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Waipahu Eats: Poke Stop


Prior to 2005, if you lived or were headed out for the west side of Oahu, the first place that came to mind for Poke was probably Tanioka’s in Waipahu. Was. Then came Poke Stop, the first solo venture of Chef Elmer Guzman, former Executive Chef of Sam Choy’s now also former Diamond Head restaurant. Fast forward November 2008, after the release of his successful cookbook “Shoreline Chef”, and a number of accolades and press coverage in the media, Poke Stop continues to be a top-of-mind name for this diced-fish delicacy… and a much, much more.

With fresh, locally-caught seafood being the emphasis, and a well-versed progression of the Hawaii regional cuisine theme applied, the menu is exactly what you might expect, and then some.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what Chef Elmer’s got at Poke Stop.

Naturally, the first thing to greet you as you walk in the front door is the refrigerated Poke display case…

Before I even got a chance to glance around the entire little take-out shop, the friendly counter person guy greeted me with “Welcome to Poke Stop, have you been here before?”. To which I replied “no, never have”, to which he then proceeded to explain the menu and how to order from it. Nice. Very nice! If Chef Guzman ever reads this, Chef, DO emphasize to your staff to do this regularly. That in itself gave a wonderful first impression, and I’d certainly be back, just based on that!

Before checking out the menu, first I looked over the other items displayed in front. To the left of the Poke case is a an open refrigerator case with gourmet salads, dessert and add-on items…

I really should have picked one of these pies up. I bet they ROCK!…

Taro brand Poi and Hawaiian Chili Peppah Watah…

“Piko” Onion,”Piko” cucumbah an’ Lomi Salmon, laddat…

Premade and ready for sale on the countertop were a few of these deluxe bento packs…

and mini bento packs…

That same friendly customer service guy then offered me a bunch of Poke samples, which everyone there encouraged to try. I tried the Creamy Ahi Poke, Pipikaula Poke, and the “Rolex Watch” of the bunch, the Opihi Poke…

At $17 per pound, this is by far the most expensive one in the line-up, obviously due to the very limited supply Opihi. I’m not really an Opihi fan, but gotta’ admit, eating it like this in combination with the fresh Ahi, sweet onion and very light seasoning, this was KILLAH! Really ono. If you’re an Opihi fan, you’d really dig this one.

The guy was offering me to sample almost every type of poke they had , but I had to stop, lest I become full before even ordering. Man, this place is better than Costco! lol

The kitchen is open, and everything on the menu is cooked-to-order right before your eyes…

The guy looking at the camera is that awesome customer service person.

Like Poke?…

Ha ha.

Here on Poke Stop’s Wall of Fame, you see just how much attention Chef Elmer has had in the media…

OK, enough poking around (get it?), now let’s look what’s on the menu, starting with the “everyday” selections…

Those are posted across the counter, mounted on the storefront window. Posted behind the counter on a dry-erase board are the specials of the day…

I don’t know about you, but EVERYTHING sounds ono to me. I mean EVERYTHING!

With the daily specials adding to the choices, now I’m even more confused what to get! Yet I already went over the regular menu online before heading there, and was determined to try the Ahi Poke Bowl with Big Island Smoked Meat Fried Rice.

After about a 30 minute drive back into town from Waipahu, let’s take a look at our grinds of the day from Poke Stop!

First up we have Diner A’s dish…

Poke Stop Surf and Turf , $9.00

The Poke Stop Surf and Turf is described as “tender Korean style short ribs with garlic jumbo shrimp”. We thought they were prawns, not Jumbo Shrimp. Garlicy, buttery good. Also delightful was the Korean style marinade on the grilled shortribs. I tried a piece and concur… excellent! Better yet was how nice and rare they grilled it…

Diner A didn’t care for it this rare, so he nuked it to medium, but I loved it like this! For me, when it comes to eating beef like a steak, anything more cooked than medium rare is killing it. Killing it, I tell ya’! Anyway, the Korean sauce really made this one.

