Hawaii Cafe – Burnaby, BC

Hawaii Cafe
5880 Marine Drive
Burnaby, BC
(604) 434-8822

Its hard to believe but it was a year ago this week that I was chilling out and relaxing on the beaches of the Hawaiian islands.  Good memories and fun times eating my way around Oahu are still fresh in my mind.  I can remember upon my return to the west coast that I had it in my mind to try and find anything in the GVRD that resembled the offerings or stylings of my trip.  I reckoned my best bet would be something like this, as it had some familiar North American fast food/diner items.   After some very preliminary searching, I discovered an establishment on Kingsway with Honolulu in the name, but alas, disappointingly I learned that it was more of a Hong Kong-style cafe.

So it was with a tingle of excitement that caused me to stop when I randomly drove past the Hawaii Cafe.  Built into the same building as a convenience store and near a gasoline stand at an awkward three-way stop intersection, parking is sparse and difficult to acquire.  You could park down the road at the larger pub with well-sized car lot and walk down, which would be my suggestion.  As I got closer however, my hopes of a Hawaii-themed meal were struck down, as I noted it was billing itself as a “Chinese food and Taiwanese beef noodle” place.  Recently opened judging by the signage, I figured since I had come this far, I would venture inside.

Sparse, but relatively clean and free of clutter, the room was filled with round tables and inexpensive chairs.  Clearly, it was more of a cafeteria type of eatery, and inside already were some blue collar looking workers, no doubt from the nearby region of home and road construction sites (including four Mandarin-speaking fellows who were interacting with the Chinese-speaking waitress).  With a dashboard of lunch specials reasonably priced, I opted to remain there and place an order to eat.

With the full understanding after scanning the main menu listings that this was as North Americanized as could be Chinese cuisine, I elected a few staples of mine when it comes to deciding in a place like this.  Something to fill me up (rice/noodles) and one main on the savory side.  For the latter, this turned out to be the deep fried squid with spicy salt.  With a not overly crispy exterior coating and dusted with a fine salt, the spice wasn’t necessarily there but the squid inside was tender and not rubbery at all.  After a few fork loads though, the saltiness started to get to me and luckily it was balanced out by….

… this chicken with pineapple fried rice. 🙂  I know, I couldn’t resist trying to slide even a small hint of Hawaii into my lunch by going with this sweet fruit-added rice choice.  As ridiculous as the combination was, the rice itself was pretty tasty, not having any hint of MSG and for fast food Chinese cuisine, not brutally salty and some might say even on the blander side of things.  For a better tasting lunch than a fast food burger joint could manage, plus plenty of leftovers to take with me, I walked out feeling okay about the experience, knowing full well this was bastardized Chinese food at its finest, and with my earliest memories of Chinese food being like this, it held a ting of nostalgia as well.

Hawaii Cafe on Urbanspoon

8 thoughts on “Hawaii Cafe – Burnaby, BC

  1. Hmmm, you were way luckier than I.

    Couple of weeks ago, I had the lunchtime craving for Chinese tan tan noodles. So I hopped into the car and drove around S. Bby but wanted something different than my usual suspects (Sunflower Cafe, Wen Xin, Alvin Garden, Sasaya, The One). Remembered seeing this place so headed down the hill and dropped in. They have a nice pic of a nice bowl of tan tan noodles affixed to the window beside the front door.

    Sat down, asked the waitress for tan tan noodles. 5 mins later a steaming bowl of soup noodles appeared. WTH ? Very thin brown soup, covering what looked and felt like “hor fun” (rice noodles), slices of pork, spinach, tomatoes and ground peanuts. I hailed the server over and asked if I mis-ordered, but she confirmed this is their tan tan noodles. I replied this is nothing like tan tan noodles, and certainly not at all like the picture by the door. But she insists it is because they added sesame paste to the soup, and she doesn’t know why the owner pasted *that particular* picture of tan tan noodles on the window. Uh oh. I sense some real bad vibes. I didn’t even bother eating it as I felt quite misled. I told her to tell the owner it is wrong to affix a picture of something completely different than what they actually cook.

    So I paid for my order, told them I would not eat that, and walked out.

    I ended up at Wen Xin, had a remarkably good bowl of Ja Jiang Mien !

    • Hi LR, sounds like you were the victim of the classic bait-and-switch routine. Very unfortunate and not a good way for them to start their business and drum up customers (esp. of the repeating kind). The server (probably the same one you had), told me they had lots of noodle offerings as well, but I fortunately stayed away, opting for something safer and knew they couldn’t possibly mess up. Hopefully with your hard stand, they will rectify things and not pull that stunt on you again. Would have loved to have seen their faces as you walked out. I’ll definitely give Wen Xin a try one of these days – anything else there you’d recommend? I guess being close to that school, they have some really cheap lunch offerings…

      • I rarely walk out (actually can’t remember last time I did) of a restaurant, but I felt ripped off if I were to stay and actually eat that. Mind you, it’s not the noodles I got itself that was bad, but on principle I felt compelled to protest and that was the only way I could think of. But not a good thing to waste food on one’s (mine) snobbery, I s’ppose :-/

        Wen Xin has a list of lunch specials for $5.95, but all rice dishes. I’ve had the braised pork belly with preserved vegetable (mei cai kou rou/梅菜扣肉) on rice, bitter melon & beef on rice, mapo tofu on rice and black pepper beef on rice so far. All very good for $6. And the aforementioned Jajiang Mein. Food comes amazingly fast too. See Karl’s review:


        Since the owners are Northern Chinese, if there’s anything you want you don’t see on the menu, don’t hesitate to ask. I forget if they have Xiao Long Bao or not, maybe I need to refresh my memory this week !

  2. When I saw this the picture of this place, immediately in my head I thought: noo way!! I live really close to this place and past by it (and it’s former “thing-that-resembled-half-a-restaurant”) for most of my life and has yet dared to go in to grab a bite. I tried convincing my boyfriend to go with me and he said: it looks like a place that I will get a stomach ache from… so I refrained. Maybe showing him this link will change his mind?

    Thanks for doing this post! 😀

    • Hi Cathy – glad to have been able to produce this ‘ah-ha’ moment for you. 🙂 It not a place to get too excited about unfortunately, but not bad when you want a generic Chinese food fix that isn’t horrible.

      If you are from that area, any other notable southern Burnaby places you’d recommend we check out?

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