Corey Oldenhuis/staff photo
                                A Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max franchise shop has opened at the Kirkland marina, 52 Lakeshore Plaza, Suite C.

Corey Oldenhuis/staff photo A Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max franchise shop has opened at the Kirkland marina, 52 Lakeshore Plaza, Suite C.

Hawaiian chef’s poke chain opens up shop in Kirkland

Chain offers Kirkland marina-goers fresh fish in Hawaiian marinades.

Famed chef Sam Choy, known in the restaurateur world as “The Godfather of Poke,” has officially opened up a Sam Choy Poke to the Max location near Kirkland’s Marina Park.

Situated between Bodies by Kristina Pilates and Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade , the marina spot is the chain’s third sit-down location in Washington (with a fourth location in SeaTac on the way). There are also three Poke to the Max food trucks that roam the Puget Sound area, posting up in spots like the downtown Bellevue pod or the University of Washington Bothell campus.

Jeff Santos, who produced a mini documentary on Choy and the history of poke that screened at the 2018 Seattle Asian American Film Festival, is the Kirkland franchise owner. Santos has been working closely with Choy’s business partner Max Heigh.

Choy started his Poke to the Max brand back in 2011 with a Seattle food truck, considered to be among the first poke-only establishments in the city then, and has since expanded into California, maintaining one San Bruno sit-in location and one California food truck. Poke to the Max, however, is far from Choy’s first foray into serving up the island favorite; he’s been pioneering poke in Hawaii for decades.

“[Choy’s] been on Food Network, and was really one of the biggest chefs to come out of Hawaii,” Santos said. “He’s a James Beard [Foundation Award] winner, and using those Food Network connections, he was able to bring poke into the mainstream.”

For years now, fast-casual poke spots have been turning a native Hawaiian staple into a trendy phenomenon for the continental United States — first along the coasts, and now even in mid-sized Midwestern cities. There are innumerable ways to eat poke (pronounced “poh-kay”), but the basic premise of the dish revolves around sashimi-grade cuts of raw fish adorned with an assemblage of toppings and sides.

“The poke comes pre-marinated, ready for the customers, and they can choose from rice, spinach wrap, poke salad or tacos,” Santos said, adding that the pre-marination method is closer to how the dish is traditionally prepared in the Aloha State.

Choy’s “Pacific Rim Cuisine” offers plenty of other Hawaiian staples like loco moco — a dish with many variations but consisting most commonly of white rice, a hamburger patty, fried egg and brown gravy — and a special fish and chips recipe only available at the Kirkland location.

Another thing differentiating the Kirkland location from others is that it will adhere to halal food guidelines. Santos said that this move to provide more options to the area’s Muslim community does not drastically change the overall menu.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Business

A new measure from the King County Council could increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas of King County. File photo
County measure would increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas

Staff report Legislation the King County Council passed June 23 could lead… Continue reading

Snoqualmie Casino is located at 37500 SE North Bend Way, Snoqualmie. Courtesy photo
Snoqualmie Casino reopens June 11 with social distancing, other safety measures

Staff report Snoqualmie Casino will reopen to the general public at 6… Continue reading

Like similar businesses across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, Bothell restaurant Hana Sushi closed due to public-health concerns. Sound Publishing file photo
Inslee changes course, says diners won’t have to sign in

Restaurants may still ask customers for information that contact tracers could use to stop an outbreak.

Construction worker installs siding to a building in Snoqualmie. File photo
Inslee gives construction a green light

It was unclear when sites would re-open, but employees will have to have PPE and stay six feet apart.

Report shows severity of COVID-19 impacts on hotels nationwide

70% of employees laid off or furloughed, eight in 10 hotel rooms empty

State processes record number of applications for unemployment benefits

Employment Security Department had challenges with the volume

Cantwell calls for nationwide support for local media hurt by COVID-19 pandemic

Remarks come on Senate floor: ‘We need the media. …and need to help them’

Gyms, fitness centers must allow members to cancel memberships or face legal consequences

State attorney general responds to consumer complaints during COVID-19 outbreak

Boeing to resume Washington airplane production next week

More than 27,000 employees are expected to return to work at the Everett campus starting Monday.