The “Puna’s Potato Salad” was interesting. It reminded us of more a chunky garlic mash potato than a potato “salad”. It was more buttery than mayo’ like. This may have been the case due to drippings from the buttery garlic prawns that were plated nearby it. Dunno. Was good though.

Diner A gave his Surf and Turf plate a solid 3 SPAM Musubi rating.

Next up is Diner E’s dish…

Poke Stop and Go Bento, $10.95

The Poke Stop and Go Bento is described as “Perfect for meetings, corporate functions and tail gating! Taegu chicken, kalbi beef, garlic ahi, shoyu hotdog and kim chee with rice”.

Hmmm. Tailgating perhaps, where I can crash out after eating it in the back seat of my car. But not for meetings or corporate functions, lest you want me staring at you with a blank, empty-headed look on my face, having sleep on my mind more than projected sales figures on Black Friday. lol

The Korean beef is the same one as was featured on Diner A’s Surf and Turf plate. Diner E says the shoyu hot dog was beefy-good, while the Taegu chicken was moist and tender, not dried out; a testament to it’s made-to-order state; not premade. IIRC, he also said he could taste the Taegu flavor in the batter, although I can’t fathom how that would work with fried chicken. Dunno, never tried a piece. If you did, let us know what you think of this Taegu fried chicken.

Finally we have my dish…err… make that bowl…

Poke Stop Seared Ahi Poke Bowl with Pipilkaula Fried Rice, $8.95

As mentioned earlier, I was determined on trying the Ahi Poke Bowl with Big Island Smoked Meat Fried Rice. Unfortunately, they were sold out of the Smoked Meat (I told you that’s good stuff!), so I opted instead for the Pipikaula (Hawaiian style cured beef) Fried Rice, the next best (sounding) thing, also keeping with my intended “Surf ‘N Turf” theme.

Here’s a better look at the Pipikaula Fried Rice underneath…

Pipikaula Fried Rice

Here’s a cross-cut view of the seared Ahi…

Seared Ahi

I would have preferred it more raw inside, but couldn’t preserve that even if it were, due to the heat from the rice cooking it through over the time it took for my 30 minute drive back into town.

How was my Seared Ahi Poke Bowl? Flavor-wise, ono. Real good. The only problem was that the ahi was too salty. Someone may have accidentally added too much Hawaiian Salt, or something, but too salty. That made eating it along with the already salty Pipikaula bits in the fried rice and almost convulsion-like experience, if you know what I mean. Enough that I needed to drink several bottles of water afterwards to restablilized. I kid you not. Also, I think the fried rice could have been fried more. Or at least use day-old rice, not fresh, which is what it tasted like. Ya’ know? Factor in those negatives, I give this a 1 SPAM Musubi. Yet based just on flavor, I give this a solid 3 SPAM Musubi. Flavor-wise, a winnah. Especially whatever sauce it is they use on the fried rice. Winnah right there.

Prices are obviously on the high side as far as take-out plate lunches go, but remember, you are getting quality ingredients and preparations here. Still, with places like Koi’s (who I reviewed recently) and Kahai Street Kitchen offering similar upscaled fusion take-out for dollars cheaper, that is something worth considering.

Other menu items I’d like to try is the Tempura Oyster Po’ Boy with Remoulade Sandwich and Deconstructed Sushi Bowl. That latter being a very cool-sounding name, as well as oishii-sounding dish…er.. bowl.

Poke Stop is located in its own little corner building at the Waipahu Town Center, on the almost toward the end, west-bound on Farrington Highway…

As you see in the photo, there’s a Popeyes and a Sizzler nearby it.

The rest of the mall is on the mauka side…

including a Long’s, USA BABY and Office Depot as anchor tenants. The fastest and easiest way to get there if you’re coming from town is to take the Ewa Beach cut-off, which will take you onto Kunia road. Follow that road makai-bound until you reach the Waipahu cutoff (don’t take the Kapolei cutoff which is right before it).

Got it? Good. Now go check out Poke Stop and let us know what you think.

Big mahalo to da’ managah on duty for letting me take photos and to the supporting staff at Poke Stop. You guys are great!

