Tag Archives: Rainbow Drive-In

What I learned turning 39


I had it all planned out.

My birthday happened to fall on a Thursday when I had no plans. None. I couldn’t believe my luck!

So I decided to actually spend a day doing everything I loved to: surf in the morning, breakfast with the guys I surf with, hike Makapuu with my dogs, maybe relax on the beach with a book, then hit the surf for an evening session and eat somewhere with great food. I wasn’t going to check e-mail or do any work of any kind. It was my birthday — and my last in the 30s — and I was going to spend it the way I had wanted, dammit.

But like most things in life, they don’t always turn out the way you expect — or want.

I did manage to catch a few waves in the early morning, but that’s about the only thing on my list that actually happened according to plan.

I should have known when I stepped on something sharp and hard on the way back to my car that this wasn’t going to be my favorite day.

The “Check Engine Soon” light flickered on while I was driving down to the beach. And when I was about to head home, it started making a clunking noise, one that my mechanic said could be bad, really bad, like, tow-the-car-to-my-shop bad. And the bottom of my foot, where the shard was lodged, was starting to ache.

I had to skip on breakfast at Rainbow Drive-In and spend the morning, instead, sitting outside my mechanic’s shop in Kakaako until my mom came to pick me up.

So we grabbed breakfast at Pancakes and Waffles Hawaii in Kalihi (photo at top), where we gorged on honey butter chicken, mini waffles, buttermilk pancakes and vinha d’alhos (Portuguese pickled pork). It wasn’t on my to-do list, but I wasn’t complaining, either.

I wasn’t sure when the car would be ready that day — or if it would even be ready that day — so I couldn’t do much of anything. I stayed home, watched Netflix, took a nap, walked the dogs and did nothing much remarkable.

IMG_1939I wasn’t in the mood to surf that night, and I didn’t feel like sitting in a bustling restaurant, ordering dishes I couldn’t pronounce. So I made comfort food bentos — Spam musubis, shoyu hot dogs, shoyu eggs — and headed to Waikiki to watch the sunset. Bubbies was my dessert. No singing “Happy Birthday” necessary.

My day didn’t turn out much like anything I had originally planned — and I learned a few things with that experience.

You can’t control everything. No matter how much you want to, you really can’t. So much in life isn’t determined by you and you have to learn to just go with it. It’s not the easiest thing, especially when your plans are derailed; it’s frustrating. But it’s important to realize the only thing you can control is how you deal with these situations, not the situations themselves.

Sometimes the surprises are better than your plans. I hadn’t planned on eating breakfast with my mom — and because my car broke down, I was able to. And that was one of the highlights of my birthday.

Doing nothing can be a good thing. I’m not one of those people who enjoy lounging around the house, doing nothing. I don’t sit in front of the TV for hours or even take naps. But sometimes it’s a good thing to recharge and unwind. It’s a lesson I haven’t quite learned yet, but I’m starting to.

There’s always tomorrow. Sure, Thursday was my birthday, but that’s just an arbitrary date. All the things I wanted to do — I can do today. Or tomorrow. And even over the weekend. I can’t worry about not accomplishing everything today, right now. I have to learn to let go and realize the surf will be there in the morning. It’s all good.

Thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes via the blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, e-mail, text message and every other way technology has allowed us to stay in touch. I appreciate all the love!

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5 Qs with ‘Top Chef’ Lee Anne Wong

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I first met Lee Anne Wong (@leeannewong) about two years ago when she was in town shooting a segment of “Unique Eats” for the Cooking Channel.

She was sampling the plate lunches at Rainbow Drive-In when I popped up behind her and said, “Let’s take a photo!” (See above shot.)

We were instant buds.

We ate lunch at Heeia Pier General Store & Deli after that, where she met Mark “Gooch” Noguchi for the first time. And then I took her surfing in Waikiki.

We’ve been pals ever since.

Born and raised in Troy, New York, Wong, at the time, lived in New York City, where she served as executive chef of the French Culinary Institute, her alma mater. In 2006 she catapulted into mainstream fame by competing in the first season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” — which just so happened to be one of my favorite shows.

