: Ohana Kitchen

Where to Find Hawaiian-Style Food in Oregon

Consider supporting these businesses and fundraising efforts for Maui wildfire relief.
November 29, 2021 (Updated December 18, 2023)

It may still be warm out, but chilly days are ahead and there’s nothing like a taste of aloha to transport our taste buds to the islands.

Oregon has always had a rich connection with the people, cultures, and of course food of Hawaii, as kama’aina (Hawaii transplants) have turned their food passions into thriving restaurants and food carts that are part of the fabric of our food culture. Many of these business owners have been grieving the loss of loved ones and property in Maui since the Lahaina wildfires, and have been working tirelessly to support relief efforts in their island community.

At this time, consider supporting these local businesses and checking their individual websites or social media pages for ways to support Maui. In addition, here are several disaster-relief organizations to consider supporting: Maui Strong Fund, Maui United Way, Maui Food Bank, American Red Cross, World Central Kitchen and Maui Humane Society. You can also donate money from your Oregon BottleDrop account to disaster relief on Maui.

But first, a bit of background about how the aloha spirit runs so deep in Oregon.

Why is there so much Hawaiian-style food in Oregon?

There are two phrases you need to know when you’re talking about Hawaiian food: “ono grinds” and “broke da mouth.” Both are pidgin-English slang for delicious. There’s no shortage of incredible authentic Hawaiian-style restaurants in Oregon thanks to the continued growth of Hawaii transplants looking for a taste of home. (The pipeline is nothing new: Native Hawaiians were among the first outsiders to come to Oregon — they sailed from the islands to Oregon in handmade ships as far back as the late 1800s for trading and later to work as laborers. Several Oregon destinations, like the Owyhee River, even hold Hawaiian place names after the trio of Hawaiian trappers who lost their lives there.) 

The Portland region and cities throughout the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon (in general, nearby any college town) are chock-full of places to grab a traditional “plate lunch.” Those follow a standard formula of two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and a meaty dish like teriyaki beef or chicken, kalbi ribs, or chicken katsu. Don’t forget the classic loco moco — a hamburger patty on rice topped with brown gravy and a fried egg — and the humble spam musubi, a portable rectangle of rice topped with soy-glazed spam, which was a common military ration during World War II in Hawaii. 

Two tiki torches frame a restaurant sign
One of the grand-daddies of the Hawaiian restaurant scene in Portland, Noho's has been serving up island favorites for three decades. Courtesy of Noho's Hawaiian Cafe

“Local” Food and Hawaiian Food

Easy and affordable takeout food, the plate lunch comes from the melting pot of cultures that melded in the 1880s as Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese and other immigrants worked in Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations. They brought their leftover dinner — fish, meat and rice — for lunch in metal tins each day. It soon became a national phenomenon, something you can find (always with wooden chopsticks) in nearly any American city at a food truck, cheery eatery or even taken up a notch at a chef-driven restaurant.   

“You have a huge contingency of locals who have moved away from Hawaii because they’re looking for a better life — there’s more possibilities up here,” says Noho Marchesi, owner of Noho’s Hawaiian Cafe, one of Portland’s classic restaurants, around for three decades. With two locations (Northeast Portland and Medford, where there’s also a large Hawaii contingent), Noho’s is known for its large portion sizes and signature mochiko chicken — crunchy deep-fried bites battered in sweet rice flour and marinated in a sugar-soy sauce mix. Noho prides himself on making all sauces from scratch and keeping things consistent amidst the explosion of local island fare. 

A quick word about the difference between “local” and “Hawaiian”: Hawaiian refers to the specific ethnic group and culture of Hawaii’s Indigenous peoples. Hawaiian dishes, which you might have tried at a luau, include poi (mashed taro root, often sweetened with sugar), kalua pork (traditionally slow-roasted in an underground oven), lau lau (fish and pork wrapped in banana leaves and steamed) and lomi lomi salmon (fresh salted salmon, tomato and onions), among others. These classics have lived on — and now are part of the plate-lunch culture. Most of what you’ll see on a menu, however, is considered “local” or “Hawaiian-style” food.  

Here’s just a small sampling of some of Oregon’s favorite spots that are sure to bring a little dose of aloha to your day. 

A man holds a plate of food and a beer and another man leans in
It's about more than just the food; it's the culture. Many islanders who've since moved to Oregon gravitate to Hawaiian-style foods for nostalgic flavors and community. Courtesy of 808 Grinds

Portland Region

You can’t throw a Spam musubi in the Portland region without finding a great plate-lunch place. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, Roxy’s Island Grill and 808 Grinds are beloved classics, with multiple locations. Bamboo Grove Hawaiian Grille has been serving up aloha along with large plates of island favorites and live music in Southwest Portland since 1999. Also on the west side, hungry diners can find In Da Cutz, a popular food truck in Beaverton, and Kamaaina, a restaurant in Forest Grove that also has a food cart in Hillsboro and another roving truck. Aloha Grill Hawaiian BBQ in Tualatin offers an extensive menu of traditional favorites plus some fun twists like a katsu loco (chicken katsu topped with egg and gravy) and a spam burger with egg. And Hina’s Island Grindz and Catering in Tigard is constantly sold out of crowd-pleasers like kalua pig nachos, Korean fried chicken, spicy ahi poke bowls and more.