One more time, say it with me (with a higher-pitched “huu”), “Wai-pa-huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!”

Poke Stop
95-040 Farrington hwy
E-4 in the Waipahu Town Center
Waipahu, Hawaii 96797

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)
*Date of visit: 11.21.08 at 12 noon

Related links:
Poke Stop – HawaiiDiner.com (see the menu here)
Elmer Guzman Serves Up Excellent Seafood – HawaiiDiner.com
Elmer Guzman – A biography by Midweek
Poke Stop – Yelp user reviews

16 thoughts on “Waipahu Eats: Poke Stop

  • November 23, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I would KILL to try that breakfast bento first thing in the morning. (And only $3.95? Really?)

  • November 23, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Man oh man, I’m going crazy looking at all the poke. And then — that menu!

  • November 23, 2008 at 3:45 am

    I discovered Poke Stop a few years ago! When I was home this past August, the day before I left to come back to DC, I stopped there and got the dried ahi poke – SUPAH ‘ONO!!! and da fried poke bento……all my kids went bumrush me was so ‘ono!! :)

  • November 23, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks for replying on Don Quijote entry. This poke shop is were I check it out on day off. When I live in San Francisco for short while a co worker brought to work durian . Everybody thought it was some gas leak in buidling and about to run outside. Never will I like durian not picky but smell turn me off taste also. Worker banned from bringing durian to work.

    Will try PoBoy oyster sandwich check it out on chowder if it New England or Manhatten for I love chowder.

  • November 23, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Beautiful. I’ve been wanting to try Poke Stop ever since I read about it on ono kine grindz. Tried to go one trip, but I had no idea the 42 from Waikiki to Waipahu would take so freakin’ long. Plus, due to bad advice from the person sitting next to me, I got off at the wrong stop. After 15 minutes and no bus, I got back on one to return to Waikiki. If I took any more time, I was going to be late for a dinner I already had planned with my cousins.

    Next time, I’ll just plan to make the trek to Poke Stop the major event of the day!

  • November 23, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Debbie-chan, sorry to hear about the misguided way to Poke Stop on your last attempt going there on TheBus. I forgot to mention in the write-up, while there isn’t seating inside the small shop, there are a few benches outside on the front. Since you’ll be in Waipahu, you might also wanna jump back on another bus and go check out Tanioka’s, which is way,way down on the opposite end of Farrington highway. Perhaps pick-up some Poke from Poke Stop and some from Tanioka’s and have your own little “Poke Shootout”! Other than Poke, the hot food at Poke Stop is more gourmet/pacific rim fusion, while Tanioka’s is more Okazuya style. There’s so much more great places to dine at Waipahu. Also get Highway Inn, known for really ono Hawaiian Food.

    Michale, oh man, I don’t think I’d like to have the “Durian Experience”. Not even Andrew Zimmern (Bizzare Foods on Travel Channel), nor Anthony Bourdain could put it down (swallow it). It’s THAT bad. There are hotels in Bangkok that have signs at the front lobby entrance specifically saying Durian is forbidden in the hotel. As for Chowdah, yup, raises hand. Love the stuff. I’m more a New England kinda’ guy. Manhattan’s OK, but I like the rich, creamy white saucy NE style. especially with crackers.

    Napua, I must have missed spotting out the Dried Ahi Poke, but I’m pretty sure they had it. Sounds ono! How was it prepared? Did they like mix the dried ahi pieces with shoyu, onions and ogo, etc.? That’d be my guess.

    TikiPundit, I could have gotten individual shots of each tray of poke, but didn’t want to bother other customers looking at it. At least with that shot you get an idea how much there is. That’s actually a common site now at every supermarket here in the islands. Even Sam’s Club has a considerable Poke selection. And every place has their hits. The Opihi Poke at Poke Stop is up there at the top as far as I’m concerned. The guy told me the Creamy Ahi Poke was one of their best sellers, which was OK when I tried it but nah, not my style. I’m more of a Ahi Poke purist, preferring just fresh (raw) ahi, onions, ogo (or Limu Kohu) and a few light seasonings.

