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Apr 20, 2009 11:31 AM

REVIEW w/ pics: Hawaiian Breakfast at Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop

Of all the places you think you'd find a restaurant where you can order a Hawaiian breakfast, I bet that a bowling alley wouldn't even cross your mind. Yet, there truly is such a place because inside the walls of Gardena Bowl is the Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop, where the menu consists of regular American fare right next to both Japanese and Hawaiian specialties.

For this particular trek to the city of Gardena, enjoying a Hawaiian breakfast was the goal and it was a goal my dining partners met with gusto. Between the 8 of us, the two dishes ordered the most were the Loco Moco and the Hawaiian Royal, although a couple did go their own way.

The Loco Moco is a dish that is unique to Hawaiian Cuisine. Although there are many variations of it, the essential ingredients include white rice, a hamburger patty, a fried egg with brown gravy. History has stated that the Loco Moco was created by the Inouye family, owners of the Lincoln Grill in Hilo, Hawaii in 1949. Apparently, a group of boys from the Lincoln Wreckers Sports Club were the inspiration for this dish. Looking for cheap eats, one of the boys, George Okimoto, nicknamed "Crazy" because of the wild way he played football, was nominated by the others to ask Nancy Inouye if she'd put some rice in a saimin bowl along with one hamburger patty with brown gravy poured over both items.

She charged a mere 25 cents, which was much more affordable than ordering a regular hamburger steak entree. Since the word "crazy" was loco in Spanish, this new dish was named "loco moco" in George's honor. Apparently, the word "moco" came into play simply because it rhymed. The boys didn't know at the time that moco meant "mucus" in Spanish. This off menu item soon made into Lincoln Grill's regular menu and became widely popular all over Hawaii. The egg was actually added later. My fellow diners who decided on the Loco Moco seemed quite content with their choice. I've had Loco Moco before, so I decided to pass on it in favor of the Hawaiian Royal.

I couldn't find much info on the Hawaiian Royal, so perhaps it just doesn't have as much of a colorful history as the Loco Moco. This particular dish has a plethora of ingredients that included Portuguese Sausage, Chasu, Green Onions and Eggs Over a Bed of Rice with Teriyaki Sauce. When it arrived, I already knew that I wasn't going to finish the whole meal, but I was going to do my best and take home the rest.

The Hawaiian Royal was already quite a mish mash, but I went ahead and mixed it more so that the teriyaki sauce was mixed evenly throughout the dish. Than I took my first bite. That's when I wished that I had asked for that teriyaki sauce on the side. It was a little too sweet. However, it did come with a little bowl of hot mustard, so as I ate each spoonful, I'd top it with the mustard to counter the teriyaki sauce. It was a tasty dish, , but I felt a little overwhelmed by it. I think there was just too much to it. I longed for the simplicity of the Loco Moco.

As mentioned, the two dishes above were what people ordered the most. However, one person opted for the Bacon Fried Rice and an order of the Portuguese Sausage and wasn't that impressed by either dish. Someone else went straight for lunch and ordered a Chicken Katsu with Veggie Tempura and seemed quite satisfied with their choice.

Foodwise, I only get up early for dim sum, so this was a different direction for me, but it's always interesting experiencing how different cultures view breakfast. As a Filipina, breakfast consisted of everything from fried fish and rice to fried Spam, eggs and rice mixed with banana ketchup. As you can see, Philippines shares the same rice sensibility with Hawaii. Overall, it was a fun outing, but the next time I go for a Hawaiian breakfast, I'll stick with the Loco Moco or try something different other than the Hawaiian Royal dish.

To see pics, go to:

Gardena Bowl
15707 S. Vermont Avenue
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 324-1244


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  1. Mmmm...loco moco. How much was your meal?

    1. Their home made Portuguese sausage patties are probably their most popular item. That's practically all I ever order when I go, Portuguese sausage and eggs.

      Gardena Bowl was owned and by another family which sold out about 5+ years ago to the current owners. The seller signed a non-compete agreement, then the daughter opened in TnT Aloha Cafe in Torrance, which some faithful followers believe is better.

      Best loco moco is at Bruddah's in Gardena.

      1033 W Gardena Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247

      TNT's Aloha Cafe
      24032 Vista Montana, Torrance, CA 90505

      2 Replies
      1. re: monku

        Someone had mentioned to me that the original owners opened up T N T's Aloha Cafe. I'll definitely have to check that out as well as Bruddah's.

