Aloha Hawaiian Barbecue: Serene Environment and Huge Portions

Rumors around town suggested that “Aloha Hawaiian Barbecue” had a quiet—but substantial — following, despite its low-key existence. We were excited to celebrate a new ethnic cuisine, particularly since there are no other Hawaiian food options in the area.

The name “Aloha” alone caught our attention. Many people think that “Aloha” is like the Italian “Ciao” which translates to both the  “hello” and “goodbye” salutation. But in addition to a greeting or parting word, Aloha in Hawaiian has a deeper cultural and spiritual meaning — a giving of love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. It is also an invitation to take a breath while saying its musical name.

When we entered Aloha, we were greeted by a traditional Hawaiian sculpture titled “Tiki.” We were fortunate to have traveled to Hawaii before, and this made us feel like we were back on a Pacific Island. Tiki art is influenced by the ancient Polynesian culture which believed in Tiki divinity and are worshipped and lend themselves to spiritual inspiration.

Generally speaking, Hawaiian art, like the food of Hawaii, has many different influences, including various Asian, indigenous, and European flavors. Aloha’s menu reflected many of those influences.

Photo by Donna Marie Iadipaolo.

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine were apparent with: Tempura, “Spam Musabi”, ramen, dumplings, crispy shrimp and short rib, along with their most popular combo plates. The “plate specials” or “Hawaiian Combo” were similar to what we experienced in Hawaii, a meal that comes with macaroni salad, rice, and cabbage in addition to the various proteins.

We thought it apparent for us to order at the counter, but in case it was unclear, a sign on the wall stated: “Fast-Causal Restaurant…No Table Service.” We were also greeted by a friendly and smiling woman who told us they had been open only a couple of months. She also said the most popular items were the combo plates as well as “Spam Musabi.”

Photo by Donna Marie Iadipaolo.

We ordered “Aloha BBQ Mix” and the “Mixed Seafood with Chicken.” We also ordered a House salad with ginger dressing, a sushi roll and two Hawaiian sodas.

All the portions were huge, with enough to feed an entire family in one serving. The short rib and minced meat reminded me of more Korean Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef). The breading on the fish and shrimp was crispy and golden on the outside, and succulent on the inside. The macaroni salad had plenty of mayonnaise and seemed like a 1950s throwback along with the inclusion of Spam on the menu.

The ginger dressing on the salad tasted fresh and perky. The Hawaiian soda had a tropical taste, almost alluding to a Mai Tai or Hurricane, but without any alcohol.

Photo by Donna Marie Iadipaolo.

The atmosphere was like the name, peaceful and minimal. Intricate wood-carved circles with almost mathematical precision adorned the walls. A couple of purple orchids were near the window, reminiscent of the flowers sometimes used to create Hawaiian Lei, another Polynesian influence. The sunset could be seen out the window as we finished our meal and we began thinking about how the sun also rises the next day.

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