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New: Waikiki Poke & Grill Offers a Taste of Paradise with Fresh Hawaiian Dishes

Food & Drink

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Written by Brett Llenos Smith

Published on August 17, 2022
Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo courtesy of Waikiki Poke and Grill

From A Christmas Story to Seinfeld, sit-down Chinese restaurants have a storied place in pop culture, but Chinese takeout spots sadly do not. Still, they are there for you when you are hungover, stoned, or just don’t feel like cooking and pay day is still painfully distant.

In the spring, it was reported that the longtime Elmwood Village Chinese restaurant Great Wall had closed. After 27 years of serving cheap, munchies-battling, fried goodness, the owners of Great Wall had retired; their watch had ended. In their place, new owners with a new business concept: Waikiki Poke.

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Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo
Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo
Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo x Brett Llenos Smith for Step Out Buffalo

Recently walking into the new restaurant, it was good to see nothing had changed. Well… There was new paint on the wall and HDTVs displayed menu items. But the soul of the restaurant was essentially the same. The food might be on-trend, and maybe even a bit foreign to some people, but the overall vibe of serving the masses was the same. Waikiki Poke will be there for you in your time of need, (albeit at a somewhat higher price point than Chinese takeout).

“A couple years back, me and my partner went on a trip to Hawaii, and we just fell in love with the food,” says manager Kennie Wang.

A mashup of Asian and American influences, Hawaiian food is easy to fall in love with, and the best example of that at Waikiki Poke is Spam musubi ($6 for 2). Each musubi is a fried slice of Spam strapped to a rectangular prism of rice with a strip of sushi seaweed. That might sound exotic, but given that you’ve probably eaten rice, Spam and sushi — it’s all pretty American at this point.

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Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo courtesy of Waikiki Poke and Grill
Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo courtesy of Waikiki Poke and Grill
Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo courtesy of Waikiki Poke and Grill

Even though it’s made with raw fish, rice, fresh vegetables and a spicy dressing — poke is also very American at this point, and available around Western New York. At Waikiki Poke, you can build your own poke bowl with one ($11), two ($13.50), or three proteins ($15.25). There are also signature bowls with different toppings, including the ‘Spring’ bowl ($13.50) topped with tofu, avocado, cucumber, seaweed salad and a ginger dressing.

Waikiki Poke also serves another Hawaiian classic: Plate Lunch. Created for Hawaiian plantation workers, Plate Lunch is meat, rice and macaroni salad — all on the same plate. Priced at $11 for a one-protein bowl and $13 for a two-protein bowl (plus add-ons), Plate Lunches are the spiritual successor to the Great Wall’s combination plates. At Waikiki Poke, your meat options include Spam, teriyaki chicken, orange chicken, pork katsu, and chicken.

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Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo courtesy of Waikiki Poke and Grill
Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo courtesy of Waikiki Poke and Grill
Waikiki Poke and Grill / Photo courtesy of Waikiki Poke and Grill

Critically, there are also a couple of Korean meat options in the form of bulgogi and kalbi short ribs. This needs to be mentioned because Korean food is strangely hard to find in Buffalo. At Waikiki Poke, it isn’t an afterthought.

“We marinade the bulgogi for two days and then we grill them to order,” Wang says. “They end up being so flavorful and tender. We also marinade and cook our barbecue chicken this way.”

So yeah, Waikiki Poke is a bit extra compared to the essential nature of the old Great Wall. But if you like reasonably priced comfort food made with Asian ingredients, you’ll find a lot to like.

Hours at time of publishing (Subject to change): Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Waikiki Poke & Grill

914 Elmwood Ave Buffalo, NY 14222 • $

Asian

Buffalo

Casual Table Service

Hawaiian style poke & grill using fresh ingredients. Read Our Article About Their Opening [sm_anypost columns="1" posts="1" include="1099353" ...

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Written by <a href="https://stepoutbuffalo.com/author/brett-smith/" target="_self">Brett Llenos Smith</a>

Written by Brett Llenos Smith

Brett Llenos Smith is a freelance writer based in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood who has been covering local food and culture for Step Out Buffalo over the past six years. As someone with a multi-ethnic background, he has a passion for exploring and understand the many diverse corners of Western New York.

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