By Libby Roach

Ono Grinds

Kensington Market is home to a slew of uber-unique shops and restaurants, and now they’re home to one more, with the addition of North Poké. Nestled in the tightly knit community, this poké takeaway shop boasts a very aloha menu featuring authentic "ono grinds" straight out of the tropical paradise.

Owner Linda Dang had a clear vision for her tidy shop, after trying poké for the first time years ago on a vacation in Hawaii. “ I thought, there’s nothing in Toronto like this," she explains. "A couple years later I went to California and had it again at North Shore Poke. I began making it at home, and then I started taking it seriously.  I decided it was time to bring it to Toronto, because I’m always craving it!”

When I went to Hawaii I got to try poké for the first time. I thought, there’s nothing in Toronto like this! - Linda Dang, owner
North Poké is a Hawaiian eatery located in Kensington Market. They specialize in poké bowls and shave ice.
North Poké owner Linda Dang presenting one of her poké bowls.
North Poké is a Hawaiian eatery located in Kensington Market. They specialize in poké bowls and shave ice.

Authentic Origins

Linda's bowls come stuffed to the gills with fresh raw fish, crispy rice, seaweed salad and an assortment of made-in-house sauces. The menu is easy to follow, with fish marinated in various sauces, a true hallmark of the Hawaiian staple. Protein-rich bowls come in snack, regular and large sizes, making it an easy food to eat while strolling through the market.

In addition to several variations on the classic poké, Linda’s menu also pays homage to other quintessential Hawaiian dishes. The grab-and-go Spam musubi makes for a solid snack, while North Poké's summertime sugary shave ices represent another Hawaiian delicacy.

The recipes are based on extensive travels to Kauai and learning what Linda calls the "momma way" of making the popular dish. “I felt like I really wanted to do this because there was a lot of potential," she explains. "So I started researching and learning, and went back to Hawaii a few times to learn the proper way to make poké. I tried it at every place I possibly could.” says Linda.

Upon returning home, Linda collaborated with Juno Kim, a well-known chef and food stylist/photographer from Vancouver to flush out and create distinct recipes that would bring a Hawaiian flavour to the Toronto market. “It took it to the next level” says Linda.

North Poké is a Hawaiian eatery located in Kensington Market. They specialize in poké bowls and shave ice.
North Poké is a Hawaiian eatery located in Kensington Market. They specialize in poké bowls and shave ice.

Location was Key

Originally, Linda planned to open shop in the summer but held off until the perfect Kensington location became available. “Kensington has that culture, a distinct community vibe that I knew I wanted to be a part of. I always eat at Otto's Berlin Döner, Dirty Bird, and Seven Lives – my go-to’s for good cheap eats. There are so many fish markets, so many grocery stores, this is food central now. I knew it needed to be here.” says Linda.

In true Kensington fashion, all the local shop owners have come in to meet Linda, and Long Board Living even created custom signage for her Baldwin Street shop. “The surfboard signs came from down the street; Long Board Living did everything, and charged next to nothing.” remarks Linda.

North Poké is a Hawaiian eatery located in Kensington Market. They specialize in poké bowls and shave ice.
North Poké is a Hawaiian eatery located in Kensington Market. They specialize in poké bowls and shave ice.
North Poké is a Hawaiian eatery located in Kensington Market. They specialize in poké bowls and shave ice.
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