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Drivin' to Drive In

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


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Seiju "George" Ifuku and his wife, Ayako, opened Rainbow Drive-In in 1961.

Photo: Courtesy of the Ifuku Family

Rainbow Drive-In
3308 Kanaina Ave.  // 737-0177 // Daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.  // www.rainbowdrivein.com 

Finally, I prevailed upon my wife to accompany me to a drive in. Where? I asked. “Rainbow’s,” she said. “Has to be Rainbow’s. I remember eating there with my family, Sundays after my mom finished the housework.”

Should you think a drive in is a drive in, you should stop by the rainbow neon roof right off Kapahulu Avenue and have a mixed plate.

Rainbow is the classic. Limited menu, everything grilled, everything cheap. The mixed plate comes with a large piece of tender, trimmed teri beef, and both mahimahi and chicken, the chicken trimmed and pounded thin, both breaded in what I take to be seasoned cracker crumbs.

It’s a mound of food, ready in an instant, and it costs $6.75 with the tax already figured in. Jaded as I was with diner food, I found myself tucking away every bite. Even the macaroni salad, enlivened with black pepper, was far better than most.

My wife’s pork cutlet was equally good, heavily breaded and doused local style with gravy. A week later she was still craving another.

Rainbow Drive-In was founded by Seiju “George” Ifuku and his wife, Ayako, in 1961. It remains in the family, which has established a foundation to support community groups and give scholarships to culinary students.

Barack Obama missed out by eating at Mariposa.                         

John Heckathorn has been writing award-winning restaurant reviews for HONOLULU Magazine since 1984.

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