Brush up on your best Hawaiian pidgin, braddah, and head over to Ohana Grille for da kine Hawaiian fusion pupus, street tacos and all your Island favorites. Ohana Grill Hawaiian Fusion Eatery is bringing the spirit of aloha to Edgewater at 2045 Sheridan Boulevard.
The space that was most recently Thailicious offers a large outdoor patio that opens to an expansive view of Sloan's Lake in the foreground and the Denver skyline in the background. It’s not quite the Pacific Ocean, but you’ll be able to enjoy photographs of the picturesque Hawaiian Pacific in the spacious dining room inside.
Ohana Grille is the dream of chef Rich Braunthal and his wife, Tina. “My goal was to have this restaurant in five years, and I did it in two,” the chef notes.
The journey began with Braunthal’s love of Hawaiian and Asian fusion cuisine and a dilapidated food truck that needed to be gutted and rebuilt from scratch. The original truck started out as Denver 808 (a nod to Hawaii’s area code) several years ago, and then a second truck was added called Ohana Grille. Running the trucks helped the Braunthals gauge public interest in Hawaiian food, dial in recipes and refine the menu. The original truck was sold, and the Ohana Grille truck is currently off line for the winter (but will resume in the spring).
In addition to the new eatery (which operates as counter-service for lunch and full-service for dinner) Ohana Grille does a significant amount of catering for special events, so Braunthal’s second in command is operations and catering manager Elise Miller.
The Hawaiian fusion menu is the culmination of Braunthal's culinary background and life experience. Originally from Chile, Braunthal started out with Latin roots and grew up partly in Southern California. He also lived for several years in Hawaii, honing his craft in Waikiki restaurants. Many Hawaiian dishes are a fusion of Pacific Rim and American cooking in the first place, but Braunthal also married into a Korean family in a previous marriage, giving him even broader culinary exposure.
The chef's food philosophy? “Less is more," he explains. "Most dishes should only have four or five ingredients, max. Let the flavors of the food come through.”
For those from Hawaii or who have lived there for any significant period of time, the menu offers familiar dishes like kalua pork, poke, loco moco, Spam fried rice and other plate lunches, along with malasadas (Hawaiian doughnuts) and fresh-baked white-chocolate macadamia-nut cookies.
Battle-tested on the food-truck circuit, Ohana Grille's popular street tacos are also offered in a choice of teriyaki chicken or beef, bulgogi pork, grilled mahi mahi, kalua pork or grilled shrimp. The tacos can be ordered with various accoutrements like mango pineapple salsa, sweet Thai chili aioli, citrus slaw, cilantro and cotija cheese (among others).
Hawaii is famous for its abundance of seafood, and Ohana Grille offers several dinner entrees to choose from, including macadamia-nut mahi mahi, seared ahi, red snapper and grilled pompano.
When you only have one burger on the menu, it better be da kine. The Big Kahuna burger starts as a half-pound of beef seasoned with a housemade Thai chili spice blend, cooked to order and served on a brioche bun with organic greens, sliced tomato and Swiss cheese. The burger comes with a choice of two sides; as all Hawaiians know, those are macaroni salad and steamed white rice. But you can also find other side dishes on the menu: potato salad, fried rice, Island slaw, sautéed vegetables and sweet-potato fries with sea salt and sweet Thai chili aioli.
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A few other signature dishes include a composed roasted beet salad, shoyu chicken, and yakisoba noodles with a choice of meats. Rounding out the menu is a fun selection of appetizers (pupus), pastry-chef-quality specialty desserts (like guava cake), and an enticing array of handcrafted signature cocktails at the full bar.
You won’t find warm tropical waters, big waves or hula dancers at Ohana Grille, but you also won’t have to suffer a long plane ride, TSA agents, busloads of tourists or sand in your shoes to get your fix of Hawaii.
Ohana Grille is located at 2045 Sheridan Boulevard in Edgewater and is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call 303-232-0787 or go to ohanagrille.com for more information.