Plate Lunch 101
Eating on O'ahu
Rainbow Drive Inn (aka "Rainbow's)
3308 Kanaina Ave.
Cash or credit cards
Very limited parking, but it turns over quickly.
The pinnacle of Hawaii comfort food. Every trip to Oahu should rightly include a stop at Rainbow's. Even the guy from "Diners Drive-Inns and Dives" featured this place.
Here are our family favorites:
Boneless, gravy on the rice--Two humongous chicken pieces, katsu cooked, with lovely brown gravy smothered over the rice and chicken. 2 scoops of rice, macaroni salad. You and a friend will drift into a contented food coma after this. Easily feeds two.
Mix Plate--feathers, gills and four-legs sampler. Boneless chicken (see above), mahi and a piece of teriyaki meat.
Slush Float--ice cream meets shave ice meets fruit punch. You shouldn't eat like this every day, but if you're on vacation or spent a hard day at the beach, you deserve this indulgence!
Grace's Inn (aka Grace's)
1296 S. Beretania St.
(Between Keeamoku & Piikoi)
This is the very last meal when we have from Hawaii, and we take it on the plane with us.
No website but they take credit cards now!
Say no to airplane food. Mini-chicken katsu on top of chow fun with one scoop of rice, plus tsukemono.
Teri-beef deluxe sandwich. There is something inherently satisfying about sweet/salty teriyaki meat, crunchy sweet onion, lettuce, tomato and a soft/squishy/toasted bun w/mayonnaise.
Zippy's (& Napoleon's Bakery)
A little more expensive than Rainbow's or Grace's, but good and very convenient.
Also, their weekly/daily specials are well-priced. Cash or credit cards
Korean fried chicken mini-plate--my welcome home meal. Just the right amount of food for the lunch-time landing.
Mini Chili Loco Moco-- Could be our new favorite.
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck (Kahuku)
Kamehameha Hwy & Burroughs Road
Near the park and a little past the post office.
No phone, no website.
There are quite few shrimp trucks that have sprung up in the Kahuku and Turtle Bay area, but Giovanni's is the original. Just look for the grafitti-painted truck with some white canvas-type shade over
The other thing to keep in mind is that a shrimp truck serves exactly that, shrimp. If you are expecting a plate-lunch style of choices, you will not find it here. But the garlicky-perfectly seasoned shrimp, with a little of the sauce over the rice is well worth it!
94-866 Moloalo St. #D4
Cash or credit cards
A family-owned place in old Waipahu, and a favorite of my sister. It's in the middle of a strip mall, but worth the hunt.
crispy Chinese-style roast pork, fried with onions, green onions and tomatoes.
Add the shot of vinegar/garlic sauce. My kids could not put this in their mouths fast enough.
Pork Adobo Fried Rice Omelet--the inspiration for my pork adobo fried rice. Elena's purist version is simply pork adobo, onions and fried rice wrapped in fluffy scrambled egg. Easily feeds two.
+1 from the Big Island
83-5409 Mamalahoa Hwy
About halfway between Kealakekua and Honaunau
This place was recommended by the local kayaking guys and even appeared on Food Network (as a segment of "The Best Thing I've Ever Eaten").
It is a focused Hawaiian
food menu (laulau, lomi salmon, kalua pig), and all amazingly good. Super J's looks more like a house than a restaurant, and walking in is literally like going into your Aunty's dining room and kitchen on Hawaiian food day.
This is Hawaiian food that is honest, home-cooked and just right. When you're done, you'll wish that Super J was your Aunty so she could cook for you all the time.
+1 from Maui
2133 Kaohu St.
Wailuku, on a side street near the court houseNo website. cash only. Very limited parking
Do not get put off by the saggy screen doors or "weathered" ambiance, the lack of eat-in, or the limited parking. The food is well worth it and a bargain to boot!
Every time we go to Maui, we stop here. At least twice.
Ichiban is an okazu-ya, a cafeteria-style set-up, which means they make a variety or main dishes and sides, and you can pick and choose how you want to assemble your plate lunch.The chicken katsu and garlic ahi are always good as are the sides of kim chee, chili-gobo (burdock, kind of like jicama), and chop chae (Korean noodles). It makes me happy and hungry just to think of this place.
+1 from Kaua'i
2956 Kress St.
Across the street from an old Goodwill warehouse.
No website. Cash only.
Hamura Saimin is basically an old house on a side street.
And the interior hasn't been remodeled since, well, never.
But the saimin and broth is perfection. Just the right balance of flavor and texture. And don't forget to order a crispy won ton and lilikoi chiffon pie.