There's more to Hawaiian cuisine than pit-roasted pig, poi, and mahi-mahi with mango salsa. Actually, most island locals don't eat poi unless they're at a luau with the tourists. Instead they prefer to nosh on "paper plate" meals: a heaping meal of Southern-style home cooking prepared with a Japanese-Filipino twist, all served on, you guessed it, a paper plate.
Even if you've traveled in the islands, you probably haven't tried this form of ultimate comfort food; the traditional paper-plate joints have a locals-only, dinerlike vibe that most tourists drive right past. That's why we were so excited when 8 Island Hawaiian BBQ opened in Boulder and introduced us to the cuisine. Chef-owner Michael Iuchi, a Hawaiian-born sushi chef by training, says he opened 8 Island because he "wanted to showcase real Hawaiian food—the kind I grew up eating at my friends' and family's homes on Oahu—in Colorado." Good thing. We're completely hooked.
Iuchi tells us a typical paper-plate meal in Hawaii consists of an entrée (beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, etc.), two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad. 8 Island gives you more options, and we recommend the fried-to-perfection chicken katsu with macaroni, and a green salad. But note: Don't go to 8 Island expecting traditional American barbecue sauce. There's not a lick of it here. The "BBQ" in the title refers to the backyard barbecue vibe of the restaurant—paper plates and all. And that's not to mention the surfboards on the wall, the requisite pictures of Hawaii, and the groovy island music. "If you can't afford the plane trip to Hawaii," says Iuchi, "come here. It's the next best thing."
3050 28th St., Boulder, 303-440-7427, http://8islandbbq.com