Drivin' to Drive In

Looking for Hawaii’s culinary history? You can drive right up to it.


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Rainbow Drive-In lights up Kapahulu Avenue—and its quick, cheap, delicious mixed plates have lit up island palates for 48 years.  Ask Barack Obama.

Photo by: Linny Morris

The whole drive-in thing kind of snuck up on me.

First, Barack Obama came to the Islands on vacation last August, claiming he wanted to go to Rainbow Drive-In.

He doesn’t mean it, I thought, he’s playing to the hometown crowd. But then it occurred to me, a guy who was a Punahou jock in the ’70s probably consumed his share of mixed plates at Rainbow’s, even if Mariposa and Alan Wong’s are more his speed these days.

Later, I went to the (remarkably well-done) Raiatea Helm concert at the Hawaii Theatre. Afterwards, I ended up at a long table at the back of Like Like Drive Inn, having a post-concert bite with Helm’s extended family, most of them flown over from Molokai.

When you’re on Molokai, apparently, Like Like Drive Inn is where you dream of eating in the big city. They were connoisseurs. They knew the menu cold.

Finally, a friend of mine said he was going to take me to his favorite restaurant, the one he ate at two or three times a week. He picked me up downtown, and we cruised into the heart of Kalihi, to the corner of Dillingham and Waiakamilo Road.

“Here?” I asked, as we pulled into the cramped parking lot of Bob’s Bar-B-Que. “It’s a drive in.”

“Duh,” said my friend.

 

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