People who are familiar with Hawaii probably know about all the little, family-run, popular-with-the-locals type of diners found throughout the state, well away from the resort areas. They serve great food in generous portions at very affordable prices.
Well, Nagano City has just such a place, found right on Chuo Dori, the road leading up to Zenkoji. The name is “Mountain Q”. I have no idea why it is named as such, but it is very easy to find. Just look for the place decorated with lots of Hawaiian stuff. Not really over the top, but just enough to get your attention.
Walk in the door and the staff cries out, “Irasshaimase! ALOHA!!” and from there you go to your seat, either at a table or at a booth. Music from Hawaiian artists plays on the sound system. Sometimes you get live radio from Honolulu, and can hear the latest traffic reports about how the cars are flowing on Kalakaua Avenue. Place an order and during the surprisingly short time before your food arrives, you can browse some of the Hawaii-related travel magazines they have. Or gaze at the images of Hawaii on the flat-screen TV on the wall over the booth area. But it won’t be long before you are eating!
The menu has entrees like the ever popular Loco Moco, a grilled hamburger patty drenched in gravy on top of rice with sunny-side-up egg. These are served in a wooden plate shaped like a pineapple. Though delicious, loco moco is very high-calorie, so be careful! Then there is the Mountain Burger. Far surpassing anything you’ll find at McDonald’s, this large, messy, yet very tasty meal is a grilled hamburger on a lightly toasted bun served with lettuce, tomato and pickles and other add-ons you can choose from. It is served with a side of shoestring fries, which, if you ask me, are, on their own, worth a trip to this restaurant. There are other burgers, sandwiches and, perhaps most unique…Taco Rice. Though the name suggests it contains octopus (in Japanese tako means octopus), it does not. It is a popular Okinawan dish of Tex-mex flavored ground beef served on top of rice. It’s…REALLY good!
Desserts are just as impressive. You can order an ice cream sundae and not only have it topped off with whipped cream, fresh fruit and a tropical flower, but inside, mixed between scoops of ice cream, where Japanese usually put some corn flakes, you’ll find — no joke — Cheerios. Funniest of all is that, in keeping with the quirky way in which they serve food at this place, our sundae today was served in a glass measuring cup. It brought a smile to everyone’s faces.
Though well stocked with plenty of adult beverages, we always go with the kids for lunch and opt for juice or iced coffee with our meal. Drinks come in large glasses and the pineapple juice was a big hit with our daughters, age 8 and 5. Guava juice would be a welcome addition to their menu, but mango juice always will suffice for me! A fun place to be during the day, I would bet it’s even more fun to be here at night. The bar counter itself is very small, but this whole place has the look and feel of a fun night-time pub. Give it a try!
And when it is time to hit the road, the staff will bid you farewell with as much energy as they did when you came in, calling out, “Arigato gozaimashita! MAHALO!!”