7 fresh and flavorful poke options in the Madison area

There’s no shortage of sushi options in the Madison area, and now the same can be said for poke.
three poke bowls
Photo by CC Jacob/Courtesy of Food Fight Restaurant Group

There’s no shortage of sushi options in the Madison area, and now the same can be said for poke. From restaurants to grocery stores, you don’t have to go far to find poke bowls, often referred to as deconstructed sushi. Pronounced pō-kā, this traditional Hawaiian dish is usually made with raw fish and other ingredients. Many poke accoutrements are similar no matter where you go. However, the following restaurants add their own special touches to the dish.

Akari Sushi
Akari Sushi is a Japanese and sushi restaurant on Madison’s west side (which is slowly becoming a poke hot spot). In addition to poke bowls, the restaurant sells sushi rolls, teriyaki, udon noodles, fried rice and lo mein. Akari’s create-your-own poke bowls come in three sizes, depending on how much protein you want — one scoop for a small, two for a regular and three scoops for the large. Akari has 13 different house-made poke bowls to choose from. Next to the poke, must-tries at Akari are the bubble teas and desserts, including green tea ice cream, fried Oreos and fried cheesecake. 811 S. Gammon Road, 608-422-5818, madisonakarisushi.com

Mad Seafood Boiler
Mad Seafood Boiler is known for its wide range of seafood offerings, and that includes the bowls in question. Mad Seafood Boiler is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades in the seafood category, with its full menu of rolls, sashimi, combo platters, fried appetizers, seafood boils and the like. But don’t worry — poke has its own spot on the menu with multiple options. All bowls are served with sushi rice, avocado, red onion, cucumber, mixed greens, edamame, ginger, green onion, sesame seeds and nori. Protein choices include king salmon, shrimp and octopus. A veggie poke bowl rounds out the poke portion of the menu. And if you’re the kind of person who thinks cones are more fun than bowls of ice cream, you might also prefer a sushi burrito over a poke bowl. It has the same ingredients as a poke bowl, but it comes wrapped in seaweed. Mad Seafood Boiler is one of a few spots in town that has a whole section of the menu dedicated to sushi burritos, so if you were thinking about trying one, this is a good place to dive in. 201 W. Gorham St., 608-819-6168, madseafoodboiler.com

Miko Poke
At Miko Poke, it’s a “choose your own adventure” situation when it comes to poke. The Monroe Street neighborhood spot, part of Food Fight Restaurant Group, boasts an entirely gluten- and dairy-free food menu with a plethora of toppings for its poke. From smashed avocado to spicy pickled beets and specialty kimchi to carrot habanero fire sauce, there are a lot of goodies to add to a base of mixed greens or white or brown rice. Ahi tuna, spicy tuna, chicken and marinated tofu are among six protein options to choose from. Miko Poke General Manager Ben Brady says all ingredients are prepped by staff each day. Staff will also deliver and set up build-your-own poke bars. Miko Poke has a variety of house creations. The Hawaii-style bowl with ahi tuna on white rice is a customer favorite. While the restaurant is known for its poke, customers flock there for the refreshing Dole whip. It’s one of few places you’ll find serving the pineapple-flavored, dairy-free dessert made popular at Disney resorts. 2701 Monroe St., 608-416-5241, mikopoke.com

POKE BAR Middleton
POKE BAR Middleton is the newest poke restaurant on the scene. It opened in May 2021 in the heart of downtown Middleton. Like the traditional poke bowl, these offerings are built on a base of rice and a protein, with vegetables, several toppings and sauce added to the mix. The three main ingredients of the Spicy Tuna Signature Bowl are ahi tuna, white rice and jalapeño. The Signature California Bowl contains white rice, imitation crab, shrimp, avocado, crispy onion, cilantro, spicy mayo and other toppings. A build-your-own bowl is available as well. All bowls come in regular or large sizes. POKE BAR Middleton also offers catering for large events. Customers can choose from poke party trays, poke bites or signature bowls. 7603 Elmwood Ave., Middleton, 608-821-1199, pokemiddleton.com

Poke It Up
Poke It Up is known for its generous portions. Customers at this restaurant mark their choices on a paper menu and a staffer works their magic. Poke It Up has an extensive list of items to add to poke bowls. Don’t be shy; add a little bit of everything. The restaurant has 20 house-made bowls to choose from. The most popular options are The Signature Ocean Feast, Hawaii Green and Spicy Style. Some of the house creations from Poke It Up can be served in a burrito, but they also create 13 signature burritos wrapped in roasted seaweed. 540 University Ave., 608-709-5511, pokeitup.com

Poke Poke
Poke Poke serves eight different house-made poke bowls to its east-side neighbors. The top-selling Signature Ocean Feast features white rice, ahi tuna, fresh salmon, scallops, shrimp and octopus salad, with several vegetables, toppings and house-made wasabi mayo sauce adding to the bright and delicious heap. The Teriyaki Chicken Lover is a good option if raw fish isn’t your jam — this one is made with white rice, chicken, jalapeño, cucumber, toppings and house-made teriyaki sauce. Build-your-own bowls are an option, too. Seafood, chicken, tofu and other proteins can be added to bowls filled with rice (white, brown or purple) and vegetables such as spinach, cucumbers and sweet corn. Poke Poke’s sauces come in a range of spice levels. The tangy lemon ginger sauce is not spicy, but the red chili sauce has a kick to it. Mochi ice cream and a house-made tea help round out a tasty poke meal. 600 Williamson St., 608-665-3306, pokepokewi.com

Poke Plus & Teriyaki
Poke Plus & Teriyaki tries to make things easy for diners by putting its menu in a step-by-step structure. Bowls at this spot on State Street near the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus come in regular, large and super sizes. Choosing a size is the first step of the poke journey. Step two is rice or mixed greens, and step three involves adding a variety of vegetables or fruits, like carrots or pineapple. Step four involves picking your protein in the form of tofu, chicken or seafood. Steps five and six complete the bowl with sauce and garnishes like tempura crunch. Poke Plus gives a nod to its college neighbors by offering the signature Badger Bowl, filled with tuna, spicy salmon, spicy mayo and more. For those not in the mood for poke, the restaurant offers teriyaki bowls, fried rice, pot stickers, kimchi and other dishes. The owners of Poke Plus opened a second location last year in Kenosha. 615 State St., 608-630-9283, bit.ly/3HMp33O

Hywania Thompson is a contributing writer for Madison Magazine.

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