Pau Hana on north Capitol Hill offers a flavorful taste of Hawaii, without the tacky bamboo and fake grass skirts, but it may take some searching to find the restaurant's entrance.
You don’t have to spend the money on a flight to Hawaii to get an authentic taste of the islands. You just have to find Pau Hana on the north end of Capitol Hill. But the trick is finding it.
Nestled on the back side of a building that corners 10th Avenue East and East Miller Street, the entrance is a little hidden. But once inside, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Oahu.
“One of the hurdles we have here is we are on a major thoroughfare, but our door is on the side street,” co-owner Pete Duane said. “We’ll have customers who have walked past here every day for the past year and never noticed it, then one day look up and saw our sign.”
And what those people find inside is what brings them back for more.
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The menu: Everything you would find at a luau, from Kalua Pig (a salty, slow-roasted smoked pig) to short ribs and coconut shrimp. But no trip to the islands is complete without a cocktail. And co-owner Bruce Wilson, a former bartender in Hawaii, claims to make the most authentic mai tai in the area.
What to write home about: Check out their BBQ chicken — grilled with Huli Huli glaze and served with a side of rice. The Ahi Tuna Poke melts like butter in your mouth, with an onion and spicy kick. And don’t forget the Spam Musubi (fried Spam, served on sushi rice wrapped in nori).
The setting: Pau Hana feels like Hawaii, only without the tacky bamboo and fake grass skirts. There are photos lining the walls of the owner’s favorite places on the islands. And a big photo of Duane’s inspiration, his mother, hanging on the back wall.
Summing up: Ahi Tuna Poke ($11.95), Spam Musubi ($4.95), Kalua Pig ($9.95) and Hawaiian BBQ Chicken ($9.95) came out to $36.80 plus tax and tip.