    Jenny, that is a good deal, although I’m not sure how well seared ahi poke would work with eggs. Sounds kinda’ extreme. SPAM maybe, but eggs sounds iffy. But hey, I ain’t knockin’ it ’til I try it!

    I miss the $2.50 Scrambled eggs, Portuguese sausage and rice with Takuan bento from Tropics. That was the deal of dawn! Thankfully the good guys at Poke Bowl have continued the tradition, with the same Mama sans making their breakfast bento boxes, and still cheap at $3.50 each!

  • November 24, 2008 at 1:58 am

    I’ve been on pins & needles ever since they told me they’re opening a Poke Stop in Mililani! I just noticed this week the sign is up above the door in the new strip of storefronts behind Mauka McDonald’s. I don’t think I’ll ever want to cook again, or need to. Perhaps I’ve said too much… I can picture the gridlock in Mauka already!

  • November 24, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Ho, lucky you live Hawaii! *sniff* That menu is amazing. And so are your pics! I have to stop myself from licking the monitor. ;)

  • November 24, 2008 at 5:19 am

    Hi- Your site is really great.. Youve definately helped me in expanding my eating out list.. Your pictures are so awesome!! Poke Stop looks like they have a nice selection.. and WOW $17 a pound for opihi poke. a free sample is good enough for me haha.

  • November 24, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Am I the only one who does not care for Poke Stop? When it first opened I tried their basic ahi limu poke. It was bad. The color was off and almost every piece was stringy. Check out WOWGrinds.com for their blind tasting of limu poke. Poke Stop came in last. Last year we gave them another chance and ordered one of the expensive bentos. Again it was bad. The kalbi was tough and very salty. What made it worst was the rice was undercooked and still hard. Can’t have a good bento without good rice. I live in Miliani Mauka and I will give them a third chance when they open.

  • November 30, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    I had tried Poke Stop on a previous trip and posted about it:


    Maybe he’s changed the supplier of his meat, but it was junk – tough, chewy, overcooked even though I said I wanted it medium-rare.

    Never had the urge to go back again.

    As far as poke, I go to the place you blogged about on Kapahulu Ave.

  • December 6, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    O-o-h-h-h, this is the first time I”ve allowed myself to start browsing my favorite blogs again since we moved, and after seeing all the lunch plates and bentos on your site, Pomai, I think I’m going into severe withdrawals…

    BEfore I go and make myself a snack, I have to thank you for the stellar recommendation (via your write-up) of the kona kampachi at the Ocean House. We went there on our last evening in Hawaii, and between the food and the sunset view it was definitely the way to take the best of Oahu with us. Now we’ll have to drool over your reviews from afar and just dream of returning someday.

  • December 7, 2008 at 2:42 am

    Manju, glad you made it back in one piece, and the piano isn’t sitting on the crushed roof of the neighbor’s brand new BMW. lol

    Also glad to hear you had a stellar experience at Ocean House. I’d go back there again and again. The food (fresh fish!), service and view is at the top of our list in that caliber of “island style fine dining”. I’d say it’s one of the best “play tourist” places to dine at in Waikiki.

  • January 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Tasty Island People,
    I grew up in Hawaii and gathered and ate opihi as a kid. When the fish weren’t bitting, my uncle would tell me to “go pick opihi”. At the time, early 1980s, the opihi were all around, hanging out on the rocks. I had to be careful though, because all I had was rubber slippas, an old rice bad, and one dull butter knike to get the opihi. Anyway, I loved eating the opihi.

    Are you sure the Waipahu version with tuna is good? I don’t remember fancy opihi poke in the markets. But, I’ve been away 20 years.

    Please advise. Remember, I ate opihi alive after I “caught” them…


  • January 11, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Howzit Hollywood Hills, yes, I’m very sure the Ahi (tuna) Poke with Opihi at Poke Stop is excellent. Awesome. At least I thought so. Ask them for a sample first before committing to purchase, as it is expensive.

  • August 5, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I’ve seen that eatery place from Food Network television “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dive” with Guy Fieri! =D


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