We drove an hour north from our house last night, to dine in Hawai’i.
Well, not exactly Hawai’i, but an outpost of Hawai’i, in the most unlikely place: On a quiet Main Street corner in Windsor, a typical small, old-fashioned mid-western town on the plains of northern Colorado. Definitely not a tropical paradise, although inside the clean modern restaurant, you might as well be along Oahu’s North Shore, or somewhere in Kauai.
But Okole Maluna (Bottoms Up) isn’t in the islands. The intimate restaurant is in Windsor.
Erin and I love Hawai’ian food and seek it out in the few places where it’s available in Colorado. Most often, we find ourselves at L&L Hawai’ian Barbecue, a Hawai’i-based fast-food chain with a franchise in the eastern Denver suburb of Aurora. We think it’s a bit pricey for what you get, as well as being entirely too generous with salt on everything they serve (maybe it’s needed in hot humid Hawai’i, but our palates don’t require so much sodium).
We’ve also tried 8 Island Hawai’ian BBQ in Boulder and were disappointed both by the food and the service — especially when the staff made a bog deal of charging us 75 cents extra for a little dollop when we changed our mind on the kind of sauce we wanted on a dish. Come on, that’s like charging for ketchup and mustard!
And more recently, we had a very fine meal for my mom’s birthday at Iwayama Sushi and Da Big Kahuna Bistro, which is as known for its sushi as for its Island vittles.
Iwayama’s fun, and closer. But I’d make the hour drive any day for the Kalua pork at Okole Maluna.
Its deep smoky flavor is tantalizing, and it’s not overly salty (hooray). It’s served with two mounds of rice (for the full portion), a side of creamy Hawai’ian macaroni salad, a little bowl of Lomi Lomi salmon, which is like pico de gallo with bits of salmon mixed in, and a little serving of haupia, a conconut custard.
In fact, overall, Okole Maluna is the best place in the state we’ve found for Hawai’ian food.