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skchai

Hawaii Plate Lunch getting big on the mainland?

29 posts in this topic

There's a place here in Chicago that opened up not too long ago called Aloha Grill. They just got a favorable write-up in the Chicago Tribune today. You can find the review here (you may have to register).

A good friend of mine is from Hawaii & we've talked about plate lunch before so I was excited to give the place a try. Also, being Korean-American, there are a lot of comforting flavors available to me. I like the place a lot & have eaten there several times now.

Thanks for the info & link. Sounds like a really good plate lunch place. I have a friend in the area and I'll let them know.


"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

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sorry for the double post - browser is acting funky today!


Edited by glossyp (log)

"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

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I didn't read the original article that raised the issue of ethnic appeal of plate lunches, but I disagree that the term may refer to Asians. Here in Oakland, CA , on 17th St. there's a successful little hole in the wall called the Hawaiian Walk-In (as opposed to drive-in, get it?) Yeah, its run by Asians, but the customers who crowd in for laulau, boneless chicken, and teriyaki are black, hispanic, transplanted islanders, or homesick kamaainas (like me). At first I'd say it's working-class, rather than "ethinc" but I'm not working class. Maybe there's something else: this is soothing food that, from conversations I overhear at other tables, seems to touch childhood memories of family dinner. Rice, gravy, simple meat and a mayonaisy version of salad. This stuff is from a childhood that is not white-bread American. I ate food with a similiar amount of love and soul in East Oakland, served by the black grandmother of a friend. You don't see the Norman Rockwell American in Hawaiian Walk-In. Maybe to the original writer, the concept of ethnicity refers to others not like him/her. My haole wife isn't interested in plate lunches, but when I treated my mainland-born 8yr old son to a plate lunch after a hard soccer game, he understood--something genetic seemed to have clicked.

Sorry to inject possible racism here. The bottom line is that plate lunches are comforting. The chicken cutlet at Oakland's Hawaiian Walk-In, by the way, is better than Rainbow's Boneless chicken. And I don't care about the geneology of mac salad, just give me an extra scoop and it's okay if you put gravy all over....

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Thanks to all who have posted so far - it's really fascinating how the humble plate lunch is reaching out into all corners!

crosparantoux, your post got me thinking, and I agree with you that the appeal of plate lunch to non-kamaaina has nothing to do with "exoticness" and more with universal, down-home appeal that just happens to come from a partly non-Western context. The very fact that it is heavy, bountiful, and simple, yet a change of pace from burgers and pizza, is it perhaps its main appeal. That's one reason why people who are not from Hawaii, and who don't go in for "healthy Asian" veggie-chicken-rice bowls, find themselves at home in plate lunch joint.


Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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