Wong finished fourth that season — and then went on to work for the uber-successful series for years — but she won over legions of fans who loved her sharp wit, her infectious laugh, and her mad skills in the kitchen.

She definitely won me over.

Now the cheftestant made the transition from skyscrapers to sunsets — she recently moved to Oahu, where she’s already planning big things. On Friday she will be popping up at Taste Table in Kakaako with a noodle bar that you know will have pork on it.

1. You + Hawaii — makes sense to me. When did you know this was where you needed to be?

The trip when I met my boyfriend, about a year and a half ago. I had been to Oahu twice beforehand within the year and was already feeling the call of the aloha spirit. Having a reason to come back kinda set the wheels in motion for the move here.

2. What do you love about the Hawaii food scene?

There’s a ton of talent here, whether it’s a young new business or an old school mom and pop joint. Hawaii is in the midst of revitalizing its culinary identity by combining its local bounty and cultural heritage/diversity with some really cool business ideas

3. Tell me about this new venture with Kevin Hanney and Koko Head Cafe?

Breakfast and lunch, seven days a week. Think reinvented diner classics — with a Hawaiian/Asian beach blanket. Breakfast congee. Local Fruit Pancakes. Bfast Bibimbap. Taro Biscuits and Gravy.

4. When you look back at your culinary career, what moments stand out?

Too many great memories to count. Aquavit, FCI, Top Chef, Iron Chef, Unique Eats, the list goes on… What really stands out are those times when I said goodbye to something, making the conscious decision to stop doing one thing, most likely in my comfort zone, to step off into the great unknown and try something new. Every time you leave a job to start a new one, or take a shift in career direction, and all the personal minutia and emotions that go along with such change, it’s like hitting a reset button. This is one of those moments, I know it, probably the biggest change I’ve ever taken on. For me, Hawaii is the undiscovered country. My chance to start a new adventure in not just my job but in life.

5. Let’s eat. Where are you taking me?

Let’s see. On an all day excursion we kill it at dim sum at Fook Lam, the earlier, the fresher. Followed by wannabe cronuts at Regal Bakery, just because it’s close. We will collect fresh local fruits and roasted meats and maybe a few manapua as we stroll through Chinatown on our way to Pig and The Lady to get a to-go bahn-mi as they open for lunch (We put this in our pocket and save for later…). Time to find me an end table and lounge chair for my apartment. After furniture shopping in Kakaako we hit up Cocina for taco lunchtime, split that bahn-mi in secret at the table (maybe we give Quinten a bite). An afternoon of food shopping at Ala Moana/Shirokiya (still food collecting, maybe a kimukatsu sandwich for midnight snackies). Beer in the beer garden. Sunset cocktails at the Royal Hawaiian. First dinner: Restaurant Wada. Second dinner: Kohnotori. Dessert: We accost Michelle Karr-Ueoka outside of MW restaurant as they are closing and make her spoon feed us lemon meringue brûlée.

My kind of girl!

Check out Lee Anne Wong’s Noodle Bar pop-up from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17 at Taste Table.

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FUUD: Breakfast at Nico’s Pier 38


Our gang meets up for breakfast almost every morning.

And it’s almost exclusively at Rainbow Drive-In. (Hence why I post so many photos from there.)

We eat there for three reasons: food is great and cheap, it’s the closest spot to where we surf (Waikiki and Diamond Head), and we know the owner, so we can cruise there for as long as we want.

But the other day, someone suggested that we try a new place every month. She and her husband had just been to Nico’s Pier 38, a restaurant and fish market located just off Nimitz Highway.


I had been there before for lunch and dinner — it’s been open since 2004, but last year it moved to a nearby location and expanded to 160 seats with a full bar — but I didn’t know it served breakfast.

So I was intrigued.

Breakfast runs from 6:30 to 10 a.m. everyday but Sunday (which I thought was strange). And the menu is big enough, with items like fish and eggs, loco moco, fried rice, pancakes, French toast and sides. Prices range from $3.25 for a bowl of saimin with Spam, kamaboko and green onions to $8.95 for a fish omelette with garlic and green onions. A bit pricey — at least compared to Rainbow’s — but you get a ton of high-quality food. And you really can’t beat the view!


