Monday, January 06, 2014

The Chicago Dining World Tour: Aloha Eats Provides Hawaiian Treats

Aloha Eats
2534 N. Clark, Chicago

What I ate: Pork Katsu w/Katsu sauce, macaroni salad, white rice

Throughout 2013, as I ventured to local eateries of varying ethnic and cultural cuisines as part of my Chicago Dining World Tour, I planned on visiting a Hawaiian restaurant.

And I thought it would provide a nice excuse to get to Roy's, an upscale Hawaiian fusion restaurant whose North State Street outpost was one of several nationwide locations (including several in Hawaii).

I've never eaten at Roy's, and having heard nothing but good things, have wanted to try it for awhile.

But when I mentioned my desire to eat Hawaiian food to my friend Dave, who has accompanied on many of my "Sethnic dining" excursions, he reminded me that I had eaten with him--a couple years back--at a Hawaiian restaurant in his neighborhood called Aloha Eats.

And when an opportune night came around, spending $12 to once again eat at Aloha Eats vs. a likely $60 at Roy's not only appealed to my budget, but seemed to portend a possibly more authentic glimpse into Hawaiian dining.

So Dave and I went to Aloha Eats, at 2534 N. Clark, for a bit of Hawaiian food on a rather chilly Chicago night.

Although more standard soft drinks are available, the restaurant--run by a Hawaiian native--imports Aloha Maid canned juices from the islands. (Another patron inquired and was told the drinks weren't otherwise available in Chicago.)

I ordered Pineapple Orange--two of my favorite flavors--and enjoyed it very much.

It's been a few weeks since our dinner, so I forget what Dave had to drink, but I know his meal was a Mini Plate of Hawaiian BBQ Chicken = boneless and skinless chicken marinated in our home-made teriyaki BBQ sauce then grilled on a flattop grill.

As a mini plate, his chicken came with 1 scoop of rice and 1 scoop of macaroni salad (vs. the standard 2), and a smaller portion of chicken.

But it was still fairly sizable and as something that Dave has commonly enjoyed, he did again. 

I selected my dinner entree from the menu section titled Plate Lunch, whose selections are served all day & night and come with 2 scoops of rice and 1 scoop of macaroni salad (substitute either side or all sides for fries).

What I got--as I had on my prior visit to Aloha Eats--was: Pork Katsu = Boneless slices of pork breaded with premium Japanese bread crumbs, fried, and chopped into smaller pieces. Served with our home-made sweet and tangy Katsu Sauce (or Brown Gravy instead on request).

I got the Katsu sauce, which is delicious, as were the strips of fried pork.

Perhaps not the healthiest choice, but much tastier and more enjoyable than a different type of fried pork I recently had at a Haitian restaurant.

The macaroni salad and rice were also good.

Having never been to Hawaii, I don't know what types of meals are commonplace there, but have to assume Katsu is, as Aloha Eats also offers Chicken and Tofu versions.

And I was somewhat surprised to learn how popular SPAM is in Hawaii, as numerous SPAM selections can be had at Aloha Eats, including SPAM Musabi (Hawaiian hand-rolls: a thick block of warm rice lightly seasoned with our teriyaki sauce, topped with a hot topping, and wrapped in a belt of nori (dried Japanese seaweed) and SPAM Saimin (a noodle soup).

I asked the (non-Hawaiian) girl working the counter about this and was told that Hawaiians eat the highest amount of SPAM per capita, with most having grown up on it. There are, I was told, SPAM banks in Hawaii, in case other foods wind up in short supply.

Well, in addition to having never been to Hawaii, I've never in my life eaten SPAM.

While I hope to one day remedy the former, I don't feel any great need to resolve the latter. Even though a patron sitting next to us insisted that a SPAM dish was terrific (his wife also remained skeptical).

And though I still want to get to Roy's, Aloha Eats provided, yet again, a tasty entrée into perhaps more pedestrian, but nonetheless terrific, Hawaiian cuisine.

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