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Have yourself a merry little meatloaf

Ono, You Know

December 17, 2017

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: MARK GALACGAC

The editor goes for a classic bite of Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy from New Eagle Cafe.

The holiday season is a time to honor tradition, and Ono, You Know is taking that concept to heart with a look at one of the most classic dishes you’ll find at the dinner table — some hearty ol’ meatloaf.

Though the origins of this dish are under debate — were the Romans its true inventors, or is it a medieval meal? — one thing’s for sure: The quintessential comfort food has played an important role in America’s culinary story.

Meatloaf has always been a dish that puts leftovers to good use, whether it be scraps of meat or extra veggies, but combining those ground and chopped ingredients with bread and eggs would prove to be crucial during the Great Depression and World War II eras, when stretching out valuable protein to feed as many people as possible was of utmost importance. For that alone, meatloaf always will be something to cherish.

“According to food historian Andrew Smith, meatloaf was more commonly eaten for breakfast rather than dinner during the 19th century.” (SOURCE: BON APPETIT)

These days, it provides a nostalgic bite for many, not only during the holidays, but any time of year, really. You may be thinking that it’s not easy to find meatloaf when dining out, but if you know where to look, you’ll be able to enjoy a most soul-satisfying bite.

NEW EAGLE CAFE

So — where do you find an old-school dish like meatloaf? You have to go to the old-school establishments that still specialize in serving up the flavors of your childhood. And that, my friends, means venturing to local diners just like New Eagle Cafe.

New Eagle’s Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy ($13.15, Monday special)

Despite its name, New Eagle is actually an old-favorite with roots going back to the 1960s. Currently located at Nimitz Center, its menu of classic American favorites mixed with islandand Asian-inspired dishes makes for one hit-the-spot dining experience.

The diner certainly does meatloaf justice every Monday when the kitchen makes a homemade batch for its weekly special. Traditional ingredients like ground beef, carrots, onions, eggs and bread ring true in this rendition, but instead of the typical ketchup-based sauces typically served with meatloaf, New Eagle Cafe covers its meaty mound in house-made brown gravy spotted with mushrooms.

According to longtime server Maria Dona, the restaurant has been dishing out meat-loaf since its inception. The dish is priced at $13.15 and served with a starch and vegetables. And for a fun, new way to scarf down this specialty, she adds, you can try the Meatloaf Sandwich and Soup ($11.95) — also a Monday special — served with your side of choice.

“It’s a big sandwich, so it’s really filling,” adds Dona.

BIG CITY DINER

Amid our fast-paced culture, many of us simply don’t have the time to go through the lengthy process of preparing the ultimate meatloaf. But something Big City Diner owner and president Lane Muraoka realized from the moment he started his island-based chain of eateries in 1998, is that even if people don’t want to make it, they still want to eat it.

Big City Diner’s Mamasan’s Monster Meatloaf ($13.99) LAWRENCE TABUDLO PHOTOS

“Meatloaf embodies comfort and it’s something that people grew up with, but they don’t have the time to make it — because there’s so much chopping, mixing, baking, slicing — so it’s very labor intensive,” he says. “But it brings a sense of home.”

That’s the reason Muraoka insisted on having house-made meatloaf on the menu since day one, despite onlookers being skeptical that folks would want to order it.

Well, as it turns out, it’s been a big-seller from the beginning, he confirms.

“Why not pair this dish with some great music? What could be better than hits by recording artist and actor Michael Lee Aday, known by his stage name Meat Loaf, such as Bat Out of Hell and I’d Do Anything For Love (But I won’t Do That).”

Big City Diner does all the work for patrons, as corporate executive chef Dennis Franks and his team make Mamasan’s Monster Meatloaf from scratch. They incorporate fresh ingredients and traditional flavors, as well as a few gourmet alterations, such as panko bread crumbs for a lighter texture, and sweet bell peppers for some extra pop. The eatery utilizes free-range Shaka Moa eggs from Waianae in the dish, while the atypical marsala gravy on top bursts with deep, rich flavors from its demi-glace base. Priced at $13.99, this meatloaf comes with sautéed mushrooms, spinach and other veggies, and it’s worth it to upgrade to roasted-garlic mashed potatoes for $1.99.

Big City Diner also sells platters of meatloaf ($61.25, 16 pieces) for the perfect addition to holiday gatherings.

Speaking of the holidays, the restaurant is now selling its famous guava barbecue sauce by the bottle ($7 per bottle; $12 for two; $20 for four) at all locations. Lastly, the restaurant is open from 7 a.m. during all the upcoming eves and holidays (open from 8 a.m. New Year’s Day), with seasonal specials to boot!

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