By Anni Caporuscio

Poke (po-kay) is a cool bowl of bite-sized ahi lightly seasoned with sesame and onion and served up raw. Poke is an emerging world cuisine and you can find it in all sorts of fancy poses, but it’s traditionally served straight up.

Kaua‘i loves plate lunch. A quick and convenient meal balancing protein, veggies, and rice, dripping with flavor. Plate lunch is our equivalent of Philadelphia’s hoagie, Chicago’s pizza, New Orleans’ hush puppie. You can find plate lunch all over the islands, and thankfully on Kaua‘i you can find fresh, local, healthy, filling plate lunch.

Sleeping Giant Grill is a plate lunch place with a healthy twist. Owner Steve Knox makes sure his customers get a home cooked meal that’s nothing fancy, but is real satisfying. Think, freshly caught fish. House-made sauces. Crunchy salad greens (thank you, Kailani Farms). Creamy potato-mac salad. White or brown rice. Steve does it all, grilling, register, the books, décor and prepping marinades; he’s a hands-on restaurateur. Even the photography on the walls is his.

Sleeping Giant Grill is behind the Coconut Marketplace, within the Islander Shops, an increasingly festive, manicured zone off the bustling highway in view of the ocean. Pick up your meal and take a short walk to the water and enjoy the beautiful Eastside coast. For visitors and residents, the area is calm and soothing, especially with good food.

The grilled mahi plate plate lunch will come in many customizable forms. For a healthy and light meal, try brown rice and a salad of mixed local greens. This mahi was seasoned just right and fell flakily onto my fork. It’s served with a roasted red pepper, basil cream sauce, savory with a slight spice. And of course, the mysterious delicious salad dressing.

They’ve got daily specials that frequently make the regular menu. If you’re looking for a taco on the Eastside, try the mochi tacos, an Asian fusion take on the Baja fish taco (rice flour paste batter fried). There are also wraps, salads and bowls, all with their signature freshness. None of the sauces and marinades come from bottles, of course, all made in house. I asked about the house salad dressing but he won’t give up the secrets. Not too sweet, not too tangy, not too creamy, not too oily, it rests in the just right zone; pour it on everything.

Add Sleeping Giant to your list of poke places. Poke is emerging as healthy cuisine even on the Mainland, and the rest of the world is learning what we on Kaua‘i have known: nothing compares to the bite-sized, freshest seasoned fish around. Steve even competed in a Poke Festival in San Diego and took home the People’s Choice Award. You can order a poke bowl and have it raw or seared, spicy or mild, or just enjoy it as it comes. For poke newbies: it’s bite sized cuts of ahi traditionally seasoned with sesame, sea salt, onion and whatever else the chef envisions. And it’s raw!

Any meats you can order in a meal, you can order by the pound as well, to cook at home or take to the poolside barbecues at the nearby resort. A trained butcher, Steve is in the fish cutting business, and he’ll ensure that your cut of fish is the best cut every time. Order fish, chicken, or beef by the cut or by the pound.

Find Steve and his staff at the Sleeping Giant Grill nestled in the Islander Shops in view of the ocean behind the Coconut Marketplace. Open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m to 8 p.m. for casual fare.

  • is a food lover and can be found daily at her Kapa‘a business, Small Town Coffee.