A mahalo – the Hawaiian word to express gratitude – is in order for Aloha Cookin’. The new restaurant expands downtown East Lansing’s dining options for a fresh, local meal. Honolulu native Chris Hong spoke to ELi about how he brought the new Hawaiian restaurant to the area.
“I moved back to the states this year to start Aloha Cookin’ with my family,” he said. “The stars of the restaurant are my amazing parents, who do the cookin’. My parents immigrated from Korea to Hawaii in the ‘80s, and they opened their very first restaurant there in 1991. After moving to the mainland, they worked at a number of Japanese and Korean restaurants, a few of which they owned. But with Aloha Cookin’, we wanted to return to our roots.”
Friday, Oct. 8, marked the first official day of being open for Aloha Cookin’, and the community response has been positive.
“People have been very welcoming,” Hong said. “Many come to our restaurant with curiosity and excitement to try new dishes. We’ve had customers from Hawaii as well, and it’s an amazing feeling when you’re told the food tastes just like home.”
The new restaurant offers a varied selection of Hawaiian favorites, including saimin, loco moco, kalua pig, musubi, and poke. Hong said the food’s melting pot of flavors reflects the culture’s diversity and harmony. Given the wide-ranging population of the local community, East Lansing made for a fitting spot.
Hong’s sister also started attending MSU last year, which made opening the restaurant even more of a family affair.
“We wanted to bring some aloha to Michigan, where there aren’t very many Hawaiian restaurants,” he said. “Outside of the West Coast, they’re hard to find on the mainland. The vibrant city of East Lansing seemed like the perfect place for our restaurant.”
So far, one of the most popular dishes is the Huli Huli Chicken, which Hong said is a great introduction for those who haven’t tasted Hawaiian cuisine before.
The restaurant offers appetizers, classics, barbeque, seafood, curry, Korean entrées, saimin and ramen, musubi and Kimbap, wings, desserts, drinks, and à la carte sides. Main entrees include rice and sides, and range from $11 to $18. Other items range from $6 to $10.
Aloha Cookin’ is located at 350 Albert Ave., and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 2: 30 p.m. and then from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. They are closed on Monday. They offer takeout orders, pickup and online delivery from their website.
This article was updated to reflect the newest hours of operation for Aloha Cookin’.
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