Friday, June 9, 2006 9 No tags Permalink 0


Steph and I decided that lunchwagon people “are just so much better” than normal people. Why? We can’t yet pinpoint it. Maybe it’s the combo of warm Hawaii weather, the local lifestyle and a positive upbeat attitude. Or maybe it’s cause they serve food out of a wagon. That does take some admirable dedication. It’s hot, sweaty, people want their food quick, you gotta offer a good variety (not to mention good price)…and a million other things I can’t remember at the moment. This nameless lunchwagon is situated right across the street from the UH Manoa campus. It’s hidden on the side behind Volcano Joe’s – a pricey and not very good coffee shop/bistro. They really rip you off there (I’ll do my next post on their “smoked ahi focaccia”, which you should never ever get) so you don’t feel bad about using their outdoor tables to sit and eat your plate lunch.

In addition to standard plate lunch fare like garlic chicken, teri beef and mahimahi, they also have a sperate menu of daily specials. Some interesting items were vegetable croquettes and fried aku. Instead of ordering right at the window, the lady behind the counter takes your order, asks in a soft kind voice, “you like kimchee?” (you must answer, “YESYES!”) and commandingly shouts the order to the “kitchen”, “ONE MINI LOCO MOCO KIMCHEE!” She’ll then look at you and go, “oh look at them, working so hard. They all sweaty inside.” Doesn’t she remind you of the aunty you never had? Under most circumstances you don’t want to associate sweaty cooks inside a wagon with your food but because everyone is sweet and hardworking, you simply convince yourself that all this sweat must make it taste extra ‘ono.
The lunch is ready in a matter of minutes and the cook calls out your order while simultaneously scooping up the mac salad. Your styrofoam container, all warm and happy feeling, is handed though the open window and viola, lunch is in your hands!

Ahhhh, the LOCO MOCO. I haven’t had one of these in nearly a year! A whole year! Crap. How time flies. Though not as experienced in loco moco reviewing as Kirk, who has the judging down to an impressive science, I know my mini with kimchee was pretty damn delicious. Aside from the way too small scoop of rice (you definitely need to double up on rice with loco mocos to soak up all the gravy!) the burger was just the right size, abd thick enough to stay moist and juicy with bits of onions. Topped with an over easy egg and healthy scoop of thick and salty gravy, this is plate lunch in it’s most local element. The kimchee, mild and lighted pickled was a nice touch, cutting down the heaviness of mac salad. The salad was however, bland. I could taste nothing but macaroni and mayo. Never mind bits of carrot or celery, there wasn’t even salt or pepper.
Not bad for $3.75 eh? I finished full but not that awful, “ooooh, I just came from a massive potluck” kine gross. Perfect size. Delicious food. And awesome lunchwagon people.

9 Comments
  • anonymous
    June 10, 2006

    Oh yes….Lunchwagons! Everyone has their favorite. Now I’m really homesick……

  • anonymous
    June 10, 2006

    Dude, I like this one named Yuki’s. It’s by the Capitol, and one of their specials was Chicken Squash and Eggplant…I wish I had taken that. Went to Queen’s instead and had the spinach pesto pizza. It was oily. And I will never get it again. Have you had the fortune of eating okonomiyaki? I want to find a place where I can order what I want without the mayo… BTW, how’s your internship going? It must be grueling, but that’s what I remember from Kitchen Confidential. Anyway, try go to Yuki’s. You know where the Harkness cafe is? Well, there’s a lunch wagon like in the side parking lot. Across the street from the Board of Water supply. Anyway, sorry so convoluted…

  • anonymous
    June 10, 2006

    lunch wagons are usually a more safe bet for Loco Moco’s, as you wrote with bits of onions in the burger so probably homemade. Oh, for got about that Marvo’s internship of your’s….are you getting bruised up by instructor’s temperment, or as they say, are we having fun yet on the other side of the serving counter?? *Use in case of emergency: “Fuck this shit, I quit”….followed by an obligatory removing of your apron and throwing it at the chef.

  • Kathy YL Chan
    June 10, 2006

    Hey Kirk!Lunchwagons are such a great part of our culture – the mainland is missing out!Hey Jess!Ooooh, thanks for the recommendations. I’ve always wanted to try ALL the lunchwagons in Honolulu – maybe this is the summer for it! I’ll be sure to try Yuki’s, anything with eggplant is good in my books! Chef Mavro’s is awesome, but I cme home so exhausted and sore sore sore every night! Well worth it though – will do a complete post on the internship after it ends at the beginning of July:)Hey Ron!I have used your emergency quote – only a couple of times though, and always in my head (I’ll never have the guts to do it out loud, much less throwing the apron)! LOL. Nah, but for the most part they treat me really well there and I’m learning (and eating) a whoole bunch. I’m going to do complete post on after the internship ends at the beginning of July, so look out for that :)

  • anonymous
    June 12, 2006

    lunchwagons beat poutine any day!

  • anonymous
    June 12, 2006

    im baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack from NY! hehehe…food is awesome up there! though i think asian foods are much better in so cal :)

  • J. Lo
    June 12, 2006

    I actually know exactly the cart you’re talking about. I used to pick up lunch there on my way home from school on days that I didn’t have afternoon classes. I wasn’t very impressed by their kim chee. If anything, I’d request to have it on the side in a separate container because the heat that gets trapped in the styrofoam takeout container usually ends up steaming the kim chee by the time I get home. My favorite place for some kim chee is Ichi Ryu Ramen on the corner of South King. They usually give you a complimentary dish of kim chee with your bowl of ramen. Mmmmm, so ono! :) Ok, Kathy, when I get back we are SO going to Mavro’s. I’ve never been. (We also have to go to Alan Wong’s at least once.)

  • Kathy YL Chan
    June 12, 2006

    Hey Aaron!Lol, I think we really need to switch places for a week or two! Hey Ed!Oh so true about Asian food in so cal, but more importantly – I want to know what you ate in nyc! :)Hey Justin!The summer Marvo menu comes out next week – and the staff is doing the food and wine preview paring tomorrow. Will make sure you try the best dishes when we go!

  • elmomonster
    June 13, 2006

    Oh man…is it silly to want to go to Hawaii just to experience Lunchwagons? I’ve heard so much about it and I’m drooling from your descriptions and pics.

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