The introduction of Da Kine Poke marked the arrival of Hawaiian cuisine in the heart of the Innovation District. It’s the latest destination for local foodies with an appetite for poke bowls, a trendy tropical dish bursting with flavor.
Da Kine Poke was originally founded as a food truck in 2016 by Pete Downing and Aaron Smith, who traveled across Hawaii trying different poke bowls in search of the best one. Among its various locations across Florida, Matt Pearce, Brian Starks and Herman Camarena are the co-owners of the brick-and-mortar spot in New Smyrna Beach and the food truck in Gainesville.
As a Florida native from Fort Lauderdale, Matt is no stranger to fish and had spent over two years working part-time at the Da Kine Poke in New Smyrna Beach when he was offered the chance to purchase the place. He didn’t hesitate and pursued the opportunity to expand the franchise alongside co-owners Brian and Herman.
“I took my savings. My friends took their savings. I quit my day job, and we bought the one in New Smyrna. Then from there, we started this one, and we’re just gonna keep it moving from here. We’re just gonna try to start as many as we can.”
Da Kine’s prime spot at Midpoint Park & Eatery — Gainesville’s first permanent food truck park— is designed for locals, but the open-air concept and unique food options are made for everyone to enjoy.
“The space is very unique in itself. Everybody has a different kind of taste, so it’s the diversity in the park that stands out. It just depends on what you’re feeling, so you can come here to a great atmosphere and find something to eat — no matter what you’re in the mood for.”
Surrounded by buzzing office buildings and only a short walk from campus, Da Kine serves a wide range of customers. Matt says the business appeals to office employees and UF students alike, who are looking for a quick bite made with high-quality food.
“It’s very convenient for anyone to come down just steps away from their office, and they pick something different for lunch every day. We get younger crowds, and we get older crowds.”
Da Kine features five signature poke bowls for those who are indecisive and might be interested in more popular dishes. Customers can also take the time to build their own poke bowl from an extensive menu of three base options, five types of protein, eight sauces and over 12 toppings. The possibilities are endless!
The flavorful poke bowls found at Da Kine are the perfect middle ground between deconstructed sushi and ready-to-eat salads. At the New Smyrna Beach location, Matt made it a priority to source ingredients from local farms, and he hopes to do the same in Gainesville.
With bigger plans to continue expanding the business, the co-owners behind Gainesville’s Da Kine Poke are dedicated to maintaining consistent food quality to ensure that their customers far and wide get the same first-rate meals. Da Kine only uses fresh fish and produce in their bowls, so you can always expect the best. In fact, one of the many meanings behind the flexible Hawaiian slang expression “Da Kine” is “the best,” and Matt emphasized their attention to detail is what earns Da Kine Poke that title.
Whether you’re looking to have an outdoor picnic with friends or grabbing a quick bite near the office, you can’t go wrong with Da Kine Poke. They could revolutionize the local food scene with their diverse combinations of flavors and textures. Not only are these healthy poke bowls versatile, but they are also affordable — and go great with some grapefruit kombucha!