Noho’s is Ono Kine Grinds

Ono Kine Grinds

Oh Portland, I forgot how much I missed  you.  When I first left you, it was hard on both of us, I’m sure.  But I was excited about my new life in the foreign land of Canada and I knew we’d see each other on occasion.  Life has a way of taking over your best laid plans though.  I saw you less and less as the years passed.

But we had good times.  Remember last summer when I came down to see you and then I got SUPER lost looking for Cost Plus World Market even though I had been there so many times?  Hahaha! And then I couldn’t even find Washington Square!  How is that possible?! I don’t know, but I drove right by it.

Well, it was good to see you this summer.  I was smart and made sure to Google Map everything first, so I wouldn’t get lost.  Your little lesson about how much you can forget in six years wasn’t easily forgotten.

There are so many wonderful things about you that it was tough to decide what parts of you I could fit into my schedule.  Everywhere I drove, memories of you flooded my senses.

Like all the fun times that I had with my girlfriend—let’s call her “Macy”—who used to work here:

Jiggles Dancers

"The best wiggles are at Jiggles."

Funny how things change.  “Macy” is a mom now, like me.

Portland, remember when I used to be a punk, or at least that was how I self-identified, and I used to “spange” for money for Burger King Whoppers?  That was back when Whoppers were 99 cents and it was that or nothing ’cause we were so poor.

Dot's CafeBut you stuck with me though the good and the bad, and eventually you did right by me.  I went from being a 17-year-old barista at Coffee People, back when it was still owned by Jim and Patty, to being a manager.  Man, that year, it seemed like I was living the high life.  No more Whoppers, I had graduated to the occasional breakfast at the greasy spoon, Dots Cafe.

Years later, when I got that job at one of your hospitals, things got even better.  I found out that there was a Hawaiian restaurant called Noho’s Hawaiian Cafe.  When I was missing Kihei and overwhelmed by my food memories from there, I would visit Noho’s.  I would start thinking about the old Azeka’s grocery store on South Kihei Road and how, back when it had been a full-service grocery store circa 1993, they used to sell the best Maui ribs in their meat department.  Oh yeah, and Azeka’s macaroni salad: true local style.  Mmm, that was hella good, as we used to  say in Maui in the early 90s, before Gwen Stefani made it popular.  When I would start thinking about all this, Portland, my roommate and I would head over to Noho’s ’cause I could afford the $13 platter now that I was making the “big bucks” at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.  Noho’s was Hawaiian-style food just the way I remembered it.

So when I came back to visit you, I knew I had to go to Noho’s.  And so it was, as I was driving into your southeast, that I remembered just how much I love you.  I’m sorry to say that I did forget for a while.

When I parked at the intersection of SE 26th and Clinton St., I was delighted to see that The Clinton theater is not only still up and running, but it is still doing it’s Saturday ritual of a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Thanks, Portland, for not changing everything.

The Clinton

Portland, how I miss you!  I miss your quaint old neighbourhoods and how everyone bicycles everywhere whenever possible.  But I especially miss how you actually have Hawaiian food, unlike Vancouver.  Sure, Urbanspoon lists one Hawaiian restaurant in the Lower Mainland, but I looked up the menu and it is NOT Hawaiian food.

My friends Matt and Michelle met me at Noho’s.  It had been over 5 years since I saw them last, but they hadn’t changed too much.  Noho’s hadn’t changed much either.  It still looks the same.  Still has the green picnic tables lining the sidewalk.  Still has the same food, although ever so slightly more expensive.  But hey, I haven’t been to Noho’s in about 6 years, so the extra buck or two seems reasonable to me.

Noho's Hawaiian Cafe

Noho's Hawaiian Cafe

I ordered the “Blalah” (big) size of the Mixed Plate, which comes with Teriyaki Steak and Kimo’s Sweet Ribs, two small scoops of macaroni salad, and three small scoops of sticky rice for just under $20.  No, I didn’t think I could eat it on my own, but Little Man and I were going to share it.  It also comes in a regular size and “Menehune” (meh-neh-hoo-neh; small).  I ordered the Mixed Plate because although I was pretty sure that it was the Kimo’s Sweet Ribs that I like so much, I wasn’t positive.  Plus, Little Man will eat anything doused in teriyaki sauce.

Blalah Mixed Plate

Blalah Mixed Plate

Once the huge platter arrived and I started eating, I remembered that, yes, it is Kimo’s Sweet Ribs that I really like.  The Teriyaki Steak was pretty tough and was quite the chore to eat, even for a teriyaki enthusiast like Little Man.  The ribs weren’t exactly fall-off-the-bone, but they were exactly like Azeka’s ribs and that is all that mattered to me.  The macaroni salad was soooo good, just like they do it in Hawaii.  The portion was ridiculously big.  I ended up giving Matt and Michelle the rest of the steak to take home to their doggies.

Matt, Michelle, and I discussed the current state of Hawaiian food in you, Portland.  Apparently, there has been a wave of new Hawaiian restaurant openings in the past decade and Noho’s is no longer the only place—nor the best, says Matt—for me to get all nostalgic.  Regardless, I still think Noho’s is ono kine grinds.

So Portland, thanks for the good times.  I’ll see you again next year.  Until then, I’ll be dreaming of you.

Noho’s Hawaiian Cafe

2525 SE Clinton Street

Portland, OR


Noho's Hawaiian Cafe on Urbanspoon

7 Responses to “Noho’s is Ono Kine Grinds”
  1. fishboy says:

    I’m jealous, LnL just isn’t cutting it anymore…

      • fishboy says:

        L&L Hawaiian BBQ, it’s the mainland equivalent of L&L Drive in back in Hawaii. Fast food version of local food. We’ve got one a town over that’s holding me over until I find where my friend Clinton is cooking these days. If nothing else it’s a supply of passable musubi.

        I’m actually shocked that Vancouver lacks local style food, I’m a tad less jealous of it’s residents now.

        • Yeah, we don’t even have this LnL that you speak of. :-(

          Do you remember the old Azeka’s? Rob H. said he remembered it “before it became Ace Hardware.” I had forgotten that! My sister used to buy the Maui ribs and macaroni salad, then she’d heat up canned corn with a dash of salt and sprinkle of pepper. I thought I was in heaven. Especially since food had always been in such short supply when I had lived with my parents. My strongest memory of when I FIRST moved to Maui: as much food as I wanted to eat, available anytime.

          • fishboy says:

            I know I was there, but actually picturing it prior to the switch is hard. I think it became Ace in like 1990. What I wonder is how the snack shop there is doing. When I think about the food in Kihei I really do still tear up. What fabulous treats, Shave ice and burgers from Suda’s (near where you socked me the temple), prime rib the size of a buick from the seediest looking deli in the world, that damn fish and chips place… hell just being able to buy a slab of blood red tuna at the grocery store.

  2. KimHo says:

    Just came back from Portland and dropped by Bambo Grove just because I found there was such cuisine there! Will write my past in a couple of weeks; however, at least I can say my experience was… Unique… :)

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