When you walk into Aloha Coffee and Grill loud reggae and tropical music are constantly playing over the speakers. Surfing is perpetually on the TV and the whole restaurant is bathed in bright yellow and blue. All of this was par for the course of what you expect from a Hawaiian restaurant.
When you look at the left main wall you see a whole gallery of photos and a small wooden decoration that says Ohana, which means family. Featured in the pictures are the daughters, brother, wife and parents of Aloha Coffee and Grill’s owner, Jason Stolberg. A Hawaiian map is painted on the wall.
“Because we have family on all the islands,” Stolberg said.
Stolberg comes from Kaneohe on “the windward side of Oahu.” Before moving to Colorado and attending Colorado State University, he had a café in Hawaii. He learned to cook from his family, particularly from his father and grandfather.
“You know you get a choice, you’re either indoors or outdoors,” Stolberg said. “So if you’re outdoors you were raking up the yard or mowing, if you’re indoors you were cleaning or cooking, so I choose the cooking part.”
For Thanksgiving, Stolberg’s family would have about 55 or 75 people over, he said.
“That’s always been my life, my family always fed everybody,” Stolberg said. “We always had really big parties during holidays and stuff with neighbors and friends.”
With the photos, the simple aesthetics and the friendly atmosphere, Stolberg wants to restaurant to have a homely environment, he said.
“We’re obviously trying to be really casual and friendly and open to everyone,” Stolberg said. “If you can make it in here to eat we’re happy to have you.”
The meals have large portion sizes. The menu consists of recipes entirely from Stolberg and his wife’s families. The menu features classic Hawaiian recipes like chicken katsu, kalua pig and mochi. The spacious room and simple furniture made it feel like a family kitchen.
Tyler Schump is from Hawaii and has worked for the cafe for the past two years. For him, it has become home.
“I see families come in all the time,” said Tyler Stevens, one of the cafe’s employees. “The Hawaiians that come here, I’ve seen some almost in tears, just happy to get a piece of home. They’ll bring their families here, you’ll see the dad or someone pick up a ukulele off the wall and start playing it, everyone just hangs out.”
Ty Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tydavisACW