Recently a friend shared an article from FOX News about Fort Collins being an unlikely foodie city. Of course the blurb on our city only mentions our craft beer culture, and somehow that landed us on a foodie city list. Color me shocked that we’ve landed on another “best of” list, and even more so because of our beer. Another day, another article about the same damn things.
What was interesting is that our food culture was completely ignored, and if restaurants had been considered, we wouldn’t have made the cut for this list. Sorry, Fort Collins – in a city overrun by pizza, burgers, and average Tex-Mex restaurants, we are not yet a foodie city.
When we think of what makes up a real foodie city, it’s the diversity of options. We don’t have a Chinatown like countless other cities do. We don’t have an Ethiopian street, anywhere that serves paella, good dim sum, or a solid Korean restaurant. Fort Collins is frequently labeled as a “Wonderbread” city by residents, both on the social and the food options. We are not a diverse area. And thus, we are not really a foodie city. We just like to eat.
This is why we need to celebrate and pull for those restaurants who are stepping up to the plate with quality and diversity. Because it’s no use being different unless it’s good. Fort Collins has been a barren wasteland when it comes to Polynesian fare. There’s Okole Maluna Hawaiian Grill in Windsor, and that’s it unless you’d like to drive farther south to larger cities.
Fortunately for us, Aloha Hawaiian Coffee and Grill opened April 2015, offering both the essential aspects that will help us grow into a real foodie city.
Aloha Hawaiian Coffee and Grill started out as a coffee shop inside Foothills Mall, but moved out due to construction and relocated to where Falbo’s Pizza and Black Market Tavern used to be on College Avenue next to Pudge Brothers Pizza. Owners, Denise and Jason Stolberg lived in Hawaii and have extended family there, so they’re bringing the real deal to life in the Front Range.
Aloha specializes in low-key comfort foods with a menu of primarily plate lunch. The portion sizes are enormous, even with the smaller portion size option. You’ll have plentiful scoops of rice and macaroni salad to go alongside a handful of Hawaiian favorite entrees.
On the first visit the kids ordered the Grilled Teriyaki Chicken – marinated for days in their special sauce, then grilled over lava rocks. And also the Chicken Katsu – coated in seasoned panko, friend and then cut into strips with a side of katsu sauce on the side.
The small plate portion size was large enough that they could have split one dish together. Shockingly, they weren’t fans of the macaroni salad or the entrees because they were on the bland side, though, that’s the signature style for plate lunch. I liked the grilled teriyaki the best because of both the chargrilled flavor and the tender texture of the chicken.
I ordered the Sesame Ginger Swai – pan-cooked fish simmered in a housemade ginger, garlic, and sesame marinade. I really enjoyed the flavor of the marinade, especially loaded with fresh ginger. I only wished they had used a different white fish instead of tilapia. No doubt is seafood sourcing difficult in Colorado, and when price points are hovering below $10 per plate. Tilapia is the easy-go to option, but it’s not always the best when it comes to texture.
We also split Spam Musubi together. This was fantastic! Spam is a somewhat regular menu item in our house. I actually hate it when Bill grills it up to make Spam and eggs because the house reeks for days. It’s better tasting than its aroma. Their Spam Musubi is almost addictive. I love it.
We returned to dig into their breakfast menu which is served all day as long as they haven’t used all of the ingredients in the morning.
The kids both had the small plate of the Sunrise Pancakes – coconut banana pancakes served with housemade macadamia nut syrup. Again the portion was large enough they could have split this. But wow, was it decadently delicious! I absolutely loved the housemade syrup that resembled a pool of sweet milk on the plate.
I ordered the Loco Moco – two scoops of rice topped with two hamburger patties, topped with two fried eggs, and then smothered in gravy. This was the best Loco Moco I’ve had yet. The gravy was perfect – full of flavor with a little bit of spice. I shoveled that into my face like it was my last meal. This would also make the most excellent hangover breakfast.
I also had an iced Thai coffee to go along with it. It was totally refreshing and delightfully sweet. I wouldn’t say that it’s any different from the plethora of coffee houses around here, but I was perfectly happy with it.
We also had the Kalua Pig for take-out for Bill waiting at home – slow cooked pulled pork with Hawaiian sea salt, kaiwe smoke, and cabbage with a side of rice and macaroni salad. Good lord, was this damn good too. It had a lot of lovely smoky flavor with just the right amount of saltiness. And there were leftovers for days, which almost tasted better. It was that excellent!
Fort Collins may not really be a foodie city yet, but places like Aloha Coffee and Grill are adding a little variety to our Wonderbread-like culinary landscape. Slowly but surely we’ll make our way up to the accolades of Fox News without the help of our craft beer culture being mistaken for food.
Aloha Coffee and Grill
822 South College Avenue
no website available, but they are on Facebook
Kid-Friendly? You bet!
Parking Lot: Very few select spaces in the alley behind the building
Healthy options: Brown rice and mixed green salad subs for macaroni salad and white rice.
Budget-Friendly? Absolutely. Everything is under $10
Recent Health Inspection: Excellent