“E Komo Mai!” reads the sign that welcomes you into Hula Girl Bar & Grill and I immediately knew I was in the right spot. I had heard good things about the Hawaiian food truck’s first brick and mortar outpost, so I decided a trip to the darling village of Shirlington was in order. Since it was a gorgeous day outside, we sat on the cute, dog-friendly patio—it’s perfect for people watching.
Growing up with family in Hawaii, I’ve grown quite fond of the unique Hawaiian food scene. If you’ve never encountered it, it’s a mash-up of American, Asian, and Pacific Island staples. Think lots of seafood, rice, fruit, and sometimes Spam. It’s a true fusion of cultures, which I’ve found makes it easy to please all sorts of palates.
Hula Girl offers a lunch with weekend brunch specials, like passion-orange mimosas and fried egg options (spam and eggs anyone?). There is a wide variety of menu options, so it was hard to choose.
But first, drinks. I ordered an Aloha Maid juice to quench my thirst. It was passion-orange, not lilikoi as I had expected, but still yummy and reminded me of family vacations on the beach.
In honor of this particular Sunday Funday, I also had the Hula Girl Mai Tai, with Appleton rum, ginger liqueur, tiki bitters, roasted pineapple puree, macadamia nut orgeat, lime, goslings black rum float, and chili infused pineapple. It was rich and fruity, and went straight to my head.
Andrew took a chance on the Diamond Head Sunset—ocean vodka, guava juice, fresh carrot juice, smoke, five-spice syrup, and a passion-fruit chili rim. It was a great brunch cocktail, as it tasted like a Bloody Mary but with carrot juice instead of tomato. Take note however, the cocktails were pretty pricey, even by D.C. standards.
With our drinks in hand, and music from the Beach Boys and Iz piping through the speakers, it almost felt like I was back in Honolulu. The laid back vibe is reflected in the restaurant’s decor: wood panelings, surfboards on the ceiling, and a wall of flip flops (a.k.a slippahs) added to the authenticity. The bright blue chairs gave it a comfortable, diner feel.
After much deliberating, Andrew chose the ahi tuna poke bowl. Served on a bed of sushi rice, and surrounded by watercress salad, kimchi, cucumbers, pickled daikon-carrots, and green onion, this dish was on point. Light, fresh, and completely on trend. He especially liked the pickled daikon-carrots and kimchi which added to a great umami mix of flavors.
I was tempted by the Loco Moco, a family-favorite dish that combines a burger, sushi rice, and a fried egg with gravy, but I was craving something lighter. Instead, I went for a plate lunch, a popular serving style rooted in history of Hawaiian plantations. The grilled mahi mahi hit the spot. This wood-grilled fish is spiced with Hawaiian sea salt, togarashi, and shishito tartar sauce. On the side, I had two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. The fish was simple and delicious.
Like any good Bitch, we couldn’t pass up trying the malasadas for dessert. Malasadas are Portuguese fried pastry, similar to a doughnut without a hole. These weren’t quite as good as Leonard’s famous version, but they will do. We both thought there was a bit too much sugar, but they came out piping hot.
Service was pretty slow considering the restaurant was barely half full. That said, I would definitely go back for a casual dinner and the selection of Hawaiian beers from Kona Brewing Company and Maui Brewing.
The Bitches Say: B+. This laid-back bar and grill is great spot to capture the spirit of Aloha. It does justice to the unique Hawaiian food culture. Only slow service kept it from an A-grade.
Hula Girl Bar & Grill
4044 Campbell Ave
Arlington, VA 22206
Hula Girl Bar & Grill serves it’s lunch menu on the weekends (with brunch specials) starting at 11:30 a.m.