The new year is upon us and I am eager to get going. I had the pleasure of trying a great restaurant over the Christmas break & I knew I had to share it with you. The pics were taken with my phone, so don’t be too hard on me! We love Hawaiian food, and lived in Hawaii for a few years, so when I saw that there was a Hawaiian restaurant in Santa Cruz, CA… where we were spending the weekend… we jumped at the chance to try it.
Pono Hawaiian Grill & Poke Bar, was a pleasant surprise! When we arrived in Santa Cruz, we had no idea we would be dining on Hawaiian food that night. After we checked into our hotel, I started perusing Yelp for someplace to eat. Pono’s jumped out at me & we took a vote to see who wanted Hawaiian grub, it was unanimous! Pono’s here we come!
We arrived at our destination and walked inside… the place is huge! Very open and chill, there are sofas to sit on; along with tables and chairs. There’s a small stage, although no one was performing the night we were there…shucks! The decor is island style… surfboards, tikis…murals on the wall. I was so happy to be there, the vibe is very Hawaiian… for a few brief minutes, I thought I was back on Oahu! They were playing some really good reggae music ( Bob Marley!), and I was bopping my head to the island beat. I captured a bit of it for you, along with a quick glance at the menu!
Don’t you love the music? I could have stayed there all night, just groovin’ to it. You order your food up front, when you first walk in… then you take a seat and wait for the goodies to arrive. We ordered the Coconut Prawns ($6.95), for our appetizer. I did not get a pic of them, but trust me-they were delish! I also ordered something I had not eaten in years: Spam Musubi ($3.00), I remember eating it in Hawaii. When the waitress brought it to our table, it was like saying hello to an old friend! I did get a pic of that:
Seaweed, Spam, rice… great snack! The next item brought to the table, was my entree! Hawaiian Kalua Pork ($8.95)! Another reunion with a dear friend! I cannot tell you how often I ate this when we lived in Hawaii- if you have never had it-you must! The meat is so tender, it just melts in your mouth. It came with two scoops of steamed rice, and a Hawaiian staple, Macaroni Salad. I was in heaven!
I could have substituted brown organic rice, fruit salad or green salad if I wanted to, maybe next time. I like that Pono offers healthy meal options and uses organic products. They also have gluten free & vegetarian meals available.
The menu is pretty large, I was impressed. From pupus, salad, poke, saimin, wraps, musubis, to seafood, pork, beef, chicken, teriyaki bowls and burgers; you are sure to find something you like on the menu. The portion sizes are generous- we all had lefties that we took with us… and ate the following day! They also carry my fave drinks from the island, Hawaiian Sun! I did not have room for dessert, so hopefully I will get to go back & try their Haupia Coconut Pudding… yum!
The last menu item to arrive at the table was one of my favorite Hawaiian comfort foods, Manapua ($2.95)! I ate way too many of these when we lived in Hawaii, they are delicious. Steamed buns with sweet, bar-b-q pork inside. I have had them for breakfast, lunch & dinner… and they make great snacks too!
After we had finished our meal, we kinda just sat there and enjoyed the aloha spirit that was in the air. I really did not want to leave. It is rare to find a place that you feel so instantly at home in, Pono Hawaiian Grill is that place… at least it was for us! Aloha spirit, ono kine food, at an affordable price-who could ask for more?! Next time I will order Da Loco Moco, a Hawaiian classic!
Pono Hawaiian Grill is located at 120 Union St, in Santa Cruz, CA. They can be reached at 831-426-PONO. I hope you enjoy your meal as much as I enjoyed mine!
**This is not a sponsored post- I was not paid to write it. I just love sharing great food with my readers! If Pono Hawaiian Grill would like to have me & my family back as their guests, I will gladly accept!** 😉