So here’s what we ate: (All photos taken with a waterproof camera — Pentax WG-3 — by the way.)


Here’s the omelette ($7.95), which can come with two of the following: Portuguese sausage, bacon, ham, Spam, kamaboko, cheese, mushrooms and green onions. The omelette also comes with white or brown rice and fruits.


This is the loco moco ($8.75, $5.95 for a mini). It’s a combination of Nico’s hamburger steak — which tastes a lot like meatloaf — and two eggs and rice with a mushroom-onion gravy. This guy opted for fried rice, which is on the peppery side. Talk about overkill — but in a good way!


The French toast ($5.25) is made with sweet bread from Kaneohe Bakery — plus! It’s got cinnamon, too, which was a nice touch, and the plate comes with fruits.


Here’s the fish omelette ($8.95) with chunks of grilled ahi, garlic and green onions.


I got the breakfast croissant ($4.25) with bacon — it actually comes with ham, but you can substitute it out — eggs and lots of cheddar cheese in between a buttery, flaky croissant. Heaven.

So if you’re looking for an uncrowded, relaxed place to eat breakfast, consider Nico’s Pier 38. You order your meals take-out-style and grab any table you want in the dining room. It’s hard to believe more people don’t venture here, but then again, maybe that’s a good thing for us.

Nico’s Pier 38, 1129 North Nimitz Highway. Hours for breakfast: 6:30-10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Phone: (808) 540-1377.

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#GreatDebate: Who’s got the best fried chicken?


The other day a few of us were talking about KFC, the fast-food chain that specialized in fried chicken.

We noticed that many of the local restaurants, operated by Kazi Foods, were closing, namely the ones on Kapiolani and Dillingham boulevards, on Kapahulu Avenue and in Niu Valley.

The conversation centered around the Kapahulu location. It closed a few months ago and, in its place, will be Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, KFC’s fiercest rival.

I was sad to see KFC good. I’m partial to Col. Sanders’ secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. But others in the group protested, saying Popeyes, which was founded in New Orleans in 1972, was superior in taste and quality.

It was interesting what a lively debate it started — and all over fried chicken!

I took this debate to others and found that a lot of my friends have very strong opinions about fried chicken. Some swear by Zippy’s popular version, others are passionate about the one served at Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering in Waipahu. Some still love the fried chicken plate served at Rainbow Drive-In — which, by the way, takes 15 minutes to prepare, so you should order ahead.

Fried chicken isn’t really a staple food here, but versions of it — like mochiko, garlic and katsu-style — certainly are. So maybe there is room in Hawaii for this debate.

So I’m throwing it out there: who’s got the best fried chicken in Hawaii (and elsewhere)?

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#MerryMe: At last

We did it.

We got hitched.

And it’s rather appropriate that my blog — which was hacked and had been down for weeks — was finally revived (with the help of Brian Dote of Tapiki) the day after Independence Day and exactly two weeks after our wedding.


So here’s the deal: Derek and I tied the knot on June 21 — summer solstice — at a beach in Aina Haina. We celebrated with family and friends in a small reception — about 160 people — at the Waikiki Aquarium.

We ditched the formal wedding for a casual outdoor, pau hana-style event — with an outstanding live jazz band — under the stars in Waikiki. No dress code, no program. It was a very laid-back affair.

Instead of a buffet, we did food stations, with dishes from Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering, Rainbow Drive-In and Alicia’s Market. We had huli huli-style chicken, Ono Pops and a live sushi chef. And the cake — designed and baked by Aloha Cakery — was really a bunch of beautifully decorated cupcakes with an ocean theme.

Seriously, it was perfect.

Here’s what our wedding entailed — and what the Big Day looked like:

We love surfing

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First order of business: photos. We hired my pal Dave Miyamoto to shoot our photos — and he was stoked to find out we both surf. So he came out to Queen's — our spot — to catch us in action.

Thanks for sharing this special occasion with us!

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