Island Time Without the Plane Ticket at 'Ohana
Sitting under a grass roof, hearing the sound of a blender, sipping something with an umbrella in it, and gazing at a sunset framed by palm trees sounds good after the Summer That Wasn't, doesn't it? You're already there at Belltown's 'Ohana, where it's been tiki time for 11 years, no plane fare required.
At one end of the bar, a couple schemes about a longer-lasting getaway. "We'll get a time-share," he says. If they wait until their bill comes, they'll be all set with a flyer for 'Ohana's "slice of paradise" condo for rent at Napili Shores, Maui ("call Lulu"). There's also info on the Hawaii General Store on 45th, for all your lei, macadamia nut, and "Fine Aloha Wear" needs. 'Ohana's got the sunset mural, the wooden parrot holding a Corona, the hula girl swaying on a beaded curtain. It's also got what Tiki Bob's central decor department will never provide: dog-eared school pictures behind the bar, dollar bills with inked messages posted everywhere, the aforementioned family-business flyers. The illuminated globe that sits on the bar, its expanses of ocean glowing, was put there by someone who thought you might like to look at it while you're dreaming of island time. A carved wooden clock shows the hour in Hawaii.
The bartender has what can only be described as a chronic giggle. The Blue Hawaiians he makes look and taste like a melted blue Otter Pop; no fancy house-made sweet-and-sour mix here. He's telling the guys at the other end of the bar about a bet he has with a friend regarding who'll have the best Halloween costume. He has to think of something really good, or else grow a mustache and dye it whatever color she says. If she loses, she's getting a bowl put on top of her head and her hair cut according to its edge. He giggles.
The word 'ohana—the apostrophe is for the glottal stop in the pronunciation—means blood relatives in Hawaiian. More loosely, it means the family you choose, including the friends you keep forever and always look out for. At 'Ohana, the food's a Hawaiian mix: sushi, kalua pork, loco moco with macaroni salad, and the favorite Spam musubi, a sort of grilled-Spam sushi roll. Dinner plates can be "Yosh sized" for $5 more: served in the giant portion eaten by Kyle Yoshimura, 'Ohana owner and "fearless leader."
The best moment at 'Ohana happens when a breaker gets thrown—the lights all go out except the strings around the fringed top of the bar, the ones over the bamboo booths, and the globe. The barman ambles into the back to assess the situation without any urgency. In the half-light, this really could be paradise.