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Peek Inside United Noodles’ New Hawaiian Restaurant

Spam musubi on the South Side? We love to see it.

Em Cassel|

It’s softly open now through Friday.

Ever since the closure of Unideli in the early days of the pandemic, shopping trips at United Noodles have been a little less joyful.

Oh, sure, the restaurant area was briefly a bev chain called Machi Machi, but with all the milk teas and sugary fruit drinks lining the fridges at this Asian grocer, that always felt a little redundant. I'm leaving with a sweet drink treat no matter what—why not add a restaurant with some solid food?

Which is why it was such a delight in August when Warren Seta and Jess Kelley, the partnered duo behind Ono Hawaiian Plates, announced they'd open their second location inside United Noodles' restaurant space. It's a real win-win, as the new location, which joins their four-year-old spot inside the North Loop Galley food hall, will also act as Ono's central location—there's a commissary kitchen here to help with the catering biz. 

(More like Oh Yes Hawaiian Plates, am I right? Folks!)

Em Cassel

This week, we got our first sneak peek at the new Ono, which will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday. It's colorful and warm inside, with island music playing from a big speaker above the register. The beachy space is full of picnic tables and bordered by blown-up photos of Hawaii, which will either transport you to sunnier climes or mock you relentlessly as you step up to the counter on a subzero January day.

The food, though? Now that'll transport ya for sure. The menu here is large—broader, if I'm not mistaken, than it is at the Galley's Ono Hawaiian Plates—with everything from a burger and fried chicken sandwich to poke bowls to platters of Hawaiian fried rice, sesame chicken, and Japanese vegetable curry. The dishes tend toward the carnivorous side of the spectrum, with a number of combo platters involving BBQ chicken, kalbi short ribs, and garlic shrimp. And they've got six (!) flavors of canned Hawaiian Sun, like Lilikoi Passion and Guava Nectar.

A press release promised "generous portions," and they're not kidding. Lifting the takeout container of chicken katsu and kalua pork ($15.50), I remarked on its heft; opening it, I encountered what can only be described as a mountainous quantity of fried chicken, pork, white rice, and mac salad, bursting with flavor as big as the portions.

Em Cassel

This is the part that tasted like pure summer: a pile of barbecue-friendly food, fried chicken with a tangy dipping sauce, mayo-y mac salad swimming alongside juicy, tender pork. Ono doesn't offer a kalua pork sandwich, but if they slapped it on a sloppy joe with some slaw I'd order it in a heartbeat—it was the most unforgettable bite of the dishes we ordered.

Because while the katsu and kalua could have easily fed two, we also walked with a spicy poke bowl ($19.75) from the #PokeIsNotASalad section of the menu. Served on a bed of soft rice with a sweet heat and refreshing veggies, it summoned warm weather in its own way (and it too arrived in a portion that justified the price tag). And then there was the Spam musubi ($3.50 apiece), which is simply one of the greatest snack foods the world over: a handheld pocket of salty canned ham product, sweet sauce, and rice wrapped in nori. What's not to love?

Ono Hawaiian Plates at United Noodles is softly open through Friday, January 19, from 4-8 p.m. There'll be a grand opening on January 20 with music and hula. Oh, and the Ono that's heading for the Highland Park Lunds? We hear "unexpected factors" led to a delayed opening. That grab-and-go counter will open "once they’re settled and can rock that commissary kitchen," according to their PR team.

Ono Hawaiian Plates @ United Noodles
Address: 2015 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for on-site dining, with takeout available until 8 p.m.

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