"I built the food truck almost entirely in my driveway at home," Braunthal says, but he won't have quite as much work to do at his new restaurant space, since the previous owners left the kitchen and dining room in good shape. He's expecting a quick turnaround, focusing primarily on changes to the interior decor, and hopes to open Ohana Grille by October 1.
Braunthal lived in Hawaii for 25 years, but before that lived in Aspen, where he owned a small cafe. While in Hawaii he ran his own restaurant with his wife, and they're bringing a taste of island cooking to the new eatery, which the owner refers to as "Hawaiian fusion."
The menu will be quick-casual at lunchtime, with noodle bowls, poke, chicken and beef teriyaki, and Hawaiian plate lunches like loco moco, chicken katsu and Spam-fried rice. One of the truck's specialties, Hawaiian street tacos, will also be served — with mahi mahi, Korean pork and kalua pork served on corn tortillas.
"We'll have something a little more Pacific Rim for dinner," Braunthal adds, with grilled fish and other menu items he has been perfecting through his catering company. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
Braunthal's main reason for opening a restaurant is that the food truck had become so successful that he wasn't able to serve his original customer base. Like many trucks, Ohana Grille started out serving food at local breweries and festivals, but there's more money in private events. "We're almost out of the brewery circuit altogether because we're booked with so many private events," he explains. "With a restaurant, we'll be able to serve all of our customers again."
There's currently another Ohana in Denver: Ohana Island Kitchen, which started out as a walk-up-only window at 15th and Umatilla streets in the summer of 2016 and moved to its current location at 2563 15th Street later that year. The two are not related; the LoHi Ohana is owned and operated by Louie and Regan Colburn.