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Sep 9, 2013 06:15 AM

Plate Lunch?

Any advice on the best plate lunch places on Oahu and Maui? Traditional (i.e. "two scoop rice, one scoop mac salad") preferred.

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  1. Where are you staying on each island and how much driving are you willing to do?

    On Maui, we loved Local Food in Lahaina. Spam musubi and shoyu chicken are the signature dishes, though their kalua pork is also pretty good.

    11 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Ala Moana in Oahu and Wailea in Maui. But I have been to the Islands many times and am happy to drive. I usually go to the windward side every day on Oahu. Personally, my favorite fancy place has been Mama's Fish House and favorite hangout A Saigon Cafe, both on Maui. I always used to like Ono's in Honolulu and the shrimp trucks on Oahu, but I was alarmed by the negative comments I read about Ono's. I will definitely try Local Food--I like the Cafe (is it call Kihei cafe?) in Kihei, too.
      I have never really loved any of the fancier places on Oahu, but I love the mai tais at the Royal Hawaiian!!

      1. re: swannee

        If you do a search you will find that indelibledotink posts a lot of recommendations against Ono Hawaiian Foods on these boards. I haven't heard recent feedback from anyone else.

        Kihei Caffe is great & our usual haunt for breakfast when we visit Maui.

        1. re: kathryn

          Anybody have recommendations for plate lunch in South Maui? Seems like there isn't much.

            1. re: kathryn

              Sorry, but I only end up going to Maui for work so that limits my knowledge to the Kahului/Wailuku area.

              1. re: kathryn

                Wailuku - Sam Sato's
                Lahaina - Aloha Mixed Plate
                Honokowai - Honokowai Okazuya and Deli

                those are the three that we stop at. I'm sure there are others.

                1. re: DriverPhil

                  Do you have any recs in Kihei or Wailea?

                  1. re: kathryn

                    No, frankly that area tends to be too touristy for us. I'm sure there are plate lunch places for you to discover.

                    Looking at Google they suggest Da Kitchen and L&L Drive Inn - both are in Kihei.

                    1. re: DriverPhil

                      > No, frankly that area tends to be too touristy for us. I'm sure there are plate lunch places for you to discover.

                      Unfortunately, I am beginning to think there are not any good plate lunch places in South Maui.

                      I've done Da Kitchen in Kihei, it's hit or miss dependent upon what you order. Kinaole Grill Truck is decent but doesn't seem to offer kalua pork, shoyu chicken, etc. on a regular basis. More like fried seafood dishes.

                      Isn't L&L a chain?

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Each outlet is franchised out to (usually) a different operator, if that's what you mean by a chain. I've only eaten one time at three different L&L's , but it appeared to me that there were differences in the offerings as well as the preparation of the same menu item. It didn't appear to me that the franchisor jad much control over the recipes used, as in say McD's, but I may be wrong since there are so many L&L's.

                        1. re: honu2

                          I think you're correct about preparation at different franchises. A friend who now lives in So. California said one of the L&L's he went to there had a Mexican kitchen staff and the dishes had a Hispanic flavor to them. He didn't say it was bad, just not the same as back home in the islands.

      2. If you're in Kailua, you might want to try The Food Company in the Enchanted Lake Shopping Center by the Safeway. Not a tourist place; the lunch time crowd is mostly locals who work nearby. They have a wide variety of plate lunches. You might want to check, but I think they offer a Hawaiian plate on Thursdays. The market section has poke that's pretty good, too.

        4 Replies
        1. re: honu2

          Don't forget about Dean's Drive Inn or He'eia Pier if you are out Kaneohe side. Also FatBoy's is in Kailua although I haven't been in a while, so don't know if it is still up to standard.

          1. re: killersmile

            fatboys is all over now
            hawaii kai

            there may be more

            1. re: macsak

              Yeah, I know, but since he said that he usually goes to the windward side every day, I thought I would mention the one in Kailua.

