Our Hungry Hound says a new plate lunch spot in the Tri-Taylor neighborhood does something few of its customers even realize. That is, make outstanding banana bread.
There are only a handful of stools inside aloha wagon. And the menu focuses on the hearty protein-laden dishes that can sustain a worker through the afternoon.
But it’s their two desserts that caught my eye, and when i asked if they’d show me how one of them is made, they said, sure thing.
The small menu at Aloha Wagon – a sliver of a space at the intersection of Ogden and Western Avenues – is based on the owners’ experience running a food truck in Hawaii. That means plate lunches with macaroni salad and rice, and Spam.
“Spam is very important in Hawaii. We do a Spam musubi here. We have a brick of rice, a little bit of teriyaki sauce grilled Spam and nori,” said co-owner Rebeca Romo.
But one of the best things I ate here was the banana bread.
“In Hawaii there’s a lot of people that love their sweets. So the banana bread was one of their favorites over there and it seems to be a favorite here in Chicago.”
Romo begins by peeling bananas and adding them to a mixing bowl, where she blends them up, then adds buttermilk and incorporates that as well. After a little bit of cinnamon is whipped in, the mixture is poured out and the bowl is cleaned.
A few tablespoons of butter get creamed up with sugar – those have to be blended with the stand mixer’s paddle – then Romo adds three eggs and finally, the banana-buttermilk mixture, getting everything fully incorporated. Once the wet ingredients have been completely combined, she adds her flour, as well as baking soda and baking powder; at this point, she uses a spatula to gently mix and prevent the flour from going everywhere, then she finishes it off with the stand mixer.
When the batter is even, she pours it into a baking dish, and that’s it. The banana bread is removed from the oven when a toothpick can be inserted and comes out clean. She slices it thick and if you’re lucky, you’ll get it served warm.
Another favorite here are the Aloha Bars – simply pineapple-coconut cheesecake – but either dessert is a worthy ending to a hearty Hawaiian plate lunch. Romo says there are no secret ingredients.
“Having a simple, good recipe is the best way to go. People like simple and they like delicious and that’s what it is,” she said.