The Hawaiian Eatery is Featured on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat

Writer  /  Julie Yates
Photographer  /  Kerch Creative

Nef Lopez, general manager at Ali’i Poke Fishers, has several reasons to feel proud of the restaurant he oversees. Since its opening in February 2019, it’s already accrued rave reviews on several social media sites. The eatery joined its sister restaurant, located on the IUPUI campus, in serving up colorful, fresh Hawaiian food.

There is one accolade, however, Lopez is especially pleased with.

“We are listed on ‘Yelps Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. 2019’.  We rank 88th.  Ali’i Poke is the only restaurant in the state of Indiana that made the list,” Lopez says.

Pronounced poh-kay, it is a traditional Hawaiian dish that has recently gained popularity in the U.S. Translated from the Hawaiian language, it literally means “to slice or to cut crosswise into pieces” and was originally raw fish scraps eaten by fishermen.  Around 2012, poke started to be found on menus in restaurants on both the west coast and east coast. When it began to show up in Chicago, a group of local businessmen knew the time was right to open up a dedicated poke restaurant in Fishers and downtown Indianapolis.

To learn about poke, the group travelled to Hawaii.

Lopez says, “We did a lot of research to find out about authentic poke. The best place didn’t even have seating. We learned about ingredients besides the usual raw tuna, such as cooked octopus and shrimp.”

The interior of the restaurant is Hawaiian themed with a brick wall displaying ocean scenes and photos of artfully put together poke bowls. After guests are greeting with an “aloha”, they have some decisions to make.

First timers often choose one of four signature bowls ranging from a house to spicy version. Patrons can also build their own by selecting a base, protein and toppings.  Bases include two different types of rice, salad greens and even tortilla chips. Proteins range from three types of raw ahi tuna, salmon or fully cooked seafood plus tofu. The next step is choosing from a vast array of toppings such as edamame, pickled ginger and vibrant watermelon radishes. The finishing touch is the addition of a sauce – which can range from mild to spicy.

“It’s actually all the ingredients in sushi – just not put together in a roll but served in a bowl instead. Nothing is fried, and everything is very fresh,” Lopez says. “We have choices for people who are gluten free, vegetarian or vegan. If people don’t want to eat the raw tuna or salmon, they can pick the cooked shrimp, octopus or tofu. Our regular size is $9.75 and the large is $13.75.”

Ali’i poke also offers sides such as miso soup, seafood salad and a mango dessert. Orders can be placed online and be either carried out or enjoyed in the restaurant. Delivery is available via Grubhub.

“The reception we have had in Fishers has been great,” Lopez says. “We are seeing regular customers that come in two or three times a week. Our main advertising has been word of mouth. It’s so nice that the people that come into the restaurant share the news about Ahi’i Poke with their friends.”

Ali’i Poke is located at 8989 E. 116th St. For more information, call 317-288-4978 or visit them online at aliipoke.com