Kaka'ako Eats: Joe Aloha Lunch Truck

While it may sound as fictitious as ‘Kukui High School‘ in the 2.0 (2010) reboot of Hawaii Five-O, ‘Joe Aloha‘ is indeed a very real catering business that sets up their lunch truck Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 2pm on Kamake’e Street (same street as Nordstrom Rack and Office Depot, heading mauka, right around the corner from Ward Entertainment Center), fronting Ala Moana Storage…

If you care so to “dine in”,  there’s seating at Joe Aloha’s for you take in the “view”…

Also giving you a landmark reference, here’s Joe Aloha’s smoker on Kamake’e, with the new and chic Moana Pacific condominium towers in the background…

If you drive straight down this way, you’ll be at Ala Moana Beach Park…

Wait? Smoker you say? Uh-huh, yes mam ‘n sir, as in slow-smoked BAR-BE-CUE MEAT, BABY!

Where, as for firewood, while I prefer whole logs and/or chunks (or whatevahz) of Kiawe (Mesquite), Joe Aloha uses “natural hardwood” pellets…

Now for Joe Aloha’s main menu…

The daily specials…

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, which must also include water in the form of drinks…

Without further ado, Joe Aloha’s smoked barbecue grindz, beginning with Diner E’s plate…

Joe Aloha – Smoked Pork Spare Ribs, Brown Rice, Tossed Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Brown Rice, Ahi Miso Soup and Drink (Facebook special). $7

Yes, mention “Facebook” and you get a drink thrown into the deal for FREE. Plus FOUR whole, super-meaty smoked BBQ pork spare ribs? Are you kidding me? What a STEAL! Oh-em-gee! (my new favorite saying).

Another variation of the same plate in Diner A form, with this one having white rice…

And finally the same order, in form for yours truly (the only difference amongst the two being bottled water vs. soda)…

I must say, the Miso Soup was a surprisingly-fantastic compliment to the BBQ Pork Ribs!…

There wasn’t anything especially outstanding about this Miso Soup (it was rather “plain-Jane”, actually), yet its savory essence-with-Japanese-flair was complimentary in every regard. Enough where I can see American-style BBQ  joints regularly incorporating Miso Soup as part of their regular menu. Seriously,  ‘fusion cuisine’ at its best!

Of course BBQ is all about MEAT, so let’s now go through an in-depth taste-and-texture test review of Joe Aloha’s take on BBQ Pork Short Ribs, savoring and salivating vicariously in photos through the three of us…

Om-nom-nom-nom. Seriously though, these pork spare ribs were cooked almost -stress – ALMOST – to perfection, being neither over nor under-done. Witness this shot, where the fibers of the meat are still intact, and not to the point of pulled pork (if you know what I mean)…

That falling-off-the-bones-yet- less-than-pulled-pork doneness affords a fine balance of chew and sensory satisfaction that’s to be coveted.

As for the seasoning of the ribs in plain form without any sauce, I must admit, there was something to be desired, as it came across as – ehem – “non-eventful”. So let’s try it with their “house” BBQ sauce, which is included with each plate…

Eh. boring. Snooze. Primarly because this sauce lacks any sweetness in “OEM” form, and is mostly acidic (“vinegary”), while also lacking any smokey element, which the ribs itself sort of surprisingly lacked. I mean, not bad, but not “BROKE DA’ MOUT”, which is actually quite easy to do.

How easy to do? Well, simply add over-the-counter Hawaiian Sun Quava Jelly to the mix!…

Folks, I KID YOU NOT. All you have to do to make AMAZING BBQ Pork Ribs, is to add Guava Jelly to your favorite BBQ Sauce. I don’t care what brand or flavor of BBQ Sauce. Just add (preferably Hawaiian Sun brand) Guava Jelly to it in a ratio of 1:1 or more in favor of Guava Jelly, and you will have one KIL-LER BBQ Pork Ribs sauce. SO ONO, and best of all, so SIMPLE!

