Flying Pig Cafe’s Loss is Aloha Cafe’s Gain


Porno appearance with Ron Jeremy aside, I’ve been an unabashed fan of the Flying Pig Truck since trying them out back in August.  So when I heard that they were opening a “cafe” downtown with an expanded menu I got pretty excited.  Duck fried rice?  Yes please.  After all, anybody that can make tofu taste this delicious must be doing something right.  Sadly running a truck well doesn’t translate to immediate brick and mortar successquality…

When I stopped in on Monday at 1:45pm they were still in the weeds from the lunch rush, with practically ever customer in the joint angry about something (missing food, missing drinks, general slowness). On one hand I feel bad for the place.  Customers should know that a brand new restaurant needs some time to get things on track (especially during the lunch rush in a high density part of town like DTLA.)  On the other hand, the one thing I tried was pretty terrible, especially compared to the delicious food on the truck, and the portion was laughably small for the price.  I think I might give Flying Pig Cafe another week (or four) to get everything sorted out.

Thankfully Aloha Cafe is right across the street, and was ready to save the day!


Located on the outskirts of Little Tokyo, I’ve been wanting to try this spot since it was recommended in the comments back in September. 15 years old, and formerly located in Monterrey Park, Aloha Cafe’s menu is pretty typical for a Hawaiian spot in L.A.


They have “kal-b” beef ($9) and “kal-b” chicken ($7.75), or you can get both ($9.25) along with rice and macaroni salad.  The kalbi beef is pretty typical for cheap Hawaiian places like these (fine but nothing great… and certainly not as good as anything you’d get in K-Town.)  And the strips of chicken benefited from the marinade and the nice smoky char from grilling.


Don’t like char?  You’ll be better off with the teriyaki beef ($8.75) or the teriyaki chicken ($8.75), which also comes as a combo ($8.95).  Unlike the kal-b, which gets its flavor from a marinade and grilling, the meat that comes with this order has no char and gets all its flavor from the sweet teriyaki sauce that gets squeezed all over the top.


I’m no loco moco expert, but their version was nice and peppery, and I can’t imagine anybody complaining about the portion.  I would definitely order this again.


They also have daily rib specials for $8-9, like short ribs (Monday & Friday), beef ribs (Tuesdays), teriyaki ribs (Wednesday), and sweet and sour ribs (Thursday), all of which come with chow fun.


But the best meat of the day by far was the char sui which is available as a plate ($7.95) or as part of a breakfast- which they serve all day long.  This two meat platter came with two eggs, two scoops of rice, Hawaiian bread, and Portuguese sausage for $7.50.   Unlike the char sui you get at Chinese food restaurants (I’m looking at you Uncle John’s Cafe), Aloha Cafe’s was thickly cut, with this great sticky sweet exterior, while still remaining moist and tender (you might say the secret ingredient is pork fat). Dip it in the hot wasabi mustard they give you on the side, and it’s magic.  The char sui is not just the best thing at Aloha Cafe, but possibly the best thing I’ve had at any Hawaiian restaurant in L.A.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks so- if you go for a late lunch it’s often sold out.


The mustard isn’t the only condiment you want to get with your lunch, make sure you also get their chili water (which will usually come out with more typical hot sauces.)  The floating chilies give you a good idea of where the heat comes from, but there is also this lingering fruity aftertaste that goes really well with just about everything they serve.  Just be careful when you pour… the juice comes out pretty quick.

Aloha Cafe doesn’t have the ambiance of Rutt’s in Culver City, or the speed and cheapness of the many Hawaiian fast food options in L.A. (Ono’s, L&L, etc.)  And some of their stuff is perfectly mediocre.  But their loco moco is appropriately gut-bomb’ish, and that chili water and hot mustard goes a long way to improving anything you end up ordering.  And if you work in Downtown, and are craving some flying pig, Aloha Cafe’s char sui positively soars.

THE + (What somebody who likes about this place would say)

  • I work Downtown and love Hawaiian food, and this is the best option
  • I love my loco moco peppery
  • Their char sui really is amazing
  • That chili water and hot mustard is soooo good!
  • Everything is made to order, and comes out fresh
  • Breakfast all day?  I love it.
  • $2 parking right in front of the restaurant with validation

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • They run out of some of their better things a lot
  • Their meats are mostly just ok… nothing special
  • Everything is made to order, so sometimes it takes awhile
  • They have saimin soup, but don’t stir fry it like Rutt’s!

Aloha Cafe, 410 E 2nd St (btw. Central+Alameda), 213-346-9930



  • ALOHA! this is the first i’ve heard of this place!

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    I agree that one’s expectations should be adjusted a bit at a new restaurant, but I don’t believe in giving anyone TOO much slack for being new. They are still taking your money and just like any other performance should have their act together from the very start.

  • Aha! I was wondering what happened to that place formerly in Monterey Park! (Not “Monterrey” as spelled above.)

  • Aloha is my go to Hawaiian joint especially for the Loco Moco! The portions are so big, I usually split it.

    Flying Pig Cafe never recovered. The place is always empty when I walk by.

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