DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Joel and Jeanelle Cabais, owners of You Hungry?, and their son, Sonny, 11. The Cabais, best known for the Ono Hawaiian Steak stands in Foodland stores, took over the restaurant at 1695 Kapiolani Blvd. in May. They also have purchased the former Pu'uwainani Lunchwagon at the corner of South and Halekauwila streets.
You Hungry? For steak, too?
The restaurant is part of a growing food trio that centers around its Ono Hawaiian Steak
You Hungry?, the popular plate-lunch spot across from Hawaii Convention Center, has quietly become part of a trio of eatery operations that include a lunchwagon in Kakaako and the Ono Hawaiian Steak plates sold at various Foodlands.
Joel and Jeanelle Cabais took over You Hungry? in May. At around the same time, they also bought the lunchwagon at the corner of South and Halekauwila streets, formerly known as the Pu'uwainani Lunchwagon.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Above, Joel Cabais cooked a plate lunch at You Hungry?, owned by Joel and his wife, Jeanelle Cabais. The couple took over the restaurant in May.
But they are best known for Ono Hawaiian Steak
-- steak plate lunches offering a half-pound of sliced, grilled steak, two scoops of rice plus a mac salad and a drink for $6.50 -- sold at various Foodlands.
"I like the challenge," said Joel Cabais, also son of Jay Cabais, owner of Steak Out. "With steaks, we had to kind of build a system where we could do all those plates and run smoothly. When I got to the point we were doing up to 1,300 plates a day, I felt like it was time to expand."
The steakwagon business also had gotten more crowded, with competitors like Blazin' Steaks setting up shop in town as well, with a lower price of $6 per plate.
So they invested more than $200,000 into other businesses, which includes both the sit-down location on Kapiolani Boulevard and the lunchwagon in Kakaako.
Unlike a steak wagon, which just offers one plate for one price, however, Cabais had to step up to the challenge of learning the more than 50 dishes and their variations for You Hungry?
The menu is going to stay the same, according to Joel Cabais, with choices ranging from teri mahi to furikake mahi, sauté mahi, fish casserole, chicken strips, chicken wings and oxtail soup. But there will also be the No. 1 seller from the lunchwagon -- now called You Hungry? Lunchwagon -- garlic ahi and blackened ahi with sweet wasabi sauce. It comes with brown rice, white rice and tossed or mac salad.
Other lunchwagon items include garlic chicken, crab-stuffed salmon in white wine sauce, and roast pork with fresh rosemary.
From steak plate lunches to garlic ahi and oxtail soup
» You Hungry?
1695 Kapiolani Blvd.
» You Hungry? Lunchwagon
South and Halekauwila Streets
» Ono Hawaiian Steak
Foodland (Ewa Beach, Beretania Street, Mililani)
Cabais, a Farrington High School graduate, says he actually had to buy the recipe for the sweet wasabi sauce in a separate transaction from Pu'uwainani Lunchwagon owner Marcos Rebibis.
"The lunchwagon is a whole new ball game for me," said Cabais. "You have to learn the different vendors, their schedules, and how to do the ordering."
You Hungry? formerly was run by Laverne "Ipo" Cullen and family. It had been in business for about 10 years, drawing positive reviews, and garnering a reputation for being the place to go for local-style food on tripadvisor.com.
Although there were higher offers, Cabais said Cullen eventually negotiated the sale to him because she wanted it to maintain its family feel. The employees have stayed on.
Meanwhile, his brother and business partner, Jason Cabais, and he continue to run Ono Hawaiian Steak at Foodland stores.
Eventually, he will marry the three businesses by bringing steak to You Hungry? as well.
The steak plates continue to remain a popular sell.
Cabais says he sells between 900 to 1,000 plates a day at the Mililani and Ewa Beach Foodlands, and about 300 per day at the Beretania store. Margins are slim, he said, but the business can pull in a profit if there's enough volume.
Joel and Jason bought the Foodland steak contract from their dad, Jay Cabais, who makes the special salt and pepper mix with more than a dozen ingredients, including extra virgin olive oil, that the steaks are marinated in.
Joel said he and his dad once had a competition to see who could sell more steak plate lunches. He won, with 1,300 in one day.
He attributes his entrepreneurial spirit to his father, who ran a handful of businesses as he was growing up, and is now selling steaks at military bases.
Joel has his hands full, for now, but says he's looking to expand down the line. He's looking for a second lunchwagon location in town. Also, the Cabais have also recently begun catering.