INSIDE THE CHARMING, RUSTIC PIONEER SALOON.

BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com
Source: http://www.honolulupulse.com/2014/06/take-a-bite-pioneer-saloon/

It took me a while to get to get to Pioneer Saloon, but I was glad to visit this charming outpost that challenges expectations. Its name could lead one to expect grinds of the Wild West, such chuckwagon fare as hearty chilies, buffalo burgers, barbecue brisket and pork and beans.

We must leave it to some other restaurateur to bring back a taste of old Americana. The only thing remotely Southwestern here is the heat of summer, without the liquid refreshment you might be seeking. It’s a “saloon” in name only. If you’re expecting a raucous watering hole, you’re looking at the wrong place. Here, you’ll be swilling soft drinks, canned teas and Calpico.

Restaurateur Nori Sakamoto’s menu is Japan meets Hawaii, with a light approach to such island favorites as hamburger steak and seared garlic ahi. Plates come with rice and tossed or rotini pasta salad, instead of the more local-style macaroni salad.

It’s a popular place because of the magic combination of good food, plentiful choices and affordable prices. With limited street parking (three stalls on the side and whatever you can find in the vicinity), carpool if you can.

You’re also in for a real treat if you walk to the alleyway next door at Monsarrat Ave. Shave Ice. Here, homemade fruit and green tea syrups with no added sugar, which eliminates all the guilt associated with the summertime refresher.

Keep in mind here may be a long line of people waiting. You may not be in the mood for shave ice early in the morning, but earlybirds are the only ones able to sample the most popular flavors such as yuzu, acai and mango. These sell out early.

The cost is $4 small (drink cup sizes), $5 medium and $6 large. Extras such as mochi balls, a scoop of ice cream and condensed milk are 50 cents each, but I find them unnecessary if your focus is the purity of Nagano’s syrups.

WHEN YOU’RE DONE EATING, HEAD TO THE ALLEYWAY NEXT DOOR, HOME TO MONSARRAT AVE. SHAVE ICE. OWNER KENTA NAGANO IS SHY ABOUT BEING PHOTOGRAPHED. THIS IS ONE OF HIS SMALL CREATIONS WITH RASPBERRY AND BLUEBERRY FLAVORS, TOPPED WITH ICE CREAM.

Have ono grinds with us!