Plate Lunches on Oahu, Hawaii – Our Four Favorites

Plate Lunch - Loco MocoOne of the things that everyone told me I would enjoy while in Hawaii (besides the ocean of course) was the food, especially the plate lunches. I didn’t know exactly what that meant yet, but I quickly found out that we had quite a few plate lunches during our visit to Oahu in December of 2016.  They may be served a little differently depending on where you go, but they are pretty much all the same, a protein, 2 scoops of rice, and 1 scoop of macaroni salad.  Some places even let you have a little side salad instead of the macaroni salad if you wish. After our first one, they were pretty much all we ate while on Oahu. Below are four of the places we enjoyed the most while on the island.

Plate Lunch - Rainbow drive inn 2

Rainbow Drive-In

One of Gene’s favorites was this place called the Rainbow Drive-In. Apparently for more than 60 years and they have served some of the cheapest and best plate lunches to Hawaii and the world.

Plate Lunch - Rainbow drive inn 5This was also the place where we first tried the island staple – loco moco. It consists of white rice, topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy. The egg thing was a little weird to me, but the rest was pretty good.

Plate Lunch - Rainbow drive inn 1Original owners Seiju and Ayako Ifuku had a philosophy which was to serve plates with generous portions of hearty, simple food with two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad at a reasonable price. This tradition happily continues to be the restaurant philosophy today, 60 years later. Rainbow Drive-In was also fortunate to be featured on shows such as The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, CBS’ Hawaii 5-0, and  Magnum PI, as well as on Netflix’s Terrace House. Mention Rainbow Drive-In and most people will know where you are talking about.

Plate Lunch - Rainbow drive inn 3We also heard that this was a former favorite of Obama. I can see why, as it was really good. We went there a few times during our visit and kept wondering if we would see secret service men come up to order food (Obama was in town the same time we were in town) but nope, no sightings there, lol.  On a side note, we did see some of his entourage while exploring the area, but that’s another post, lol.


Plate Lunch - Zippys 1One of the places we enjoyed a lot, and probably my favorite, was called Zippy’s. It was nice as there were quite a few locations around the island. They had a great Teriyaki Beef plate, but I also enjoyed their Katsu Chicken plate. One other thing to note is that they have a bakery and we tried a few of their local items while visiting. I think my favorite was what they call the Long John. It’s a custard-filled yummy dessert, lol

Plate Lunch - Zippys 2It was very tasty, and I liked the sauce that came with it. One interesting note about Zippy’s is that they had just celebrated their 50th anniversary. The owners, Francis and Charles Higa founded Zippy’s Restaurants on October 17, 1966. I am giving away my age, but I also turned 50 the same day! Crazy, lol 984958498540 is an example of a typical Katsu Chicken lunch plate. They may be served a little differently depending on where you go, but they are pretty much all the same. My husband Gene and I have had some fun.

Loco Moco Drive Inn

Plate Lunch - Loco Moco 1This was the first place we visited after landing in Oahu as it was very close to the airport. It was where I fell in love with plate lunches   They have Seafood, Chicken, Pork, and Beef entrees paired with the traditional 2 scoops of rice and 1 scoop of macaroni salad or a tossed green salad. Later we learned that this was typical fare wherever we went    It was so amazing, and I knew it was going to be a good week, lol

Plate Lunch - Loco Moco 2

L & L Hawaiian Barbecue

Plate Lunch -MiscI had wanted to try because I knew that have one here in the Denver area. They have the traditional plate lunches, and I really enjoyed their BBQ beef plate. We also found out that they have locations in  AK, AZ, NV, NY,  OR TN, TX, UT, WA. We have tried the one here in Aurora and it tasted as it did out there 🙂 So glad they are close enough that we can go and get our fix once in a while. 🙂

Plate Lunch -L and LI tried to recreate some of these plates since we’ve been home. They were not quite the same but were still enjoyable. I look forward to visiting again one day. If you have tried any of these places before, please comment and let me know how you enjoyed it. Happy travels and Mahalo for reading!


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3 thoughts on “Plate Lunches on Oahu, Hawaii – Our Four Favorites

  1. While most of these plate lunches will not work for us (being vegetarians), I am certain that today every location offers tons of vegan and vegetarian options .. and I certainly look forward to a Hawaii trip 🙂

    1. HI Kate, thank you for your message. We love Mexican food and will have to remember this when we get to the Big Island – hopefully next year sometime 🙂 Thx again.

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