Tucked away in Little Tokyo’s Honda Plaza – between the immensely popular Sushi Gen and the cake slinging cronut connoisseurs, Frances Bakery – lies Aloha Cafe, which specializes in island-style food. I’ve eaten at Aloha over a dozen times for lunch, and the chillaxed good vibes are plentiful – better known as the “Aloha spirit”. I don’t know how they do it: There are barely any decorations in the dining room, no music playing, conversations bounce around loudly like the Little Tokyo version of Bottega Louie (and if you have AT&T, you will be in a dead zone without service), but I love it.
You can order a Spam Musubi as an appetizer for $2, or the “Aloha Bowl”: a rice bowl with perfectly grilled chicken breast and skirt steak, drenched in teriyaki sauce (be sure to also drench it in their signature sweet & spicy Hawaiian sauce). The Aloha Bowl includes some macaroni salad (ehh), but here’s my Pro Tip: You can upgrade the mac salad to a proper side salad with fried noodles, cabbage and carrots for just $1 more (well worth it). I don’t even think that little tidbit is on the menu.
My latest trip to the tropics south of Central Avenue was to try the Aloha french toast (fluffy, thick Hawaiian sweet bread with fresh-whipped cream and strawberries). This is the place to go if you are craving french toast that – while not your typical french toast – is substantial and pleasing; you can’t beat the homemade whipped cream. My wife calls it F.A.M.F. (Fluffy As a Mother Fucker). Definitely try this with their excellent premium Kona coffee.
Although fluffy as a mother fucker is nice, I’m usually in the mood for something a little meatier. When it comes to breakfast, I go “Komai”-style with Komai’s Big Breakfast: 2 scoops of rice with 2 eggs, Corned Beef Hash, 2 Spam, 2 Vienna Sausage, 2 Polynesian sausage, 2 Hawaiian Bread… almost 2 much of a good thing. The smell emanating from this dish is somehow overpowering and overwhelmingly vinegary. I could do without the vienna sausages, too – these are definitely an acquired taste with an off-putting soft texture. As always, be sure to drench everything on the plate with that bomb-ass Hawaiian sauce.
Through the power of Google, I discovered that “Aloha” was originally meant to convey compassionate affection, and has since morphed into the plastic flower lei greeting that most of us are familiar with. I’d expand on this translation further, and say that Aloha is comfort. And Aloha Cafe is comfort food.
To Aloha Cafe’s credit, the servers and hosts don’t immediately shout “Aloha!” as new customers walk in the door. Nor do they bombard you with over-the-top island-style gesticulations as they guide you to your table. The Aloha peeps simply convey compassionate affection as they take your order and serve you. (But, be warned that the compassion train leaves the station if you need to split the bill on several cards – you’re better off bringing cash with you and avoiding the $3 ATM fee.)
Aloha Cafe is located at
410 E. 2nd St Los Angeles, CA 90012
in Li’l Tokes.