Around the World in Houston: Discover Hawaii

Photo courtesy of Ka Pa Hula Na Pua o Kamali'i - Houston

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

From hula dancing and community meetups to restaurants serving loco moco and poke, here’s how to get a taste of the Hawaiian spirit in Houston.

Annual Events & Cultural Organizations

  • Houston Asian American Pacific Islander Film FestivalStarted in 2004, this annual film festival celebrates the diversity of Asian American and Pacific Islander culture through the visual storytelling, highlighting artists and filmmakers in the community. The 2018 festival will take place on Thursday, May 31 through Friday, June 8.
  • OCA-Greater Houston Chapter This volunteer-driven organization strives to foster the cultural heritage of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Look out for events like happy hour meetups, film festivals, and the Starry Night Festival, a street food festival showcases the tastes of Asian American and Pacific Islander culture, with treats ranging from Hawaiian spam musubi to Taiwanese popcorn.

Hawaiian Food & Drink

Restaurants & Cafes

  • Aloha PhoVietnamese and Hawaiian cuisine combine at this Katy strip center joint. On the Hawaiian side, get loco moco, short rib kalbi, fish katsu, kuala pig, spam musubi, and seasonal delights like poke and lau lau.
  • Bowl’D Up This Hawiaan and Vietnamese fusion truck offers everything from katsu chicken to build-your-own poke.
  • Diced PokeLocated in Midtown, Diced Poke offers a fresh and tasty menu of poke bowls, poke burritos (you heard that right) and musubi.
  • Hawi Hawaiian BBQ Express Head to this unassuming spot in a shopping center off FM 1960 and you’ll find Hawaiian specialties like Kalua pork, galbi, curry chicken katsu, spam and eggs, musubi, and barbecue plates filled with fish, crispy shrimp, and chicken.
  • Izakaya This Midtown hotspot offers Japanese-fusion, with an entire section of the menu devoted to poke—from Hawaiian bowls with bigeye tuna to salmon bowls with spicy remoulade.
  • Laki Fish Head to this Dun Huang Plaza haunt to get poke and acai bowls.
  • Local Poke On Washington, this DIY poke spot takes guests through seven steps: choose your size, base, protein, mix-ins, sides, sauce, and toppings. Mix-and-match ingredients like rice and leafy greens, hamachi and tuna, spicy crab and avocado, edamame and masago, poke sauce and volcano mayo, and mango and furikake.
  • Moku Bar Get craft beers and build-your-own poke at this food stand set inside Downtown’s Conservatory beer garden and food hall.
  • North Shore Poke This Hawaiian-style poke mini-chain has made its way to Houston’s Westchase.
  • Okome Don Hit this Chinatown haunt to mix and match and build your own poke bowls over rice and/or greens, with proteins ranging from hamachi and tobiko to tako and scallop.
  • Ono Poke Create your own poke bowl, or go for prest numbers like the classic Ahi tuna with togarashi peppers, wasabi mami bowls with shrimp and wasabi cream, and spicy yellowtail with spicy shoyu sauce.
  • Poké Bar This California import has two locations in Houston, offering make-your-own poke with options from tuna and octopus to jalapeño and masasgo.
  • Poke Inn Get salmon, tuna, spicy tuna, octopus, shrimp, and yellowtail poke bowls at this four-step poke spot.
  • Pokéology Get a taste of Hawaii in Rice Village, with signature bowls including Applemachi, Sun Kiss Ono, and Tuna Yuzuviche, plus build-your-own options.
  • Pokéworks Do poke your way at the popular chain, with Hawaiian and umami-inspired bowls.
  • Pokii Eatery Go for the Big Kahuna, a Hawaiian-style tradition made with Ahi tuna, pink salt, shaved onion, ogo, scallion, sesame seeds, masago, edamame, carrots, cucumber, seaweed salad and nori Strips.
  • SeaSide Poke Taking the traditional Hawaiian poke and marrying it with modern techniques and local ingredients, SeaSide offers bowls both classic and atypical. Get bowls like the Truffle Yellowtail and Salmon Ponzu.
  • Waikiki Grill This Humble eatery offers a Hawaiian grill house experience, with offerings including kalua pork, musubi, curry katsu, loco moco, and Hawaiian grilled short ribs, hamburger steak, and fish.

Sweet & Ices Shops

  • Friohana Cool off with Hawaiian-style shave ice made with housemade syrups and real fruit from this refreshing food truck. Popular flavors include mango, pineapple, and strawberry. Follow its schedule on Facebook.
  • Hawaiian Paradise Get tropical sorbets, shave ice, smoothie and more this exotic refresqueria.
  • Hokulia Shave Ice With locations in Spring and Magnolia, this chain takes inspiration from the islands to make its refreshing Hawaiian-style shave ice. Get flavors from Blue Hawaii and Haupia to Kiwi and Passion Fruit.


  • Howie’s TikiThis Spring-area bar offers authentic tiki drinks and a laidback South Pacific vibe. Sip cocktails kissed with coconut, pineapple, passionfruit, and rum.
  • Lei Low Rum & Tiki Bar You can get the full tiki experience at this kitschy Heights dive, from flaming house punches to a lineup of fantastic Mai Tais.

Group,  Meetups & More

  • Houston Pacific Islanders This Facebook group offers an online community and networking opportunities for fellow islanders in Houston.
  • Houkulele This meetup invites ukulele players to learn, sing and play Hawaiian music and more (those with other instruments are welcome as well).
  • Halau Ho’ola Ka Mana O Hawai’i Learn the art of hula dancing at this Hula Halau and Polynesian dance studio, which offers lessons in both hula and drumming and dancing.

Other Notables

  • Drums of the PacificGet in the Polynesian spirit with luau music, Hawaiian dancers and entertainers, and luau catering from this Houston-based entertainment company.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .