“Aloha Arizona!” From Aloha Kitchen

The Place: Aloha Kitchen
The Location: 2950 S. Alma School Road, Mesa
The Dish: Teriyaki Chicken & Fish Combo, Manapua
By: Jessica Cowan

There’s no longer a need to escape to Hawaii to experience the taste of local, island life. Aloha Kitchen offers authentic Hawaiian and Asian cuisine without ever leaving the valley. With a family-friendly atmosphere, superb menu, and affordable prices, Aloha Kitchen is a treasure trove of delicious food, and even better people. Their success speaks for itself–just ask Guy Fieri from the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, who showcased this special restaurant in March 2018.

This enticing hole-in-the-wall eatery (where you an expect to eat off of paper plates) is a wholesome representation of the Hawaiian culture, with a focus on ‘ohana’ (or family) and exceptional customer service. The menu offers items ranging from Chicken Katsu, to Manapua, to Lomi Lomi Salmon. Their location is small and quaint, with a beautiful mural of whales and dolphins at sunset and a handmade copper sign affixed to the ordering counter, where friendly staff await.

Now in business for over 30 years, Aloha Kitchen, which comes from humble beginnings and a reliance on family, was founded in September 1986 by Lynn and Raymond Tso. After growing tired of government work, Lynn decided to take a chance on starting her own restaurant to honor her Hawaiian heritage. She gives much credit to her father, who was instrumental in helping her and her husband, Raymond, start the new venture. And though things were slow at first, it didn’t take long for word to spread about the new place in town.

What ultimately started to propel the business was the support of their friends, family members, and loyal customers, some of whom have now been coming to Aloha Kitchen for decades. Lynn says that many new customers started coming their way simply because word was getting around about their menu, which originates from family recipes and Hawaiian church cookbooks.

“[My favorite dish] is the teriyaki chicken and fish combo,” says Lynn. “And nobody makes our Manapua!”

After hearing that statement, we decided to try both. The teriyaki chicken and fish combo (Mix Plate #1: $10.95) consists of light, crispy fish and sweet, juicy teriyaki chicken, served with a side of white rice and macaroni salad. This entrée is well worth ordering–the portion was very generous and easily turned into a second meal for us.

Also at Lynn’s recommendation, we tried the Manapua ($2.50), which was astounding (we nearly ordered half a dozen to take home)! The Manapua is a delightfully sweet dough pocket stuffed with marinated pork that is carefully prepared over the course of 24 hours. The Manapua was easily the best part of our meal with its collection of flavorful ingredients, all made in-house. Aloha Kitchen even offers a fried version to those looking for something a little heartier.

This little paradise of a restaurant thrives on friendly regulars and Hawaii-lovers alike, so the next time you find yourself in Mesa–which should be very soon–come say “Aloha” to some of the friendliest people in town and see what all the hype is about!

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