Best Hawaiian in SF?
Is this a fad or what? Lots of Hawaiian places these days. What's good where?
Hawaiian Drive Inn
Plus a branch of Roy's - Chains board topic: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
re: Melanie Wong
Yah, it really depends, but I find what you say true. It's like Domino's Pizza in the Northeast or the Northwest. I had Domino's at a party once in a very italian area of Northern Jersey and it was actually ok. But then I have it at a couple of parties/gatherings out here and it sucks so bad I can't even explain. I actually feel like shooting the guy who made it. And I've had mor than one Domino's in the Bay Area just as Jersey and they were all the same for Jersey, just ok. But in the Bay Area they were the worst pies I ever had.
Comparing Hawaiian food is sort of like comparing Italian food in SF, with different service models and pricing. There has of course been a huge boom in inexpensive plate lunch places like L&L, Ono, etc. Roy's and Rick's are much different from L&L, etc.
Regarding if it's a fad: I don't think so since the chains and chain-like places (L&L, Ono, etc.) fill a slot in the lunch and fast food spectrum w/o being fast food. It's a change-up from burgers and burritos (mom and pop or chain) and that's how they're positioning themselves. I would imagine that things have peaked so some decline will happen...OTOH, L&L has expanded to a 150+ locations and is still growing.
Of the chains and chain-like places (packaged like fast food places; slick logos, bright, unmovable furniture...or aiming that way), I've found Ono to be good and I perfer it to L&L. However L&L serves a MOUNTAIN of food for like $6 bucks, nothing special but never bad. For value hunters it's very hard to beat...you literally get a couple of pounds of food. The katsu plate comes with 3-4 big pieces. The other places are average or below average to me.
My experience with L&L are that they're pretty similar here and in Hawaii and vary place to place since each franchisee has lee-way on dishes and prep. Ingredients and customer feedback however might dictate better food in Hawaii.
Of the listed places - Roy's on the mainland is part of a chain (Outback owns it) but the places on the Islands are still owned by Roy. Roy's on the mainland is probably mainstream upscale (Kinkaide's w/ some aloha and some "exotic" sophistication), although the food isn't no way comparable to Hawaii given the fish supply. One of the best meals I've ever had was at Roy's in Honolulu.
Rick's is good, a place you could bring anyone, a nice neighborhood place but it only serves Hawaiian once a week or month. It's good but I only ate there once.
Hukilau is a hybrid between a good neighborhood place and a college hangout with plate lunch. Nice interiors (more so SJ and PA), reasonably price and a few other things. I think the food is well prepared but it won't compared to Hawaii. The one thing Hukilau does have is the only poke bar in the world...sort of like a sushi bar (in SJ). They also run the poke fest every year.
Another place that's very good is Da Kitchen in Mountian View. Their teri chicken is probably the best in Calif.
A few weeks ago I noticed a branch of Island Cafe in Albany (when heading North on San Pablo to pick up from Ruen Pair) and took out a side order of the mochiko fried chicken. Tasted pretty good, but the portion had more than a reasonable amount of fat blobs under the breading. Maybe just luck of the draw....