        1. re: pleasurepalate

          T N T's is very similar to Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop.
          You want authentic Hawaiian home cooking, its Bruddah's.
          Everything from saimin (used to import the noodles from Hilo) to chili and hot dogs on rice (Zippy's chili from Hawaii) and their unique mac salad made with spaghetti, signature chow fun and the best Loco Moco in LA (it's all about the gravy-dark brown mushroom gravy and Hawaiian hamburger patty-big).
          Daily specials, my favorite is the short ribs on Thursdays.
          Check it out and ask for Earl the owner.
          Closed on Mondays

          1033 W Gardena Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247

      2. Not so surprising.
        Many years ago there was the Holiday Bowl Coffee Shop at the Holiday Bowl on Crenshaw. A great 24 hour a day Hawaiian/Japanese coffee shop. Probably started about the same time as the Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop.
        When the Holiday Bowl closed the owners moved down the street and opened Tak's Coffee Shop which serves Hawaiian style breakfast and lunches.

        Tak's Coffee Shop
        3870 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008

        9 Replies
        1. re: monku

          Good Review...been going there for over 20 years...
          When I go, I order the portugese sausage, fried eggs and rice and my wife get the char sui, eggs and rice. I like the loco moco with brown onion gravy.
          The owners of Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop also owns/ runs Azuma on Western which is good for dinner, especially the combo plates like Gradena Bowl has.
          Fukugawa Restaurant in Pacific Square has an assortment of traditional japanese breakfasts.

          1. re: flylice2x

            I've been to Fukugawa before and liked having breakfast there although even after 4 tries, I just can't get into Natto.

            1. re: pleasurepalate

              My wife likes it, but not having grown up with the stuff I don't. Too slimey...

            2. re: flylice2x

              Great Portuguese sausage....I always have to have an additional side order when I get the sausage and eggs.

              1. re: monku

                The best Portuguese sausage patty in S. Cal.

                Don't forget the best dish of all times there, the Portuguese sausage mix.

                I can't believe you didn't get the mix!!!

                1. re: A5 KOBE

                  Here are some pictures forgot to upload.

                  1. re: A5 KOBE

                    I always get the eggs with the potatoes....they're nice and crispy.

                    They say the recipe for the Poruguese sausage is a secret, but I got a feeling its just breakfast sausage with chili flakes mixed in.

                2. re: monku

                  Hi monku, A5 KOBE,

                  Are you both talking about Fukugawa or Tak's having the great Portugese Sausage Patty? :) Thanks.

                  1. re: exilekiss

                    TNT Aloha Cafe or Gardena Bowl=for Portuguese sausage patties.
                    Bruddah's has them too, but I always get the loco moco there for breakfast.

            3. Thanks for the great review with great pics. The pcture from the parking lot of the sign is really good also. It reminds me of all the times I have taken people there after telling them how good the food is and when I pull into the parking lot they look up at that sign and the response is always the same, "This... this is the place you have been taliking about? But this... this is just a bowling alley." Actually it is a very popular place and there is so much activity inside the bowling alley you would think they were giving stuff away. Walk through it some time and you will feel as if you have left the country for a while. The coffee shop is also a buzz. I like that bacon fried rice but IMO Shakas does do it a little better. At Gardena Bowl I would ask for a little extra onion and it is a great breakfast, lunch or dinner. I agree with your friend that the Portuguese Sausage is not there best item but it is special in that it is different from every other Portuguese Sausage. They also offer a good fish plate for luch. I am not sure if it is "fresh fish" but I think it is or maybe the "Special" on the b oad is fresh fish. The prices are very reasonable but then again.... it is a just a bowling alley, even though it is a special "community meeting place" bowling alley. Now you might also have to suffer the curse I have suffered since I took one of my friends there. Everytime he greats me he recites the line from Arthur, "Usually, one must go to a bowling alley to meet a [person] of your stature."

              Your post with pics tell so much. We need you to visit the newly rebuilt Wang's which is worth a vist just to enjoy the special dining room and bar but since you like Hawaiian breakfast (Loco Moco) and such you will likely enjoy the comfort food at Wang's also.

              Wang's Palace
              120 E. Lemon

              1 Reply
              1. re: JeetJet

                I've actually been a regular customer off and on for years at Wang's Palace. Every meal I've had has been excellent. :) Although it's also true that I haven't been there for awhile. I'll have to check it out soon.

              2. glad you reviewed this place, ive been meaning to do it for a long time since ive been coming here since i was a kid...usually i stick with the portuguese sausage over rice, i kind of like the patties (as opposed to real sausages), its not the absolutely best version ive had, but its good cheap and sorta homey

                ive got a soft spot for this place