Trends hit Chicago 1.5 years late. You’d think the internet would eliminate barriers like time and space, yet here we Chicagoans are, still riding high on avocado toast. For this reason, the poke onslaught was inevitable the second bowls of raw tuna and pineapple aggressively spread from Instagram coast to Instagram coast. And while Mahalo isn't a fast-casual poke spot, it does try to cheaply take advantage of the trend in a full-blown Hawaiian themed restaurant serving poke and other traditional island dishes.
As its name infers, Mahalo is Hawaiian, and they’ve gone all in with hanging surfboards, cocktails served in pineapples, and open air windows. Does the staff really need to be wearing palm tree print? Probably not, but they are, because Mahalo needs to try and convince you that you're not in between a Ragstock and an Urban Outfitters. You're in Hawaii, dammit.
As far as the food, it's fine. The poke bowls are pretty typical and the salads are decent enough, but none of the fish tastes high quality and the larger cooked platters aren't very good. Overall, nothing is great, nothing is terrible, and all of it feels like a hollow attempt at Hawaiian food dressed up in a grass skirt. That said, brunch is a big letdown, which is a shame. It's not really that surprising, though, considering Mahalo is is basically the Hawaiian version of its sister restaurant, Hampton Social.
We don’t hate the vibes for a casual Sunday afternoon cocktail (the outdoor rooftop is great) or when we’re feeling the urge for something moderately healthy in a trendy setting. But we don’t love it for most things. You’ll get some solid island vibes, but you won’t get any food worth writing home about. Get your Snaps in and get out.
Hey, St. Louis - Aloha, and brace yourself. Poke is coming.
A tasty mix of shrimp, avocado, cashews and arugula, but the portion size is lacking for the high price tag.
Your typical pokes, and any poke can be turned into a bowl with brown rice. Nothing tastes high quality and the flavors are lacking. The tuna poke is particularly disappointing and could use a healthier dose of soy.
The biggest disappointment of them all. Seems hard to go wrong with custard, berries, and syrup, but apparently you can. We left half of it on the table, which seems like a sin as far as French toast goes. It's a real disappointment that basic brunch is hit or miss.
The kona bbq sauce in these baby back ribs is entirely too sweet and overpowering. Overall makes them not good at all.
Slow roasted pork in banana leaf with brown rice, macaroni salad, and both kona bbq sauce and pineapple bbq sauce. More sauce is not a good thing here. It's entirely too sweet and salty. Overall, we'd stay away from the larger cooked plates.
If you do want a cooked plate, this is what we would get. The pa seared sea bass is the only thing we liked. It's basic with a sweet miso glaze.