A dream actualized: Hawaiian food comes to downtown Nevada City
July 11, 2017
In August, Nevada City residents and visitors will have access to fresh, healthful, made-from-scratch Hawaiian food in the building at 110 York St., the same place where Treats Ice Cream Shop attracted a loyal fan base for years.
Megan Sasaki and Tyler Freeland have signed a lease for the brick-and-mortar version of their family business, Kaliko's Hawaiian Kitchen, where soon they will be serving up favorites like Ahi Poke bowls (made with sashimi grade ahi), Kalua Pork, Kalibi Beef Bowls and vegetarian Rainbow Bowls.
"Our dream for the new location is to have a place where our customers can come and enjoy new flavors in a casual atmosphere, and people with ties to Hawaii can satisfy those cravings," said Sasaki.
Catering to a busy lunch crowd, the couple is changing how the interior of the building is configured to give customers access to the building's back patio.
“On a personal level, we have grown from two people with an idea into true food entrepreneurs with a vision.”Megan Sasaki
Since Victorian Christmas last December, when they first launched their food business named after their infant son, the couple has grown a loyal fan base at area farmers markets, music festivals and catered events.
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"We are bringing our whole hearts to this business, it really is our passion project and we love what we do," said Sasaki, who was pregnant with her now nine-month old son, Kalikoali'ilani when the business was started.
They started out small, with just enough equipment to execute their menu. The first night, they sold out in two hours. At their "experimental venue" at Nevada City's Farmers Market, they sell homemade spam for musubis, breakfast items like Loco Moco, Portuguese sausage fried rice and freshly cracked coconuts. This summer, the couple is working seven days a week getting ready for their storefront opening and a full schedule of events like the Air Show, Summer Nights and WorldFest.
With the new café, the couple plans to expand the menu with manapua, musubi, and salmon poke. They also intend to run a number of rotating specials, and are working on recipes for huli huli-style chicken wings and smoked ahi belly sandwiches. Traditional foods like lau lau and poi are also on tap, along with a small line of desserts.
"On a personal level, we have grown from two people with an idea into true food entrepreneurs with a vision," said Sasaki, a lawyer and Native Hawaiian.
She comes from a tight-knit family from Hilo with Japanese, Portuguese, English, Chinese and German descent. Her Hawaiian ancestors come from Kohala on the Big Island. Her Japanese grandfather fought in World War II with the famous 442nd Infantry out of Hawaii. Sasaki moved to Nevada County four years ago, after graduating law school. Freeland hails from San Diego and has been working professionally in kitchens for over a decade. He came to Nevada County 15 years ago. The couple met playing co-ed softball.
The Union caught up with Megan Sasaki recently to learn more about Kaliko's Hawaiian Kitchen:
What is your food background? When did your interest in cooking begin? Was your style of cooking influenced by your upbringing?
I grew up watching both of my parents cook — both are excellent home cooks. My extended family also has some amazing cooks and bakers. My aunt had a booth at a farmers market in Kamuela for years selling baked goods and produce. I'm crossing my fingers that Kaliko's will sell Lilikoi Shortbread Cookies made from her recipe. My upbringing influenced my cooking, as I was raised on Japanese and Hawaiian foods. Ginger, miso, soy sauce were all staples in my house.
Tyler has worked in kitchens his entire adult life. Most recently he was helping run the kitchen at Jernigan's Tap House. I've never met anyone who enjoys cooking as much as Tyler. He is always experimenting with new recipes, whether that means he is smoking his own pastrami, making broth for Ramen or making biscuits and gravy for breakfast. He was inspired to become a chef as a child by a neighbor and close family friend, Chef Jim Phillips, who currently serves as president of Chef Celebration. Tyler's mom is also an excellent home cook, and I know her style influenced his cooking.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
Prior to starting Kaliko's, Tyler had always dreamed of owning his own restaurant. He genuinely loves cooking and has notebooks lying around with recipes. Here at home, he came up with great Poke and Kalua Pork recipes. We thought it would be great to bring this food to our town.
How has the community responded to the products you offer?
The community has truly been amazing. Honestly, I can't imagine a place more supportive of this type of endeavor than the community of Nevada County.
Learn more on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/kalikoshawaiiankitchen/?ref=br_rs
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