On the east side there’s GrindWitTryz, a food cart turned restaurant, and Smokin Fire Fish, both in Northeast Portland. Milwaukie is home to Ohana Hawaiian Cafe, a bright, cheery lunch spot downtown. With two Portland locations, Ate-Oh-Ate (named for the 808 Hawaii area code) is co-owned by Big Island-born chef Ben Dyer, who’s also behind Laurelhurst Market and other Rose City mainstays. 



Meat, breaded cutlets, rice, sauce, macaroni salad sit on a plate
Large portions of proteins, rice and macaroni salad make up the typical "plate lunch." Courtesy of Orchid Grill

Southern Oregon

Maybe it’s the sunshine or maybe it’s the large pipeline of students from Hawaii to Southern Oregon University in Ashland, but there’s an insatiable appetite for Hawaiian-style food in this region. Hawaiian Hut in Medford and Central Point serve much more than just heaping plates of tasty teriyaki — they are havens where homesick students and even longtime Oregonians can get a taste of home. Kona Bento in Central Point, Orchid Grill in Grants Pass and North Shore Hawaiian Plate Lunch in Klamath Falls also fill the niche for nostalgic flavors. 

Willamette Valley

Thanks to the large number of Hawaiian students who attend the University of Oregon and Oregon State University and often stay in Oregon after graduating, the Willamette Valley is a hotbed of local comfort food. Hawaii Five-0-Three Cafe in McMinnville brings the smiles with all the local favorites plus a Saturday breakfast menu sure to start your weekend off right: go for the fresh malasadas, loco moco or fried rice and eggs. Local Boyz Hawaiian Cafe (opened in 1991 by Noho Marchesi and his brother, Roy) is a favorite in Corvallis, serving up hefty plate lunches to students and visitors alike. In nearby Albany the Ohana Kitchen food cart, located at The Barn at Hickory Station food-cart hub, offers four sizes of plates, depending on your hunger level. Shaka Brah Food Truck in Salem is a go-to spot for tasty fare, including fresh poke bowls. 

In Eugene Chacha’s Hawaiian Grill and Kalani’s Curbside Island Style Grinds are fast and fresh options for soul-warming curries, stews and saimin (local-style ramen) on a cool day. Hawaiian Time has three locations in Eugene, one in Springfield, two in Salem, one in Oregon City and one in Beaverton — most of which have a drive-thru available.

Two people walk into a restaurant
Island-style restaurants are usually a family affair. Maui-born sushi chef Christian Jakobsen and his wife, Natasha, serve tropical drinks alongside their unique sushi rolls, curries and Pacific Rim-inspired tacos. Courtesy of Josiah Roe

Oregon Coast

Even while the 363 miles of Oregon coastline are vastly different from Hawaii’s shores, there’s a kinship between islanders and foodies on the Oregon Coast. Part of the draw is the surf culture; another is the bounty of fresh ingredients that are the inspiration to every dish. Try Pacific Restaurant, also in Tillamook, for elevated fusion flavors. The Hukilau in Florence is named for the Native Hawaiian tradition of pulling in a fishing net together; the restaurant was an outgrowth of their popular food cart. Owners Christian Jakobsen, a Maui-born sushi chef, and his wife, Natasha, serve tropical drinks alongside their Pacific Rim fare, including unique sushi rolls, curries and even tacos. Just 15 minutes from Newport, Cafe 235 serves us Hawaiian fusion dishes, perfect for a meal just off the beaten path. 

Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge

Islanders are drawn to the Gorge for its water sports and sunshine, and road-trippers looking for excellent local fare rave about Lilo’s BBQ, with locations in Hood River and The Dalles. The ahi poke, teriyaki salmon and huli huli (rotisserie-style) chicken are favorites, and a mai tai at the bar always hits the spot. In Troutdale, Da Pine Grinds food truck (an offshoot of Sugarpine Drive-In) has been a welcome addition to the area. Inspired by the owners’ experiences at Hawaiian luaus and vacations to Kauai, their food combines the spirit of aloha with local farmers market ingredients. Some dishes are even family recipes, with Pacific Northwest flair. Grab a plate lunch and picnic steps away at Glenn Otto Community Park, along the bank of the Sandy River. 

Central Oregon

With its arid, high-desert climate and Mt. Bachelor’s draw of surfers turned snowboarders, Bend is a hot spot for Hawaiian-style eats. Aloha Cafe, Aina Kauai Style Grill and Big Island Kona Mix Plate, located in the Old Mill District, are all reliable go-tos for hungry adventurers. 

About The

Jen Anderson
Jen Anderson is a longtime journalist and travel writer/editor who is now Travel Oregon’s Content & Community Manager, helping to align content for visitors via social media, print and web. She’s called Oregon home for 25 years and loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

Trip Ideas