The Weekly Eater


Check out Waimanalo —
your stomach will thank you

One's first thoughts about Waimanalo generally don't involve food, unless you're thinking of Dean Okimoto's 'Nalo Farms and resulting 'Nalo Greens or Frankie Sekiya and his wonderful fruit trees at Frankie's Nursery. It's just a matter of time before he and L'Uraku chef Hiroshi Fukui make the lemony, mandarin orange-flavored yuzu the object of every diner's desire.

When I think of Waimanalo, I picture horses and the polo field, Bellows and the beach park, and yes, much acreage devoted to gardening and landscaping passions. I also remember Bill Clinton passing through here in 1996 and stopping for a Diet Coke and a large order of fries at McDonald's.

This no-frills sort of catering to the community and busloads of tourists has kept many a neighborhood restaurant in business, even if it doesn't make much sense for others to drive 20 or so miles out of their way for Big Macs or laulaus. There are few surprises, but there are a lot of people who don't want or expect surprises.

Now that Kalanianaole Highway, from Makapuu Lookout toward Makapuu Beach Park, has been closed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily to take care of the rock hazard, Waimanalo businesses have been feeling the pinch. You might want to help out by heading to the Windward side via the Pali while the Makapuu work is being done. Combine a day of garden shopping with lunch or dinner in the country to make the trek worthwhile. Regulars should also call ahead because many of the restaurants have cut back hours due to the customer shortage.

Keith Ward, at left, is owner of Keneke's Plate Lunch. His mixed plate with kalua pig, laulau and BBQ chicken is a meal fit for a massive appetite.

HERE'S A sampling of what awaits:

>> Keneke's: This little drive-in is the place to stop for a quick plate lunch, covering all the local basics, plus Filipino dishes such as pork gisantes ($5.50) and pork adobo ($5.50). More importantly, after a long drive, customers line up for refreshing shave ice topped off with mango, lilikoi or lychee syrup. The North Shore has its favorites, but this is the best on the Windward side. At 41-857 Kalanianaole Highway. Call 259-5266.

>> Kimo Z: All the local favorites -- BBQ chicken ($6.25), chicken katsu ($5.95), beef stew ($5.95), kalbi ($9.95) and the Hawaiian plate ($8.95) with kalua pig, laulau, poke, lomilomi salmon and poi -- are all well-represented. Family restaurant fare is better than average for breakfast and lunch, but because this is one of the biggest gathering places in town, it turns into a sports bar from 3 p.m., with booze, pupu only, pool tables, darts, smoky air and all. At 41-1537 Kalanianaole Highway Suite 8. Call 259-8800.

Diego Gallardo's Maria Bonita lunchwagon, above, was a transient, yet familiar sight in Kailua. Now he serves his fare at his Waimanalo eatery.

>> Maria Bonita: Diego Gallardo started running his business about five or six years ago from a painted lunchwagon moving from spot to spot in Kailua. About two years ago, he settled into the Waimanalo Town Center where -- in a room full of Mexican decor, plus DJ lights and a disco ball -- he offers a simple menu of tacos, fajitas ($6.75), burritos ($4.99) with your choice of meat filling. Flexibility is essential as he may not have the fish for ceviche one day or the adobo sauce for pork the next, meaning, leave your city demands behind and embrace the laidback lifestyle. He's rightfully proud of his chile verde ($7.50), an occasional special. If that's not on the menu, the next best thing is a plate of carnitas (roast pork, $7.50). Wash it down with homemade lemonade. At 41-1537 Kalanianaole Highway Suite 5. Call 259-8069. Call for hours.

>> Ongie's: A block parallel from the main drag, this hidden eatery hasn't been affected much by the road closure because they've always served area clientele hungry for the likes of Mongolian beef ($4.75), kung pao chicken ($4.50) and roast duck ($12.50 whole/$7.50 half). Entrees are served atop a bed of rice that fills the typical Styrofoam takeout box. They're generous with salt but do an excellent job with garlic shrimp ($5.75). At 41-037 Wailea St. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays to Mondays. Call 259-0808.

See some past restaurant reviews in the
Columnists section.

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

very good, exceeds expectations;
below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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