Steven Ono is the man behind the poke revolution here in Edmonds. His Ono Authentic Hawaiian Poke in Westgate and Ono Poke Too in Kingston serve, as they say in the islands, broke da mout’ grinds that remind expats of home and introduce Mainlanders to the wonders of fresh fish prepared in the ancient Polynesian tradition, heavily influenced by Asian flavorings of shoyu, sesame oil, spices, and masago.

Traditionally, leftover bits and pieces of freshly caught fish are sliced or chopped into small, bite-sized pieces and seasoned simply, with Hawaiian salt, seaweed, limu, and kukui nut.

Ono’s poke is, perhaps, the most true to the local Hawaii fishermen’s practice of transforming leftover cut-offs from the day’s catch into insta-gourmet snacks. You taste the whole fish, nourished by the sea, and nothing but.

Ono grew up in Kahalu’u, O’ahu with an affinity for the ocean — “fishing, surfing, and diving every chance I got,” according to his website, and learning how to cut poke from his Uncle Reuben, a commercial fisherman (“I even use the knife he gave me when I was eight years old every day!”). He’s lived in the Edmonds/Shoreline neighborhood since 2006, and Edmonds since 2013, and loves the warmth and the food of this diverse, growing community.

He does miss Hawaii, the “food and warmth of both [the] people and [the] weather.” Who wouldn’t?! But if you ask his customers, he and his Ono Poke staff manage to recreate that aloha spirit, where everyone is treated like ohana (family) as soon as they walk through those doors, while satisfying cravings for fresh, delicious poke by the nourishing bowlful.

Ono may live far away from Kahalu’u now, but his aloha spirit lives on in Edmonds.

He is encouraged by the growth of this increasingly diverse city, in cuisine and population. He sees an exciting, promising trend toward more of that diversity he loves, as more and more Asian and other ethnic eateries are welcomed by a community eager to explore, and dive right in.

None of that would be possible, Ono adds, without restaurateur Shubert Ho’s considerable contributions. “I think that Robert ‘Shu’ Ho has done a tremendous job in both opening and promoting more of these types of businesses in Edmonds. Without him introducing people to his Pan-Asian food and making ethnic food approachable, places like Ono Poke and Barkada would have much higher hurdles to jump in becoming as successful as we have. I think, in time, there will be more local-style places, which I look forward to… maybe I have some ideas I’m trying to make happen… who knows? Haha.”

Might those local-style places include Chicken Alice’s greasy, dry-spiced Korean Fried Chicken (a moment of silence...), Minute Chicken Cake Noodle, chow fun, futomaki, and Huli-Huli Chicken?

Until the good people of Edmonds can get their hands on more of what makes eating the rainbow a real possibility, let avid foodie Steven Ono drop some ono recommendations to tide you over, in his own words:

Howzit, I’m Steven Ono from Ono Poke and Ono Poke Too, and these are my Top Five Hole-in-the-Wall Shops in Edmonds!

  1. The Noodle Hut. Ever been to Victory Monument Circle in Bangkok and had the boat noodles? The N1 House Soup Noodles are JUST LIKE THEM! Don't miss the Hot Basil with Crispy Egg, Rad Nah, Pad See Ew, Pineapple Fried Rice, or any special that is written on the wall. Oh, I also bumped into Anthony Bourdain coming out of the place the first time I went. Coincidence? NO. It's just that good and authentic.

  2. Qin Xi'an Noodles. It's all about the hand-pulled Biang-Biang Noodles here! They have all the traditional dishes, like Chili Oil, Minced Pork, Egg & Tomato, and Stewed Pork. If you have three or more people, I would go for the Big Chicken Plate and add the Biang-Biang Noodles. The long, wide, and chewy noodles are sooooo good.

  3. Wonton Noodle House. Right next door to Qin is another great spot. The Braised Beef and Dumpling Noodle Bowl will transport you back to Hong Kong, where the owner is from. The beef is nice and tender, but the best parts are the pieces of fat, sinew, and tendon that they put in there too — no worry — it tastes awesome! The dumplings are packed full of shrimp and are wonderfully bouncy. The egg noodles are thin, chewy, and just about perfect, too.

  4. Yeh Yeh's. They say that chicken soup feeds your soul, so what’s better than a bowl of Grilled Chicken Phở when it’s getting cold outside? The grilled slices of chicken thighs really set the bowl apart for me, as most other places use dry and shredded chicken breast. Don't sleep on their Bahn Mi's either — they are all really good, but my favorite is the grilled pork.

  5. Barkada. Leave it up to classically-trained Brian Madayag, with his highbrow culinary background, to take little-known Filipino recipes and transform them into dishes that everyone can understand. He's now converted his shop into a little storefront as well, making available ethnic ingredients and items that are essential in all Asian pantries. Oh, the food? Simply delicious. His rotating menu will surprise and tease you with new but familiar twists. It's one of those places where you can throw a dart at the menu — hence, I didn't list anything, as everything will be great.

And that's my top five hidden gems in Edmonds. I encourage everyone to go out and try something new. Edmonds has even more great and exciting food options available to us every day, so get exploring — you'll never be disappointed. Aloha!

Photography Courtesy Steven Ono.