Restaurant Roundup: Say Hello to Summer with Hawaiian Barbecue | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Restaurant Roundup: Say Hello to Summer with Hawaiian Barbecue 

Some local favorites that bring the luau to Utah.

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My dining experiences over the past few weeks have continued to leave me craving barbecue, and this week I set my sights on our Hawaiian barbecue contributors. Seemingly overnight, Utah has become a hotbed of kalua pork, chicken katsu and Spam musubi, which got me thinking about how Hawaiian methods compare and contrast with those of mainland pitmasters. After reviewing a few of my old favorites—and trying out some new spots as well—I'm confident that the best Hawaiian barbecue joints in Utah are on the following list.

The Salty Pineapple (13262 S. 5600 West, Herriman, 801-890-0628, the-saltypineapple.com): Maybe it was because Salty Pineapple was my first foray into the sun-kissed flavors and effortless cool of Hawaiian barbecue, but this place will always have a soft spot in my heart. Owner Daysha Filipe started the restaurant off as a food truck, which built plenty of buzz around its kalua pork served with a generous pineapple wedge. After a few televised appearances on shows like Food Network's Big Food Truck Tip, The Salty Pineapple opened its brick-and-mortar location while continuing to support their mobile operation.

Objectively speaking, Salty Pineapple delivers on pretty much every expectation you'd have of a Hawaiian barbecue joint. The kalua pork is plentiful, and its slow-roasted flavor comes through with every bite. Whether you're enjoying this as part of a one-, two- or three-meat platter, or on the delightful kalua pork sandwich, this stuff is a proper distillation of Hawaiian barbecue. You could come to Salty Pineapple, only get the kalua pork, and still go home satisfied.

Of course, the katsu chicken at Salty Pineapple is dynamite—perfectly crispy on the outside and supplemented with plenty of acidic zing from the restaurant's signature katsu sauce. The teriyaki beef is always sliced thin and kept tender, and Pop's Sweet Garlic Chicken further enhances the restaurant's fried chicken game. Just like it sounds, it imparts a subtly sweet flavor to a plate of boneless fried chicken. The tofu options on the menu are great as a plant-based option, their burgers are on point, and finishing off your meal with a slice of homemade guava cake is practically a necessity.

Mo' Bettahs (Multiple locations, mobettahs.com): This wildly successful fast-casual chain is the veteran of our Hawaiian barbecue scene. The first Mo' Bettahs opened in Bountiful just over 15 years ago, and it's enjoyed a partnership with the Savory Restaurant Fund, which has helped take Mo' Bettahs to national status with more than 50 locations across the country.

Of course, that level of success wouldn't have been possible if founders and Oahu natives Kimo and Kalani Mack didn't know how to bring the flavor. Since Mo' Bettahs first opened, the beach vibes, welcoming energy and gigantic portions made this place a hotspot among Bountiful diners. If you've tried Hawaiian barbecue in Utah, you owe a big thank you to Mo' Bettahs.

While the whole menu at Mo' Bettahs slaps, I can't quit their kalua pig and teriyaki steak. Regardless of which location you visit, this pulled pork tastes like you've shucked it right off a spit-roasted pig on the beach. Slow-roasted pork gets a marvelous sweetness after it's spent a good time in the heat, and that's always what you get at Mo' Bettahs. The thin-sliced steak is doused in teriyaki sauce, and piling it up high on a mound of fluffy rice will always be a pleasure.

If chicken is more your thing, the katsu chicken here is a textbook example of how this particular variety of fried chicken should crunch. Of course, their lightly seasoned plehu chicken is perfect for those after a lighter protein with their meal.

Lolo Hawaiian BBQ (Multiple locations, lolohawaiianbbq.com): Where Mo' Bettahs sticks to a few tried and true favorites, Lolo Hawaiian BBQ has become known for its variety and its cozy relationship with traditional Asian flavor combos. Sure, Lolo still has the holy trinity of teriyaki beef, kalua pork and chicken katsu—along with plenty of macaroni salad—but there are a few items on its menu that set it apart.

Lolo is one of the few Hawaiian joints that offer kalbi short ribs, which comes sliced into a nice, bone-in slab of meat doused in Korean-inspired sauce. It's a fun item to pick up and eat with your hands, though it's tender enough to slice up on your plate. I'm also a fan of their island fire chicken, which adds a smoky, cayenne-infused kick to the traditional barbecue chicken you'd find at a Hawaiian luau.

Though all of these restaurants offer the classic appetizer of Spam musubi, Lolo has created its own riff on this Hawaiian favorite. By swapping the Spam with either a slice of barbecue chicken or marinated beef, you get a more varied musubi experience. Lolo is also one of the few Hawaiian places that offer fish filets; their island white fish is a crispy, flavorful way to bring the ocean to your table.

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