KINGSTON, Wash. — Ono Poke is the winner of Best Poke in 2022's Best of Western Washington viewers poll.
Steven Ono and Leilani Mickelsen have a piece of paradise in Kitsap County.
It's called Ono Poke Too, a smaller version of the authentic Hawaiian poke restaurant Steven has run in Edmonds since 2017.
Leilani started as a customer.
"My sister and I were the first ones parked in the parking lot," Mickelsen said.
"Everyone was mad at them because they bought so much," Ono laughed.
"We were the first ones," Mickelson confirmed.
When she later applied at the Kingston location as part-time retirement job, they formed an instant connection.
"Both born and raised in Oahu," Ono shared. "I think life in general just feels like kismet."
They became ohana — family — and Leilani embraced every part of sharing their culture.
"We have people from Sequim, Port Angeles, as regular customers," Mickelson said.
Just like the original location, Ono Poke Too features salmon, ahi, tofu, and an array of classic sides.
It also operates on two basic principles.
"My mantra is live aloha," Ono said. "And part of that whole thing is lokahi. It's a pay it forward, it's my balance."
After more than a year of watching the woman he now calls "Auntie Lani" run the place, Steven is paying it forward in a unique way.
He offered her the business and a no-interest loan, so she doesn't have to pay any money out of pocket.
"I could never work for someone, or somewhere, that I didn't think it was from the heart. And that's Steven," Mickelson said. "Don't get a big head now!"
They and their poke really are the best. So when you're near an Ono location, stop in and say aloha.
"Mahalo everybody for voting for us, it's awesome," Ono said. "Thank you so much."