focused on authenticity and quality! He chose Edmonds because he wanted to offer super-authentic poke, in a good location, on the way to the Edmonds ferry and is near where he lives.
There are so many different kinds of poke, including traditional ahi (yellowfin tuna) poke, tako (octopus) poke and limu poke and clam poke. All the fish is fresh, sushi-grade, to ensure flavors are the same as in Hawai`i. He uses as many ingredients as possible from Hawai`i, including Aloha Shoyu, inamona (ground kukui nut and sea salt) from the Big Island and limu from Kahuku. When Steve was finding the right seaweed for the seaweed salad, he tried 15-20 different brands that were cheap and come from the South China Sea, Philippines or Taiwan and not even the type that’s good for seaweed salad. In fact, many were dyed and slimy; the seaweed he uses is from Japan, contain no dyes and is crunchy. (I sampled this first-hand!)
One more thing: Steve care about his community, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the Puget Sound economy. He put up a post offering to hire 2 poke makers and a cashier! To me, that’s one of the biggest reasons to eat Ono poke!