The spirit of aloha is alive and well in Huntington Beach, not only thanks to legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, who scored Surf City its famous name, but also due to two new neighboring eateries slinging some of the islands’ finest treats. Dough Dough’s Hawaiian Malasadas and Hula Girls Hawaiian Shave Ice opened on October 1 at Bolsa Chica Street and Heil Avenue with two remarkable women at the helm. On almost any day of the week, diners may find themselves the lucky recipients of an impromptu ukulele serenade inside the inviting shared space, transported from Surf City to the North Shore.
A half Hawaiian, half Portuguese Big Island native, Tania Mulero began deep-frying her authentic, made-from-scratch Hawaiian malasadas and serving them from an 8-foot by 14-foot trailer wagon a few years ago. Coated in sugar, the hole-less Portuguese doughnuts come plain or stuffed with flavored cream fillings, like pineapple, apple, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, lemon, guava, coconut and blueberry. Mulero uses only natural ingredients—including one secret ingredient—and all eats are made fresh to order. We asked if we could find other malasadas in Southern California, to which Dough Dough’s staffer Leo replied, "Not like this."
Mulero adds that her recipe pulls from traditional ones, but her secret tweak produces the non-greasy, delicious pastries that keep indulgers daydreaming about their crispy outsides and light insides for days. We can attest to this reaction. We will also note that fresh food requires a longer wait, so abiding by island time here is key.
Malasadas aside, the former briefcase-hauling sales rep also cooks up a few other authentic Hawaiian comfort plates, like the heavy Loco Moco: two scoops of rice, hamburger patty, egg and gravy. We were advised to try Mulero’s banana pancakes, a task we cannot wait to check off our list. While the menu is appropriately meat-heavy, Mulero caters to customers with dietary restrictions; she’ll basically cook up anything you like, so long as she has the ingredients. For us, she prepared an ooey, gooey grilled cheese with Hawaiian sweet bread, paired with a side of her tasty mac salad—all with the help of her two right-hand women, Leo and Martha.
Whether entering Dough Dough’s or Hula Girls, the strums of ukuleles and other sounds of Hawaii will fill the air, be they via speakers or Leo and her three band mates. Stop in for lunch, and the four musicians may be sprawled out at one of the booths, perfecting their tunes and taking requests. The group also performs every Sunday from noon to 3 p.m., sometimes accompanied by hula dancers.
For lighter yet equally sweet desserts, Hula Girls sits adjacent to Dough Dough’s and shaves true Hawaiian shave ice, which means zero crunch and ice cream on the bottom. Having just opened the first Hula Girls brick and mortar in Huntington Beach, owner Kelly Cartter, an HB-native, and her Kauai-born husband, Jason Cartter, originally launched their shave ice business as a catering truck in 2004 after requests for their sweet treats from friends quickly grew to calls from strangers. Hula Girls and Dough Dough’s have been working events together for the past four years. Mulero credits fate for their new partnership.
Now armed with 10 ice machines straight from the islands, the community- and family-focused business—like Dough Dough’s—makes everything from scratch, including their natural fruit syrups from an old Hawaiian recipe and signature coconut mac nut ice cream. Available in a rainbow of flavors, such as pina-colada, coconut, pineapple, mango, banana, guava, blue Hawaii, passion fruit and tigersblood, the smooth treat melts immediately upon meeting the tongue. Customers can order off the menu at the eatery or from the secret menu online. We highly recommend trying some of the shave ice add-ons, like sweet cream and Li Hing Mui, as well as sampling the pineapple-packed Dole Whip. The only other mainland spot that carries this sweet treat is tucked inside Disneyland.
Just in case a Hula Girls shave ice fails to impress, Kelley and Jason promise to make dissatisfied customers a second one on the house. Spill insurance is another perk. "We’ll make you another one before the tears come," says Jason, referring to children and adults alike.
As we savored the peas and shaved carrots in Mulero’s mac salad and Kelly’s favorite shave ice—Tropical Rainbow—we witnessed the warming effects of the way of aloha in smiling faces, colored tongues of children, thrown shakas and swaying palm trees in the decor. Every time we visit we make at least one new friend and adore hearing the words "auntie" and "uncle" used in Hawaiian context. Many of the adornments inside Hula Girls are authentic Hawaiian heirlooms from Jason’s family, and all decorative woodwork was carved by Jason and one of his two daughters—the "little hula girls" of Hula Girls.
A grand opening for both island joints will take over the parking lot in front of the eateries on Saturday, November 2, from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Details are still in the works, but think luau and don your freshest lei. Movie nights, live tiki carvings, lei-making workshops and rotating art galleries are also in the pipe. Aloha!
Dough Dough’s Hawaiian Malasadas is located at 16552 Bolsa Chica Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92649. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; closed on Monday.
Hula Girls Hawaiian Shave Ice is located at 16556 Bolsa Chica Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92649. Hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.