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Here’s Who Makes the Best Poke in San Diego

3 local restaurants won at this year’s I Love Poke Festival contest


Surf Side Cuisine's winning dish at the I Love Poke Festival

Twelve chefs from San Diego and around the country competed at the tenth annual I Love Poke Festival on May 21 at Bali Hai Restaurant to see who makes the best poke outside of Hawaii. The poke samples were tasted blindly by a panel of judges that included Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore, Damien Hobgood and John Park of Fish 101, and Josh Schade, owner of Ahi Assassins in Honolulu. Winners were selected based on presentation, flavor, and quality of the fish.

[Disclaimer: I was also a judge at this year’s festival].

best poke in San Diego GuckenheimerGuckenheimer's second-place winning poke dish

Blue Water Seafood came in third place with a simple ahi poke with sesame seeds and fresh seaweed served atop a crispy won ton chip. Kyle Zdabosz of Guckenheimer, a corporate dining services company, won second place with a creative presentation of a scoop of ahi poke in a clam shell stuffed inside a take-out box. First place went to chef Billy “Butter” Joyce of Surf Side Cuisine. His version of ahi poke was dusted in togarashi (Japanese chili seasoning) and came with grilled carrots and a fried seaweed salad.

best poke in San Diego Blue Water SeafoodBlue Water Seafood's third-place winning dish

Troy Johnson recently interviewed Nino Camilo, the founder of the I Love Poke Festival, on our food and drink podcast, Happy Half Hour. Listen in!

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