1492 S. 800 West, Woods Cross
Tuesday–Saturday 11 a.m.–2 p.m., 4–8 p.m.
Open Friday until 9 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Hawaiian food is attending a luau and sinking my teeth into banana-leaf-wrapped pork, slow-roasted for hours over earth fire. Hungry Hawaiian in Woods Cross embraces their aloha roots with a deep-rooted family pork recipe that is pure, yummy goodness with hints of both salty and sweet. The restaurant’s $5 bowls are perfected with balanced portions of rice, steamed broccoli and carrots, and your choice of protein (teriyaki beef, chicken or pork)—a lunchtime recharge worth driving for. I indulged in the teriyaki chicken and pork bowls, which were both equally tasty—however, I have to say that there is something special about both the succulent roasted pig. If you are feeling hungry, order a 1-Meat ($9) or 2-Meat ($11) plate. Each plate is served with meat, rice and macaroni salad.
Greeting each customer with an aloha or “hang loose” hand signal, Hawaiian island happiness takes over at this small eatery, which is filled with sunny, yellow walls and a few dining tables. Dine in, take your food to-go, or place an order with Door Dash. With plans to expand by adding a food truck in the near future, the Hungry Hawaiian owners are not only pursuing their dream of serving real, feel-good food, but also honoring and reviving owner Keni Aikau’s late father’s passion. Having catered with his dad since he was a child, it was a natural move for Aikau to start up the grill and host pop-ups as a way to help cope with his father’s passing in 2010.
Food has always been a family tradition. In the midst of their effort to revive dad’s 1978 original, the team almost gave up in 2014. But somehow, the pieces started falling into place with a little help from Uncle Mau Maka (Hawaiian for eyes), who told the team to be ready with a plan. Within a week, they had a deal to share space with a 5 Buck Pizza location. And after 10 months, Hungry Hawaiian knew they had something special. The timing was right, and Aikau found the location they are in now. Now reaching their first anniversary of operation, Hungry Hawaiian has continued to increase sales monthly and feel they have found the right community.
At Hungry Hawaiian, each customer is served by the owners, who hope that all will feel their love for the traditional food. Bringing this lasting dream to fruition has been a long time coming—and dad’s secret teriyaki sauce is worth a visit alone. While teriyaki has never personally been my thing, the secret sauce sold at Hungry Hawaiian is really something. It packs a bold yet subtle teriyaki flavor that does not overpower with saltiness. I recommend ordering extra sauce on the side, or purchasing a bottle to bring home. I am anxiously awaiting the teriyaki sauce to be sold in local grocery stores. (I’m rooting for you, Harmons—it is that good!)
The establishment is making a name for itself. With a limited menu, quality can stay in check. In addition to the bowls, plates and macaroni salad, Hungry Hawaiian’s menu offers up musubi (Spam on a bed of rice wrapped in seaweed), poi, masaludas and guava cake. (Their macaroni salad can continue to be rated No. 1 in my book.) What’s their secret? They serve what they would take to someone’s house for a potluck. Honoring their heritage and traditions with true Hawaiian cooking, and without cutting corners—kudos! Your menu selections have me singing aloha and dreaming of Maui.
Want to celebrate in their success? Hungry Hawaiian will be throwing a parking lot–style luau on Saturday, June 23—the official one-year anniversary date of this Woods Cross eatery. The party will take place from 12–4 p.m., and there will be live music, slow-roasted pork and more from the community. (And don’t forget to try the guava cake. With hints of strawberry and pear, its pink topping, creamy layer and cake base provide a unique texture and a favorite Hawaiian flavor.)