It’s the simple formula that pork and fruit compliment each other, where the sweeter the fruit, the better, while complex acidic elements and spices “bring it up from the back”. I can’t explain this “magical BBQ formula” any better than that.

With that, I’ll just finish off this post with a few more “lustful” views of these succulent slabs ‘o ribs…

Summing it up, we all agreed these pork short ribs were extremely succulent, fall-off-the-bones tender and moist, which alone deserves lots of respect.

Yet (emphasize “YET”) flavor-wise, they certainly could have used more character (or simply salt?) in its seasoning, as well as the included BBQ sauce. There also wasn’t as much smokiness to it as we expected, considering.

The Guava Jelly was certainly a welcome “doctored” addition to the ribs’ overall flavor profile, where at least for me, elevated them from a 2-SPAM Musubi rating to a 4! But I digress, as that’s my very personal opinion.

The value is certainly notable, where at for just $7  for each plate, which includes 3 to 4 super-meaty, slow-smoked pork spare ribs, a separate container of BBQ sauce,  scoop of (brown or white) rice, (fresh tossed green or mac’) salad, plus (daily-featured mis0) soup and drink (when you say you’ve seen them on of Facebook) should have anyone signing-up for seconds, thirds ‘n more!

Joe Aloha Catering
438 Kamake’e Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96814

Tel. (808) 779- 9770

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Related links:
Joe Aloha Lunch Wagon – Yelp user reviews


9 thoughts on “Kaka'ako Eats: Joe Aloha Lunch Truck

  1. Hi Pomai:

    Is there anyway to put the tags down at the bottom of the screen?
    Everytime i look at the title, i always happen to glance and see the spam rating and that kinda ruins the whole fun of reading the review. Its kinda like going to a movie and having the guy next to you tell you the ending before the previews are even done!


  2. Yeah the ribs look yummy (and the portions really generous!), Pomai, but I love the selection of condiments your office has on hand! Guava jelly?! That’s genius!

  3. Pomai, the best food business are one with low overhead. No landlord or rent on it. In California many buffet restaurants now have takeout or catering too. Due to customers like food so much could buy some to takeout. One business with different ways to make money.

  4. Gods, the CRUELTY of showing all that glorious meat! It makes me cry that, for all the food courts we have in this part of the world, we don’t have lunch trucks/carts that smoke their own jim-dandy meats! Where is the justice?!?

  5. Midge, I’m still waiting for your report on ‘Burger Machine’.

    Spotty, indeed, a FANTASTIC “marriage made in heaven” it makes of the hearty-smooth, very Japanese-flavored Miso Soup when paired with the very western Pork Ribs. Kinda’ the same magic as SPAM Musubi. Go figure! Polar opposites always attract.

    Kelike, yet there could be a double-edged sword reaction to that thought, which is often the case.

    Molly, after this “culinary moment”, I’d proclaim Guava Jelly a MUST in EVERYONE’s pantry. Seriously!

    Dan, I completely understand where you’re coming from, and will try to come up with a solution.

  6. glorious ribs! i’m going to have to make some this wknd fer’sure! usually when it comes to ribs….i am a cheater. i will generously season the ribs and then place them in the oven to cook for about an hour. then i’ll start up a charcoal fire on the bbq grill. i have a new secret ingredient: red oak! red oak is very popular along the california central coast–integral to the santa maria bbq of tri tip. it is a very tasty smoke. anyways a few chunks of soaked red oak ought to make for fine & quick smoking in the weber kettle grill. mmmmm ok i think that’s what i’m gonna do this wknd 🙂

  7. Great Food Truck write up!!

    I just started a new website with the goal of building a tighter community for Hawaii’s Street Food and their customers. I would love to accomplish the same thing with Hawaii’s Foodie Bloggers as well by featuring guest blogs/bloggers from time to time.

    After reading your write up I thought I’d take a moment to invite you to be a guest blogger. All guest blogs will include a link back to your site and bio. This certainly would provide a win-win situation for everyone. Please email me if you are interested in doing something like this.


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