Aloha Bar & BBQ: Colombia and Hawaii, Closer Together

First-time customers, enjoying the food at Aloha Bar & BBQ.
First-time customers, enjoying the food at Aloha Bar & BBQ.

Every now and then, I get an email from my dad about a party or small get-together in Hawaii, about all the people who were there and the food they ate. It’s the best and worst of emails.

I like hearing about things back home, that everyone is doing well, having fun, but I am jealous that I cannot be there to pass the time with them and eat all the delicious food that only my people know how to prepare.

I don’t have food envy anymore.

Jerry and Sandra Wong, both from Hawaii, just opened Aloha Bar & BBQ, a Parque Lleras restaurant that serves some of my favorites, narrowing a 4,700-mile gap between my first home and my new home.

Whether it’s kalua pork (cerdo) or the teriyaki ribs with more meat than fat and grizzle, and sides of fried rice and potato salad that is so popular in the island state, I can feel like I’m in Hawaii, at least for the time I’m at the restaurant.

Prices range from 10,000 pesos (about $6) for an appetizer platter, which gives you a good sample of what we eat in the islands, to 29,000 pesos for one of the big platters.

But let me be clear: this is Hawaiian fusion. I’ve heard complaints that it’s not real Hawaiian food, that the menu should include other items, maybe lau lau (Hawaii’s version of a tamal) or lomi salmon (Hawaii’s ceviche).

I shrug my shoulders at silly gripes like that. It’s not easy to find all the ingredients in Colombia that are needed to make some of the most famous dishes. And most of the places you go in Hawaii sell the same cuisine Jerry and Sandra do.

The Colombians who try popular Hawaiian dishes are sure to love them too.
The Colombians who try popular Hawaiian dishes are sure to love them too.

In Hilo, my hometown, one of my favorite places is Blaine’s Drive Inn.

It was not unusual for my friends and I to pile in my car and skip our high school classes, partly because we wanted to eat at Blaine’s — and also because we wanted to go to the beach after we ate, but I digress — to get what we call a plate lunch, one of my favorites being teriyaki chicken with sides of rice and potato salad.

Aloha Bar & BBQ, like Blaine’s, is a small place (although Jerry and Sandra plan to add seating upstairs, with tables on a deck that will peer down into Parque Lleras and maximize the benefit of the great location, next to Juan Valdez Café).

And, like Blaine’s, Aloha serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. But Aloha has longer hours on the weekends. It’s open until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever stop in during those late (or should I say early?) hours because by then I’m usually sleeping. I’ll be there often around normal meal times, though.

Take this past weekend. I had to go to a friend’s house for his son’s first birthday. My friend is from Spain and prepared a delicious paella, along with enough appetizers earlier in the afternoon to get us slightly full before the main course.

Then that night I went to Aloha, to meet some friends. They were eating, enjoying their food, talking, and I just sat there trying to come out of my food coma.

Eventually, the savory smell of their meals and the smiles on their faces made me hungry again. I ordered a plate of ribs with potato salad, pineapple coleslaw and fried rice.

I can't believe I finished this, after all the paella I had eaten earlier.
I can’t believe I finished this, after all the paella I had eaten earlier.

One of the running jokes among my friends and me is how chubby I used to be before I moved to Medellín, and made public transportation and walking my main means to get around, and I adopted the Colombian custom of making lunch my biggest meal and dinner a lot more modest.

My passport picture is proof of my former appearance, something I love to show people, for the shock and comedy factor.

Halfway through my meal, I turned to my friend Paola and said, “Eating like this is going to make me a little fat again.”

We both laughed, and then I finished the plate.

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  1. Dave,
    I wasn’t aware you were from Hilo. One of my favorites in Hawaii. My Mother-in-Law has property by Captain Cook. Small world. The food in your post looks fantastic and I would dive in, I am sure (even after Paella). Funny how when we go to other countries, eat healthier food, walk and take public transportation we all look slimmer! Ha! Safe Travels amigo!