Old-School Diners We Love: Jack’s Restaurant in ‘Āina Haina

Timeless comfort foods like hot griddled biscuits, Grandma’s meatloaf and lunch specials at an East O‘ahu strip mall.


Jacks Restaurant Menu Maria Burke

Photo: Maria Burke


There are establishments that seem to exist in cozy bubbles where time stands still, even as shopping centers and neighborhoods evolve around them. If you have one of these near you, its bubble not yet popped by development and newfangled trends, you’re lucky: They’re worth seeking out.


Out toward Hawai‘i Kai, stores and restaurants have come and gone, but aside from some touch-ups, Jack’s Restaurant in ‘Āina Haina Shopping Center hasn’t changed much at all since it opened in 1964. Granted, nowadays hand sanitizer joins the collection of condiments on the tables, but Jack’s still has a homey vibe where the waitresses recognize if you’re new and folks who run into neighbors and old friends will pull up a chair and enjoy an impromptu meal together.


Jacks Restaurant Wall Menu Maria Burke

Photo: Maria Burke


The menu is largely breakfast-focused with pancakes and French toast, an omelet bar, sets, combos and sides. Lunch offerings haven’t changed much, including the specials. Under Jack’s Lunch Suggestions you can find saimin, chili and an array of old-school sandwiches like fried ham and egg, and tuna and tomato. Home-style plate lunches range from Grandma’s meatloaf ($13.95) to lamb curry ($13.95) and a bit of everything in between.


Jacks Restaurant Muffin Maria Burke

Photo: Maria Burke


My sister went to school near Jack’s, so growing up, the place was part of our landscape, an easy destination for comfort food. Today I’m back with my mom and we’re on track for a big breakfast. If you know Jack’s, you know that will include a hot griddled biscuit. The diner’s original owner and namesake, Jack, devised the buttery biscuits and they’re still cooked in muffin tins, giving them a scone-like crispy top and cake-like bottom. I order a hot chocolate with whipped cream ($3)—a guilty pleasure I like to indulge in as part of a diner breakfast—and a Spam and green onion omelet with added cheese, hash brown and biscuit ($11.75). Mom goes for coffee ($3) and the corned beef hash with eggs over easy, fried rice ($11). We add a pancake ($3.50) and a side of bacon ($4.25), extra crispy, because bacon.


Jacks Restaurant Spread Maria Burke

Photo: Maria Burke


The biscuits arrive with a sizable dollop of whipped butter smeared on the edge of the plate and are perfectly toasty, steamy and moist in the middle with a faint hint of vanilla. My omelet is tasty, the toppings embedded in the egg along with a slice of white American cheese—another guilty pleasure. Salty bits of Spam burst in my mouth and are followed up with crispy hash browns. Post people don’t understand how long it takes to make a proper hash brown without a ton of oil and these are expert, light and fluffy. Mom’s corned beef hash is chock-full of corned beef with crisp edges, and the fried rice, though lightly flavored, is a nice alternative to white rice. The pancake is a bit dense, but that’s OK because we adore the biscuits.


Regulars come and go as we eat, all walks of life looking for a hot plate and a warm smile. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Jack’s. I won’t let that happen again.


Open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. 820 W. Hind Dr. #119, (808) 373-4034, jacksrestauranthonolulu.com


Read the series:

Old-School Diners We Love: Harry’s Café in Kaka‘ako
Old-School Diners We Love: Kapi‘olani Coffee Shop in Waimalu
Old-School Diners We Love: Shiro’s Saimin Haven
Old-School Diners We Love: Jane’s Fountain in Liliha