You don't have to go to Hawaii to get a taste of the islands.
Hawaii may be associated with slow-paced living, but one of its most notable exports is its fast food, introduced to the mainland by L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. Founded in 1976, the popular Honolulu-based chain boasts more than 100 franchises in 10 states, including California, Nevada, Utah, and Washington. With fiberglass surfboards on the walls and employees clad in aloha shirts, these cheerful places are often crowded with Hawaiian expats and other Pacific Islanders nostalgic for a taste of home. L&L specializes in the Hawaiian plate lunch, which consists of a meat entrée served with sides of sticky steamed rice and macaroni salad. Although the service is no-frills (drinks are self-serve and meals are presented in take-out containers that you pick up at the counter), portions are enormous and the price is modest—a meal including beverage will run you about $7.
Among the standouts are chicken katsu, a cutlet breaded Japanese style, fried to a crisp, and served with a tangy dipping sauce. Another favorite is the loco moco, a combo of hamburger patty, rice, and fried eggs slathered with gravy.
Delicious pork lau-lau consists of juicy hunks of meat bundled and steamed with tender taro leaves. The island staple, Spam, appears in everything from saimin (noodle soup) to musubi, a wedge of rice glazed with teriyaki sauce, topped with Spam, and wrapped in nori (seaweed). As they say in the islands, it's ono-licious. Information: (808) 951-9888, www.hawaiianbarbecue.com.
Illustration by Mary Lynn Blasutta
This article was first published in January 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.