Taste Paradise at Noho’s Hawaiian Cafe

14 06 2013

waikiki 001Do you have a favorite vacation place that draws you back even though it isn’t renowned? It’s that “hole in the wall” spot mainly patronized by locals that epitomizes the area you’re visiting. Maybe you stumbled across it by accident. Maybe you learned about it from a resident, generous enough to divulge a gem typically undisclosed to raucous tourists. I do. I have two, in fact, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. They’re restaurants with similar fare. One is only a walk-up counter. It’s tucked behind The International Market Place in Honolulu. To find it, pass through all the stores and tourists to the backside of the market where the vendors buy their meals. The other is a quaint roadside café in Haleiwa on the North Shore.

So what do these places offer that convince me to forego tourist attractions? It’s their plate lunches of teriyaki chicken seasoned and cooked the right way. What is the right way? It’s a way that makes this mostly vegetarian eat a shameful amount of meat and a pile of macaroni salad. For the record, I detest macaroni salad. But the Hawaiian way of preparing these two dishes is—well—paradise. It is! Oh, just thinking of it gives me reason to pause. What’s almost as good as visiting these places? It’s finding a similar place in your local area. I did and it’s called Noho’s Hawaiian Café. There, I shared a local secret with the world. Noho’s has three restaurants in Oregon. Two are located in Portland and one is in Medford.

nohosIt seems like every neighborhood corner in the Pacific Northwest serves teriyaki chicken and rice, so what makes Noho’s stand out? Honestly, I’m not implying it serves the best ever, but if you want truly authentic Hawaiian food, try Noho’s. My brother introduced me to Noho’s shortly after I honeymooned in Oahu, and I’m telling you, that first plate immediately transported me back to Hawaii.

Noho’s Hawaiian Café first opened in 1992 by Noho Marchesi, a native Hawaiian from Oahu. Noho spent time on his grandfather’s ranch in Maui (yes, Hawaii has ranches!) cooking for the ranch hands before moving to Oregon and bringing his versions of family recipes based on traditional Hawaiian plate lunches. Plate lunches and dinners usually consist of a main meat, a side of sticky rice, and a side of macaroni salad. I know, two seemingly incompatible carbs on the same plate? Believe me, it somehow works.

IMG_4830At Noho’s Hawaiian Café, you customize your meal size. Average meal prices range from $8-20. Menehune is a small portion of meat, a scoop of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad. Regular is a medium portion of meat, two scoops of rice, and one scoop of macaroni salad. Blalah is a large portion of meat, three scoops of rice, and two scoops of macaroni salad. Among other food, Noho’s serves Korean ribs and chicken, teriyaki beef and chicken, and Kalua pork. I like Phil’s Ono Chicken because it’s most similar to what I personally get in Hawaii. Phil’s Ono Chicken is a combination plate of shoyu-ginger chicken, sticky rice, and creamy macaroni salad. Really, if you were sitting with me, devoid of Phil’s Ono Chicken, I would insist on sharing a sample. Maybe one day, but until then, if you’re in the area and in the mood for Hawaiian fare, remember Noho’s Hawaiian Café.

Noho’s Hawaiian Café is located at the following addresses:

1) 2525 SE Clinton Street, Portland 97202, (503) 233-5301

Open Monday-Thursday 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday noon-10 p.m., Sunday noon-9 p.m.

2) 4627 NE Fremont, Portland 97213, (503) 445-6646

Open Monday 4-9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday noon-10 p.m., Sunday noon-9 p.m.

3) 330 NE McAndrews Road, Medford 97504, (541) 245-6919

Open Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday-Monday closed


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