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Aloha, L4 Hawaiian BBQ-Watsonville

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It seems like Watsonville is really trying to break out the “McBurrito” mold. Within the month of August 2006, Kakaina Filipino, you can read my take here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/....
And now L4 Hawaiian BBQ which recently opened just up the road has dared to break the taqueria onslaught.

Hawaiian plate lunch vendors have been for years feeding the hungry masses of island laborers, surfers and thrifty tourist. Standard plate lunches typically consist of a vaguely pan-Asian meat menu item that’s part of the local culture in Hawaii and two scoops of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad taken by an ice cream scooper. Fifteen or twenty meat choices are typically available, even a wide range of Asian cuisines (Chinese stir fry, Japanese chicken katsu) to American home cooking (hamburger patties). This is a “robust” meal to get you through the work or surf day.

Joining it’s two sister establishments in Berkeley and San Francisco respectively, L4 Hawaiian BBQ now occupies the former Golden Peach Chinese restaurant. Stopping in during a take-out run on a weekday shortly after the lunch crowd we were greeted by a bit of tropical ambiance with bright peach-yellow paint on the inside complete with a couple island scene murals on the ceiling, rattan chairs and plastic laminate tables. It’s breezy and pleasant without screaming an Oprahesque Haa-Wah-Yahn!

The Seafood Mix plate ($7.50) which includes Mahi-Mahi , fried shrimp, and your choice of teriyaki steak, B.B.Q. chicken, or B.B.Q. beef short ribs in addition to fried rice, chow mein, macaroni salad, or steamed rice (total 3 scoops). The fried shrimp and Mahi-Mahi were agreeably fried to a golden brown and maintained a nice crunch even after sitting in its clamshell styrofoam container for the 10 min. drive home. The pieces of B.B.Q. chicken were good and not overcooked. The macaroni salad, benchmark of a good Hawaiian plate lunch, had just the right creamy consistency and agreeable flavor meant to accompany the rest of the items.

The Hawaiian chow mein ($6.25) which can be described pleasantly as -- it just works. You know the saying just add some tinned pineapple chunks to something and you can call it á la Hawaiian! Yeah L4 Hawaiian BBQ does just that with an assortment of B.B.Q. meat, shrimp, pineapple chunks and stir fried veggies combined with mildly seasoned noodles. The result is a surprisingly harmless twist on a standard Cantonese favorite. Funny thing, the more I kept eating this the more strangely addictive it became. Someone please challenge me on this, or did I just fall off the chow mein cart on this one?

Traditional plate lunch standbys Chicken Katsu, B.B.Q chicken, Kalua Pig, Loco Moco (hamburger patty with gravy topped with a fried egg), B.B.Q beef short ribs as well as new takes such as Basil Chicken, Five Flavor Chicken, Crispy & Spicy Beef, Mongolian Beef, and O’Ahu Pineapple Sweet & Sour Pork. Interestingly Lau Lau (Beef, Chicken, Butterfish or Pork Wrapped in Taro or Ti Leaves), an island favorite, is curiously missing from the menu.

“Island choices” entrees go from ($5.75-$7.50). Asian-inspired salads ($1.95 - $5.25), burgers ($2.25-$2.95) as well as appetizers ($2.75-$4.25) including a guilty pleasure of mine, Spam musubi ($2.75). If you’re not too hungry they suggest “mini” meals of selected items for only $3.95. They also are available for catering.

Service at the currently family-only run place is friendly and thoughtful but can be a bit slow due to the growing daily crowds. My dining companion, in a comparable taste test, who has eaten plate lunches in several places on the Islands, gave L4 Hawaiian B.B.Q. the thumbs up. With affordable, generous portions, better than average quality of your typical “fast food” I think that even Pele would approve and give Watsonville’s L4 Hawaiian BBQ a warm Aloha.

This place is a bit tricky to spot as it’s located on a quasi-frontage road. Check your online mapping directions but if you’re coming from the North and you’ve past Santa Cruz County Bank on your left you’ve gone too far. And from the south, if you’ve past the Target shopping complex on your left, you’ve gone too far. Some parking available in the front or behind in the Main St Office Center complex newly renovated parking lot.

L4 Hawaiian BBQ
1116 Main Street
Watsonville, CA 95076
Open Daily: 11:00am to 9:30 pm
831.724.6689

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