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Review: Aloha Café

Good food, good deeds, good cause
By  |  October 11, 2011


Scattered throughout the state are a few diner-like establishments that carry a social mission along with their goal of feeding people. Sometimes the staff are receiving valuable job skills; sometimes the eatery funds a non-profit and its good deeds. The Aloha Café inside the Seamen's Church Institute does all that and more.

It gives "safe haven to men and women of the sea and from the community," and now offers rooms as an inn. There is also public access to restrooms, a library/reading room, and a one-of-a-kind tiny chapel from the Arts and Crafts style in the 1930s. And that's all before you get to the elegant, very un-diner-like dining room, with its formal mahogany chairs and tables, walls lined with paintings, prints, and photos of sailing vessels, and some really good chow.

We've had delicious omelets here (Bill once had the "Western," with plenty of ham, peppers, and onions; I chose the Greek, with feta, spinach, and kalamata olives). There's a "Pirate's Delight," with two eggs, choice of bacon, ham, or sausage, home fries, toast, and an endless cup of coffee for $5. The "Captain's Delight" ($6) adds a pancake to the above — but I ask you, "Wouldn't a pirate be more greedy?"

The Inez sandwich is named for a nonagenarian regular who always requested sautéed veggies and cheese on an English muffin. And the pancakes include the regular fruit variations, plus a chocolate chip/banana version and the option of caramelized fruit on top.

There are daily specials, some akin to blue-plate dinners, but there are certain soups and sandwiches that are such favorites that they remain on the regular menu. These include the chili ($3.75/$4.25) and the Aloha clam chowder ($4.25/$5.35), which Bill and I very much enjoyed on a recent visit. He referred to the chili (with plenty of tomatoes and pinto beans) as "spicy enough to not be ashamed of itself." My creamy-style chowder was thick with clams and wonderfully tasty with gentle herbs.

Aloha's menu has been developed over the years by several well-seasoned cooks, and many of the recipes, such as those for the soups, are followed with great dedication and pride. Aloha's home-made chicken salad is always a winner; the hot pastrami with cheddar and Dijon is another favorite. We've previously liked the ham and brie and the pesto-lover's dream, with smoked mozzarella, pesto, and tomatoes (sandwiches are served on a crusty baguette, unless otherwise specified, with plenty of ruffly potato chips and a large slice of dill pickle).

On the specials' board that day were a shaved steak sandwich and a grilled chicken sandwich with Buffalo or BBQ sauce. Bill went for the former ($7.50) and was well pleased by the sautéed onions and red and green peppers that were tucked in with the steak.

I was more staid, settling on the tuna salad on whole wheat ($6). It was over an inch thick, with no chopped onions (thank you), just a few herbs and mayo. I'm always looking for the tuna sandwich from my childhood (aren't we all?), with sweet pickle relish and/or sweet mustard, all slithery with mayo. This wasn't it, but I'll keep searching.

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