            2. re: killersmile

              Really enjoyed Dean's Drive Inn, especially the 3 piece rack of lamb for $14.95. The teri beef was tender and had great flavor. Also one of the better mac salads I've had. Not a fan of the fish dishes. The desserts, especially the short cake brownie was very light and tender. People seem to really like the ahi cakes as well, though I didn't try it.

          2. On Oahu I'd definitely include Sugoi's in "city center" strip mall, at Dillingham near Waiakamilo. Garlic Chicken and Roast Pork are among the big sellers there. Just down the street is Bob's Giant BBQ. If you are into grilled meat, this is the place to go from burgers to bulgogi to bbq chicken.

            Of course there are the old standards, Grace's Inn on Beretania just ewa of Keeamoku, and Rainbow Drive-In on Kapahulu. L&L drive-in's are very popular. Personally I can't stand the food, but I admit to being in the minority on that.

            Tsukenjo's On Cooke St. has been around forever. Really no place to eat there, but its a long time favorite, especially for their roast pork. I think the lunch truck is gone now.

            Richies and Meg's in Kalihi each have their following and their detractors. Neither has ever been a favorite of mine.

            Mitsuken is also a favorite, but they open early and run out of favorite dishes fairly early too. I haven't been since they relocated to N. King, but understand that the food hasn't changed. Technically this is an Okazuya not a plate lunch place, but the end result is the same. Garlic Chicken.

            I hear really good things about Driver's Diner out near the airport, but never tried it myself, and I realy like Kakaako Kitchen and South Shore Grill, but these aren't quite 'traditional' plate lunch, nor is pioneer saloon just down from south shore.

            There are a group of food trucks on Kapiolani just ewa of Atkinson. Various trucks, various reviews. I haven't reconnoitered in a while. You might try to google to see what you can find out.

            Hope that gives you food for thought.

            18 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              L&L sets the standard for plate lunches, and zippy's is ok, both are convenient because they're everywhere.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                K-Man: Tsukenjo's closed last May ;-( I loved their funky little meatloaf sandwich or their roast pork. A loss for sure.

                I think Dean's Drive In is still cash only so better prepare for that if you go there.

                1. re: manomin

                  Also for a wait if you want a table and get there when it's full. I think there are only five tables. I like the food at Dean's Drive Inm a lot, but don't like having people watching me eat so that they can grab the table.

                  1. re: manomin

                    wow, i didn't know tsukenjo's closed. 50+ years. so where is the best for roast pork now? sugoi?

                    i just can't get into L&L, I tried again a month ago. There was so much salt in the gravy that I could only eat half of my hamburger steak. and my mouth was buzzing for the rest of the evening from the msg.

                      1. re: indelibledotink

                        L&L, msg free?? what leads you to think that. there isn't anything i can find on their website that says so. nothing else makes my mouth tingle like that and makes me so thirsty. i'm fairly certain that stuff is LOADED with msg.

                        I think you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree about L&L. I'd rather eat yummy bbq than L&L, and that's saying something.

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          i thought i saw no msg on a poster.

                          i'm not saying that L&L is all that and a bag of chips, but they are synonomous with plate lunches. (and i do like the garlic shrimp.)

                          1. re: indelibledotink

                            I think this is an example of you and I coming from different generations. to me L&L is a cheap upstart, sort of the Mc plate lunch of local food. It bastardizes plate lunch for profit without the heart and soul that the classic lunchwagons and drive-in's have, without the quality control or dedication to the community that Zippy's has shown over the years. Now I have to admit, I have some qualms with Zippy's too, but overall find them much better than L&L, although their menu is not as diverse. Perhaps because the food is mostly fresh, and I can see no way L&L can offer the selection it does unless it is reheating frozen meals for much of what is served. But that's just conjecture on my part. I have some of the same questions about Fairwood Drive Inn, especially at their Kaimuki Location. If I had more time, and expertise, i suppose i could take the time to find out.

