Spam is on the menu at Aloha Kitchen, an authentic Hawaiian eatery located inside From 6th Collective in Bushland. Owner and chef Lisaann “Aunty Lisa” Rhodes grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii before arriving on the mainland more than two decades ago to attend West Texas A&M University, where she earned an accounting degree.
In 2015 she launched a food truck in Canyon, where a growing population of Polynesian-born students were seeking a taste of home. She opened the physical location at the Collective earlier this year. “It’s a way for me to share where I’m from,” she says.
Spam-based dishes aren’t common in the beef-rich Panhandle, but it’s a staple of Hawaiian cuisine thanks to the island chain’s difficulty obtaining fresh meat during World War II. Versatile, inexpensive and shelf-stable, the canned meat became extremely popular in Hawaiian households. It’s central to Aunty Lisa’s menu, too.
“We’ve done mac salad with Spam, we can do eggs for breakfast with Spam, we can make it with so many different variations,” she says. “Every store on the entire island, we fight over it when it’s the last one.”
Along with other breakfast items, Brick & Elm enjoyed Moons Over Spammy, a breakfast sandwich with Spam, egg and cheese on delectable malasada. A type of frybread, malasada made its way to Hawaii via 19th-century Portuguese cane-field laborers. It’s similar to a doughnut without a hole, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Aunty Lisa cuts the malasada in half, using it as the bread for the breakfast sandwich.
The savory Spam, egg and cheese combined with the malasada is the perfect merger of salty and sweet. “My family’s gonna flip out when they hear” about this sandwich, she says.
In another malasada dish—this one is a “secret” dessert (shhh!)—Aunty Lisa tops the fried bread with a Tahitian vanilla-flavored ice cream and drizzles it with bourbon syrup.
Perhaps the most quintessentially Hawaiian dish on the menu is Spam musubi, a popular lunch food. It’s essentially a slice of grilled or fried Spam on a block of rice, wrapped in nori (dried seaweed) like a giant piece of sushi. This fusion food owes much to the influence of Japanese cuisine on the islands and can even be found in convenience stores across the island. But Aloha Kitchen is likely the only place serving this delicacy in the Texas Panhandle.
“There are regulars [from Bushland] who will get musubi every day I’m open, Thursday through Sunday,” Aunty Lisa says. “They’re like, ‘I can’t say it but I’ll try it.’”
The Aloha Kitchen menu changes frequently as Aunty Lisa introduces new foods from regions of Hawaii. She recently arranged for Southwest Airlines to ship a few specific fresh ingredients from the islands, and promises those additions will show up on the menu soon. “I want to make sure you get it from my island so it’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be,” she says.
Aloha Kitchen is open Thursday to Saturday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Breakfast is served each day until 10:30 a.m.
18100 I-40 West, Bushland
806.557.8036 for call-ahead orders