If you’re looking to shake up your dining routine in 2023, a visit to Maho Poke on Aquidneck Island will transport you to the much sunnier island of Hawaii. Off-season in Newport is the best time to trek the cobblestone streets and rediscover local-favorite spots like this go-to for refreshing and colorful seafood bowls.
Motivated by their love of poke, owners Sam David and Rob DePaolo set out to share their obsession. “We basically are just huge fans of poke, and wanted to bring it to Newport, as we didn’t have any places that specialized in poke bowls on the island,” says David.
Sitting directly on Thames Street, Maho Poke is a well-lit and cozy lunch retreat. Glowing sunsets and tropical beach scenes paying homage to Hawaii are depicted in life-sized murals on the walls. If you’re lucky enough to snag one, the swinging chairs hanging from the ceiling by the window are the best seats in the house.
For the uninitiated, poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish typically centered around diced raw fish, but Maho takes a loose approach, offering a variety of proteins to choose from to build your own bowl. “Our goal is to keep everything super fresh and island inspired,” says DePaolo.
I was drawn to their build-your-own-bowl options, which make the experience entirely customizable, from sauces to mix-ins. First, choose a base of sticky rice, brown rice, or mixed greens, and then add proteins. Fresh raw fish like salmon or spicy tuna are great choices, but they also offer free-range chicken, shrimp, and even marinated tofu. The great thing about Maho Poke is that it feels indulgent, but all ingredients are fresh and healthy.
Struck by the sheer number of choices, I opted to take a recommendation from the poke expert owners and went with the Spice is Nice bowl, a popular entree for both its taste and texture. Freshly diced salmon is tossed in a spicy shoyu sauce, and folded in with edamame, chopped green onions, and cool cucumber to help balance the heat. All of this is served over a bed of sticky rice and topped off with furikake (a dry Japanese seasoning often used on rice), crispy shallots, and a drizzle of sriracha aioli. I loved the spice level of this bowl, along with the pockets of crunchiness.
If fish isn’t your style, the Sesame Chicken bowl is a must. House-roasted free-range chicken is tossed in a zesty sesame ginger sauce and mixed with shredded carrots, purple cabbage, cucumber, and my favorite topping, pineapple, which adds a bright, sweet-and-sour layer. Finished off with toasted sesame seeds and green onions, this bowl is certainly a protein-packed powerhouse.
Though it’s tempting to fill up on savory bowls, be sure to save room for dessert – shave ice. “After doing some research, we thought Hawaiian shave ice would be a really awesome complement to poke, as well as another unique addition to the food scene in Newport,” explains David. A machine mills ice into soft, fluffy shavings that get packed into a cup and piled with fresh fruit or coconut ice cream, and drizzled with sweet syrups including guava, mango, banana, and lychee. These colorful, chilly treats taste like a tropical vacation! The Aloha was my favorite – watermelon shave ice sweetened with lilikoi (a type of passionfruit) and lychee, topped with fresh strawberries and mangoes.
Maho brings a little color and fun to these dark New England days (or any day!) with something for everyone. Whether you’re a poke newbie or a seasoned eater, Maho is a must for a filling, healthy meal.
Maho Poke • 186 Thames Street, Newport
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