5880 Marine Drive
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.