Filling mahalo leg with pork at L & L Hawaiian Barbecue
For more than a year, Mark Antonation ate his way up Federal Boulevard. With that journey done, he'll now explore different cuisines from around the globe right here in metro Denver, one month at a time, in Ethniche.
Pigs, like people, arrived in waves to the islands of Hawaii, tagging along with the first Polynesians but also bolstering their genetic stock from the subsequent European influx. The feral descendents of those seafaring swine now spread havoc across the archipelago, rooting up native flora and crowding out more delicate species. The primary solution -- eating them -- has had minimal impact on their numbers, but has at least led to the perfection of pork-based recipes over generations. If L & L Hawaiian Barbecue could somehow figure out how to effectively cull and serve Hawaiian pigs at its many locations (175 and growing) throughout the United States, it could perhaps finally provide a solution to this particularly invasive -- if tasty -- problem. Until then, we'll have to be content with L & L's pork-heavy menu, whatever the source.
I met a few friends for a Saturday lunch at L & L, and it seemed as if half of Aurora had similar ideas of pigging out on plate lunches, Asian-inspired grilled or breaded meats, and the pressed, maki-style rice rolls called musubi. It wasn't just busy: It was just short of chaos, with a line out the door, every table full, and customers lingering in every open space waiting for a takeout order or a seat to open.
Mark Antonation The building blocks of Hawaiian grub.
The long but quickly moving queue gave us just enough time to study the menu and come up with a few good picks while contemplating the meaning of the word "mahalo," which, judging by the signs around the joint, could mean anything from "put your trash here" to "thank you" to "you're crazy if you think you're getting another free serving of Sriracha sauce."
In addition to two kinds of roasted pork, Spam in two different preparations, and pork sliders, we also ordered a Korean-style beef and chicken plate lunch, a mound of loco moco, and some malasadas -- sugary little balls of fried dough just big enough to require two bites. With our selections shoveled into Styrofoam clamshells (even though we ordered to eat in -- takeout orders go into additional plastic bags), our little table soon resembled a scale map of the Hawaiian islands modeled from less than ecologically friendly materials: A double-stack of plate lunches representing the Big Island, the short-rib combo standing in for Maui, and the remaining smaller containers representing the more western isles.
Mark Antonation Lau lau and kalua pork combo plate.
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