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Hafa Adai highlights Chamorro cuisine and culture quite tastefully

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Portuguese sausage and eggs over ham and veggie fried rice. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Portuguese sausage and eggs over ham and veggie fried rice.
‘If you were to come to a fiesta at our home, this is what you’d find,” says Lisa Aganon, co-owner of Hafa Adai Fiesta Food, the Springs’ first Guamanian restaurant, and the only one in Colorado, to the best of our knowledge.

“There’s even a special way we set the food on the table,” she adds, describing just one aspect of Chamorro (indigenous Guamanian) culture as it applies to culinary tradition. Her mother, 40 years ago, ran a small food stall on the island, she says, and her mom’s cook ended up being the mother of her husband, Tony, who’s Hafa Adai’s chef today. Their daughter Pam “does everything else,” as Lisa still works a day job and only helps out on weekends, when she and Tony offer a slightly expanded menu and special dishes for Chamorro elders, respectfully called Manåmko’.

Lisa’s proud to note pictures of Guam on the restaurant’s walls, books the family has set out so guests can read about Chamorro culture, and the strong support they’ve received from our military community since their July opening. She points out that Guam hosts Air Force and Navy bases, and many service people have at least done a short layover on the island. Strategic World War II battles claimed many thousands of American, Guamanian and Japanese lives there. For those fuzzy on the U.S. territory’s location, recall that Guam’s part of the Mariana Islands, 1,550 miles east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean.
Location Details Hafa Adai Fiesta Food
109 E. Pikes Peak Ave.
Downtown
Colorado Springs, CO
308-5449
11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; until 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. first and third Sundays

So, yes, that means you’ll see some seafood items in the Chamorro pantry — influenced by Spanish, Filipino and Asian cultures, as well as mainland U.S. more recently, hence Spam — but mainly pork, beef and chicken here. Hafa Adai, tucked behind Josh & John’s in the breezeway, offers pre-made hot line dishes to be made into one-, two- or three-item plates ($10-$12; served in foam with plastic ware), which include rice (white or annatto-stained red rice), a side salad and crispy lumpia, egg roll variants hosting ground beef, cabbage and carrots. If you’re not in a hurry, they’ll fresh-make you fried rice or a dish called Loco Moco — basically a hamburger patty over rice, topped with caramelized onions and dark gravy, plus a couple fried eggs. For us, that was the sole dish we didn’t totally dig, mainly because of well done meat with a lingering grill flavor. But all else reps Guam in a great way.

Make sure to ask for finadene, a simple green onion- and hot pepper-infused soy sauce that adds just the right salty-spicy kick to meats in particular, like tender, smoked pork ribs and Filipino adobo-invoking barbecue chicken. Or for more fire, request a side ramekin of dinanche, a thick hot pepper paste we found particularly complementary with bulgogi-like strips of beef short ribs. Hot links are only mildly spicy by contrast, and Portuguese sausage isn’t the linguiça you may expect, but a Spam-like composite meat served with some grill marks. Ham hocks and mongo (mung) beans, our favorite dish, sings with fatty pork hunks in a coconut milk broth.

Side cucumber and potato salads feel like backyard barbecue fare, and dessert offerings too strike a pretty mainland America tone, like a mud pie, shortbread cookies, and an almost tres-leches-like white cake with a cinnamon-spiked custard top. This is a casual fiesta, after all, inspired by a place far away, yet tasting at many turns close to home.

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