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Pineapple Express Brings a Taste of Hawaii to the Gem State

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Yes, the name of the restaurant is Pineapple Express—but it's the sweet Hawaiian fruit, not Seth Rogan and James Franco's 2008 pothead comedy, that takes the stage there. Located at 499 S. Main Street in Meridian, Pineapple Express is the latest venture into sit-down dining from Hawaiian chef Michael Mohica, who owns the food truck/catering business Kanak Attack and ran Ono Hawaiian Cafe, an upscale eatery on Broadway Avenue, until it closed in 2012.
LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson

This latest storefront feels more like a riff on Kanak Attack's fast-service style and laid-back vibe than a return to the Ono heyday. The blue and white decor scheme, not to mention the full-sized pineapple sitting jauntily on every table, trumpets life on the beach almost as loudly as the piped-in island tunes. Guests order at the counter and can build their own plate lunches (a combination of one to three meats, rice and salad, and the best bang for your buck at $10-$15 for heaping portions) or choose from an assortment of poke bowls, tacos and acai bowls. A warming station near the register holds paper boats of dessert egg rolls and heavily sugared Filipino-style malasada donuts, in case the sweet punches of pineapple, coconut and cane sugar in the entrees aren't enough to satisfy.

Before the plates are even served up, the smells of caramelized sugar and roasted meat that fill the air are mouthwatering. And that first instinct to load up on entrees like Kalua pig, Korean braised brisket and teriyaki chicken isn't to be ignored: The juicy, flavorful meats are clearly Pineapple Express' specialty, and outshine the spam-and-pineapple fried rice (a true Hawaiian classic, if bland and served a bit cool) and spicy, kimchi-style side salads by a mile. If you haven't made it to the Pacific Islands in person yet, this is your best bet to try some authentic eats—but Boise vegetarians may not want to bother with the cross-town trek.

Pineapple Express will host its official grand opening Friday, July 20, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m., complete with a pig roast, Hula show and free appetizers, despite having welcomed the public since June.