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              lol, i have the notion that L&L is oldschool! their regular hamburger/cheeseburger is loaded with mayo, not good. mahi/substitute fish if no mahi is ok. again, like the garlic shrimp a lot. hamburger steak ok, the gravy isn't a great brown gravy, but ok. katsu is too greasy, but i'll still eat it and have a stomachache.

                              to me, rainbows is ok, not great, but no hate for them. on par with L&L but more diverse menu, lacks the convenience of L&L (L&L is all over the place).

                              zippy's is also all over the place, and they have familiar food as well as plate lunch style. the 24/7 aspect earns points from me, as teh napoleon's bakery found in some locations.

                              grace's inn is ok, eaten there a few times, nothing memorable.

                              liliha bakery is good/great, i would go there more often if i had extra $ and weren't on a diet and the place was less crowded. definite foodie stop, but stick with the chantilly cake and cocopuffs, a lot of their baked goods are baked terribles. they have a lot of the plate lunch classics but in a diner/bakery atmosphere. LOVE the waffles, best in town. i dunno if they have katsu. open all day every day except mondays, bonus!

                              i like kenny's ok, haven't been there much, they are more sit-down like zippy's since their burgerhouse location closed.

                              i'm not a big plate lunch guy, and i haven't tried most of the drive-inns. been to likelike twice, did not like the beef stroganoff, and, if memory serves, the saimin was bad. hate W&M, bbq burgers are tiny, super sweet, and $$$$. they have strange hours too. have not tried deans or st louis.

                              you might want to check out yelp for places we forgot to suggest, and photos of the food.

                              1. re: indelibledotink

                                I tend to agree with KM about the saltiness of L&L food overall, but do eat there on occasion. Do give Deans (ahi cakes) and St. Louis a try, decent places.

                                Over on Kalihi Street below Nimitz is Kahai Street Kitchen and Ethel's Grill across the street. Parking and seating is tough but good food at both, same with Ray's Cafe on N. King.

                                1. re: curiousgeo

                                  wow, haven't been to Ray's since it was on Smith St. in Chinatown. Best steak plate ever. And yes, for Ethel's and Kahai, best go at non-peak times. And like many others they may be cash only. Only had food from Kahai Street Kitchen once, it was really good. Ethels a couple of times. Just too far out of the way usually.

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    i went to ray's on labor day for the first time
                                    chicken was great, crisp and moist
                                    my friend had the pork chops, just like i make them at home, but very good

                                    prime rib, which we didn't get, looked the best
                                    over 1 inch thick and covered most of the plate
                                    comes with only au jus and 2 scoops rice, but it was only 16.00
                                    would easily be 36-38 bucks in a restaurant

                                    not sure i would tell a tourist to go to ray's though

                                    1. re: macsak

                                      True, Ray's, Ethel's and Kahai St., all present challenges. Small dining areas with limited parking in non-tourist areas. But no barrier is too big in search of a great plate lunch.

                        2. re: KaimukiMan

                          My house! You're always welcome K-Man!

                          1. re: manomin

                            lol, we can discuss that further on Friday.

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              I'm quite excited to see what is a special on the menu at Orchids on Friday. The regular online menu looks fabulous. Love the fact that like at Roy's and others you can get small dishes vs entree portions! I miss that meatloaf sandwich from both the truck and the funky storefront on Cooke St.!

                      2. re: KaimukiMan

                        For Hawaiian style, I like Young's Fish Market, though the menu is limited. This is for the hard core Hawaiians. I love my lau lau with poi every so often.

                      3. We like Sam Sato's - Wailuku Maui. Not fancy but full of locals.

                        1. has anyone mentioned kakaako kitchen yet? they're a more... progressive plate lunch place (?). i haven't eaten there much, but enjoyed the times i have. they are on oahu at ward center.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: indelibledotink

                            Kakaako Kitchen is very good (see my post above along with south shore grill and pioneer saloon), but the OP was looking for "traditional". I think you nailed it when you called Kakaako Kitchen "progressive plate lunch"