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East Idaho Eats: Mark Cruse brings ‘A Taste of Hawaii’ to Pocatello

Food

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A Poke Bowl and Chicken Katsu plate from A Taste of Hawaii, located in Station Square in Pocatello. Watch the video for more information. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

POCATELLO — For Mark Cruse, the path to owning a brick-and-mortar eatery was a labor of love that was decades in the making.

Growing up on Kauai, one of the eight islands that make up the state of Hawaii, Cruse learned to cook from his grandmother. And he has never stopped.

“(Hawaiian food) isn’t like anything else, it really isn’t,” Cruse said. “And that’s what makes it so awesome.”

To reach the goal of spreading his culture and family recipes with southeast Idaho, Cruse spent nearly two years operating a Hawaiian shave ice — snow cone — truck in Blackfoot in the mornings. Then he would come home to Pocatello and work a full-time job at Butterburr’s in the evenings.

RELATED: Visit A Taste of Hawaii on Facebook here.

Cruse’s hard work paid off when he opened A Taste of Hawaii inside of Station Square in late 2017.

Since he has been serving some of Hawaii’s favorite flavors to his adopted home.

Cruse’s menu includes Kalua pork — the dish Hawaii is perhaps most famous for — chicken katsu, filleted and fried chicken breast with a sweet dipping sauce, poke bowls — raw marinated ahi tuna on rice, his personal favorite — and more.

Plates can be ordered with one, two or three entree choices and come with another staple in Hawaiian barbecue, macaroni salad. As a nod to Idaho, Cruse has added potato to the salad.

Patrons can also find snacks and juices native to his island home, and to satisfy the sweet tooth, guava cheesecake. Homemade, of course. Everything is homemade, taste-tested to the standards of Cruse’s grandmother. And with an eye on furthering the spread of his food, Cruse is hoping to soon add another location in Pocatello, one with a drive-through.

Mark Cruse, owner and operator of Old Town Pocatello restaurant A Taste of Hawaii, pictured on his grandmother’s lap in a family photo displayed at the restaurant. Cruse learned to cook from his grandmother, and uses her recipes in his restaurant. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

Charlee Martin, an employee of the restaurant, is also a customer. She said she had never tried Hawaiian food before joining the staff at A Taste of Hawaii.

“It was weird at first,” she said, “just because of how (Cruse) has everything set up, because all the sauces are homemade. I didn’t even know there was a thing called katsu chicken.”

She has since come around to the food she serves.

“People ask me, like, ‘Is this good?'” Cruse said. “Everybody has different taste buds. All I know is, this is something you’ve never tasted before.”

Those interested in going to the restaurant to soak up the atmosphere along with the flavors, the restaurant can be found on the first floor inside of Station Square, on South Main Street in Pocatello. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. A Taste of Hawaii can also be ordered for delivery through Delivery.com, Doordash and GrubHub.

To look at the menu and monitor specials, Visit them on Facebook by clicking here.

If you want to make a recommendation for the next destination to be included on East Idaho Eats, email Kalama@EastIdahoNews.com and include “EATS” in the subject line.

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