First Look: Sweet Home Glad
A new plate-lunch restaurant in Honolulu is serving up some cheap eats.
Photos: James Charisma
You walk into a new local plate lunch style restaurant for the first time. And although you’ve never been there before, you spot all the familiar regulars–barbecue chicken, chicken katsu, garlic shrimp, chicken wings, fried rice and more. You want to order your favorites but it’s a gamble because different places prepare the same local dishes differently. Some spots you know have the best chicken katsu, but just OK fried rice. Or unbelievable garlic shrimp, but not-so-great steak.
So when a new neighborhood spot appears, you order your usual (or a dish that’s hard to mess up), risk the $10 or so, and hope it’s good.
New Mō‘ili‘ili eatery Sweet Home Glad understands the predicament of having dozens of different items to choose from, inspired by local Hawaii and Chinese favorites. But this new restaurant offers a twist: Instead of having to commit to a full-price plate of something, why not just try a bit of it?
“Years ago, I went to eat at another restaurant and I didn’t know what to get,” says Sweet Home Glad owner Chung Lau, “But they had a tasting menu for $4 or $5, so I was able to try different things. I liked that approach.”
So when Lau and his wife, co-owner Kristy Tan, found the perfect spot for their new restaurant after more than four years of searching, they decided to adopt the idea. Half the ordering options at Sweet Home Glad are smaller portions of entrees for just $3.25 each. Not sure about the fried eggplant, or the clam poke, or the char siu mein? Get three to five big pieces of each in the $3.25 pūpū-size menu. Or make a meal out of combining a handful of different items, dim sum style.
Sweet Home Glad is in the location of the previous Spices restaurant (most recently Bodhu Café), across from Sushi King off University Avenue. For a plate-lunch place, the restaurant looks fresh and vibrant.
The small items on the menu are intended as an alternative to the bigger, traditionally more expensive plates, but the irony of Sweet Home Glad is that the big plate lunches are only $6.75 for a regular. Two scoops of rice, edamame and entrees including mochiko chicken, salt and pepper shrimp, steamed fish fillet, Spam katsu, deep-fried oysters and more. A specials board at the front register lists some of the priciest items on the menu, including a steak plate for $8.75, and two deep- fried soft shell-crabs for a whopping ten bucks. That’s it.
Lau runs Sweet Home Glad based on the price point: Whatever items he can afford at the $3.75 or $6.75 price, he has on the menu. Whatever he can’t (or whatever doesn’t sell), he removes. “We want to keep prices low because it’s so expensive to eat out,” Lau says. “Here, people can try different things at an affordable price.” Low prices are something he picked up from his parents, the owners of the former Aikane Cafe in Kaka‘ako. But Sweet Home Glad also doesn’t skimp--the portions for both the $3.75 and the $6.75 items are reasonable at each price, and dishes don’t cost more if you order beef or shrimp instead of chicken as your protein.
Lau is particularly proud of his roast pork belly, served takeout-style in square pieces with super crispy fried skin, fat and meat. Lacking a traditional large roaster in the restaurant’s kitchen, he prepares smaller batches in the oven which come out just as tasty. His fried oysters are similar–on the smaller size, but flavorful and surprisingly light. A $3.25 order of roast pork delivers four big pieces and, for the oysters, more than half a dozen. Sweet Home Glad’s calamari comes in big curls that get a little chewy, and the bacon wrapped shrimp is oddly moist, but otherwise most of the dishes are spot on.
If you’re a traditionalist, the edamame in the plate lunches instead of the traditional mac or green salad might be a bit disconcerting. But Sweet Home Glad’s got a few salads available too. They’re on the tasting menu for $3.25 each, nestled between the roast pork and the wonton mein. At the very least, it’s worth a try.
Sweet Home Glad, 2671 S. King St., Suite D, open daily, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., 949-2679