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It’s a family affair at Hapa Grill: Owner Shannon Putnam purchased the five-year-old restaurant, formerly Jurison’s Westside Café, from her uncle and runs it with the help of her parents, Richard and Ellen Tangonan, the retired owners of Sassy Kassy’s lunch wagon. “My mom makes her homemade brownies for the restaurant,” says Putnam. “My father makes his teriyaki sauce for us. We have certain elements of our menu that really draw on their experience and specialties.” The diverse selections include such breakfast staples as Belgian waffles and eggs Benedict; pastas; salads; Sassy Kassy’s teriyaki; and local favorites like mochiko chicken. 590 Farrington Highway, Suite 539, 674-8400, hapagrill.net.
Hana Sushi is one of the few Kapolei eateries where you might feel underdressed in board shorts and a T-shirt; the place is popular with local business people looking for a relaxed, non-fast-food lunch. The day we dropped by, everyone was digging into piles of golden, crunchy shrimp tempura, while we opted for sushi, including a spicy salmon, shrimp tempura and avocado maki. The menu is huge, with a page of appetizers that includes spicy calamari and age shumai; salads; and entrées such as chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, miso butterfish and tonkatsu. 590 Farrington Highway, 674-9777.
Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory
The Kapolei location is big on style, with oversize, custom-made pendant lights and dark-wood and red accents. “Kapolei is a growing city and it’s a beautiful city, and it fit in with the type of architecture we were looking to put up,” says manager Elliott Chun, whose father, Nelson, founded the company. The restaurant is known for its hits-the-spot Chinese food, including perennial favorites such as garlic chicken, fried saimin and Hong Kong chow mein. Diners should also try the manapua, which are available in such inventive flavors as Thai curry chicken and sweet potato. 885 Kamokila Blvd., 693-8838, chunwahkam.com.
Grindz on the Go
Campbell Industrial Park’s lunch wagons cater to area workers hungry for heaping portions of cheap, ono grindz.
Monday through Friday, Kalaeloa Boulevard, the main artery bisecting Campbell Industrial Park, is humming with the sounds of industry—the rat-a-tat-tat of heavy machinery, the roar of semis rumbling down the road and the sizzle of meat on the grill. What’s that you say? Meat? Sizzling? Yup, steak, ribs, pork chops and just about anything else you can think of—from fried noodles to fried-rice omelets—is being cooked up at the dozen or so lunch wagons lining the bustling boulevard.
Campbell’s lunch-wagon scene has flourished in recent years, growing from a handful of trucks—Elena’s, Rose’s and Lanie’s lunch wagons have all operated here for 20-plus years—to some 15 to 20 chow carts. “We’ve been in business for about 25 years, and at this location for about 10,” says Norma Dileon, the chef and owner of Norma 2, which serves such Filipino specialties as pork guisantes (pork and peas) and dinuguan (pork blood stew). “When we started out here, there were about three wagons.”
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., hordes of workers wearing oil-stained coveralls and scuffed work boots pour out of the surrounding buildings and descend upon the wagons. “People in this area are looking for quality and quantity,” says Robin Ganir, the owner of Ganir Catering & Da Red Lunch Wagon, which is popular for its broke da mout’ daily specials, like teriyaki beef and grilled shrimp. “The boys around here can put away a lunch plate, easy.”
With Kapolei Commons and its still-limited dining options a five- to 10-minute drive from Campbell, the lunch wagons have the upper hand in terms of expediency. “Most guys only have 30 minutes for their lunch breaks. The lunch trucks are convenient for them,” says Junior, the grill master at Samantha’s Lunch Wagon, which is known for its flavorful steak-and-onion plate.
There’s the added bonus of ample street parking: Semi-truck drivers literally pull over next to their favorite lunch wagons, hop out, order and are back on the road in less than 10 minutes.
While there’s definitely a sense of competition among the wagon owners, these are friendly rivalries, and everyone I chat with is happy to recommend another truck’s food, as soon as they’re done telling you why theirs is the best. Fortunately, there’s enough business to go around, and each wagon has its own rabidly loyal following. “People have their favorites,” says an employee of Precision Truss. “I only go to Samantha’s.”
At Rose’s Lunchwagon, which sells Chinese food, owner Rose Ha greets one of her regulars, a city sanitation worker, by asking him if he wants his usual—chicken and mushrooms. “He comes here every day,” says Ha. It’s also a reminder that the food is good. “The food is what makes the lunch wagons popular,” says Ada Summers, of Kristen’s Lunchwagon. “Our prices are good, too.”