Before the hubs and I bought our house, we lived on the east side of Santa Cruz near Aloha Island Grille. It was super dangerous because it was a few minutes away (walking) and we could smell the food cooking all day. Whenever we didn’t feel like cooking, we ate Aloha. The menu was limited, but the mahi mahi was always good and it was the only place that had macaroni salad I liked. We were sad to leave it behind when we moved… but then we found we were just as close to another delicious Hawaiian spot in Santa Cruz: Pono Hawaiian Grill.
I first head about Pono when I was teaching at the Scotts Valley campus. I mentioned that I liked Aloha our administrator and she said I had to try Pono. She also told me that it was owned by the same awesome people who run Aloha! And when we finally checked out Pono – same delicious mac salad and a WAY bigger selection. When I went to Aloha I usually ate mahi mahi with rice and mac. But at Pono I had that option, plus fresh poke bowls, and so much more! The food is always tasty and fast. The prices are reasonable (although Poke varies based on the availability of fish) and there is something for the hubs and me.
Have you had Poke before? It’s a typically a raw salad served as an appetizer in Hawaii. It’s commonly made with sushi grade ahi tuna. But at Pono, you can get it in a bowl with rice and chose from whatever fish is fresh. I usually a salmon poke bowl with avocado – so good! But recently I had scallops with spicy sauce. It was a nice little kick to my favorite. And of course, I have to order a side of mac salad (with a lot of siracha!).
The restaurant is very low key and casual. It’s the type of restaurant where you walk up to order and they bring you your food. But they almost always have live music – a variety of bands and musicians play. They also share the space with Reef Bar, so you can get your drink on while you’re there too. But most of the time, the hubs and I just get our food to go. Plus where else can you get some good Guava juice… or even better (but really worse for you) POG from Hawaiian Sun? 😉
So if you’re the only Santa Cruzian who hasn’t tried Pono, better get on it! Aloha!