Featured photo: Sione Maumalanga prepares food on his food truck, Ono’s. Photo by Jim Noetzel.
If you were to ask me to name one person who will have an outsized impact on Shreveport-Bossier’s restaurant scene in 2019, I would not have to think long about my choice. That person will be Sione Maumalanga. His popular food truck, Ono’s Traditional Hawaiian Cuisine, will make the transition into a brick-and-mortar restaurant – barring any unforeseen circumstances – in January 2019. While Maumalanga was understandably careful not to speak in concrete, definite terms – it’s clear that he and his backers are still defining exactly what they want Ono’s Hawaiian Grill to be – he recently shared some updates on what is likely to be one of the most exciting new Shreveport-Bossier restaurants to debut in 2019.
“Honestly, I’m most excited about getting into a big kitchen with a walk-in that will allow us to create a wider variety of traditional Hawaiian dishes,” Maumalanga said.
Some of those dishes may include macadamia nut chicken and waffles, “a lot more options for poke bowls” including squid poke, and “a lot more seafood.” Maumalanga is also clearly thinking about the restaurant’s bar program, which will have to overcome – or at least confront – American expectations of “Tiki” drinks that flourished on menus across the country during the mid-twentieth century.
“Our bar will serve specialty drinks from Hawaii done correctly, like our Mai Tai will be different,” Maumalanga said. “We’re leaning more towards a traditional Hawaiian atmosphere. There won’t be a lot of Tikis displayed. We’re going to try to create a homey, welcoming vibe.”
Maumalanga sees the restaurant’s famous patio (the space will be remembered by many Shreveport locals as an El Chico that had a fantastic patio) as an opportunity to transport customers to his native Hawaii.
“We wanted to create an outside atmosphere where our guests could come and relax and feel like they’re on vacation,” he said. “At the same time, I want people in Hawaii, when they read or see anything about Ono’s, to say ‘Man, that is like Hawaii – it’s just like home.'”
One of many wonderful things about Ono’s Hawaiian Grill is its location at 4015 Fern Avenue in Shreveport, sandwiched in between Ki Mexico and Marilynn’s Place. These three restaurants existing within a stone’s throw of one another can only be a good thing.
As we wait on Ono’s Hawaiian Grill to be completed, Maumalanga asks supporters to keep an eye on the Ono’s Traditional Hawaiian Cuisine Facebook page. In the near future, he plans to park their food truck in the parking lot of their forthcoming restaurant and serve one or two dishes that will be featured at the brick-and-mortar eatery.