For nearly a decade, Papa Ole’s Kitchen has been serving colossal-sized plate lunches in the small country town of Hau‘ula, tucked away between the Ko‘olau Mountains and the beach.
The family-run restaurant attracts local families, biker gangs and tourist. On any given day, dozens of heavyset Polynesian men can be seen sitting at the tables, chowing down on what some say are the best grinds on this side of the island.
Cedric Kanoa started the restaurant with his younger brother, Ole Jr. The two brothers named the business after their dad, Papa Ole, who inspired them to cook.
“My dad was the best cook on the windward side,” Cedric Kanoa said. “About 15 years ago, he would make barbecue and feed the kids in the neighborhood during the weekends. Lots of food and friends, and the whole town of Hau‘ula seemed to show up.”
Kanoa also works at Kahuku High & Intermediate School cafeteria as the head chef. His brother Ole Jr. says: “Cedric loves to cook and keep busy. That’s why the football team wins state championships. He feeds the boys right.”
The wall of the restaurant is lined with photos of the Kahuku football championship teams. Ole Jr. says: “The Kahuku high school football team looks like NFL players, but they are just in high school. Kahuku won this year, 2015 state champs. The football team has some big boys.”
The restaurant celebrates its eighth anniversary this December and has eight family members on its staff from cousins to nephews. Volunteers from the family also help out during busy times.
Ole Jr. says: “Don’t come here on a Sunday. We go through eight stacks of 150 plates during most days. On Sunday you might wait an hour for your food when the clubs and gangs ride their motorbikes and cars around the island to stop here for lunch!”
An hour wait for food might seem like a long time, but customer Cody Dong says, “It’s worth it.”
Dong is a regular who lives down the road and explains, “I just stand in line and the girl at the cash register always knows what I like to eat, one regular garlic chicken with mac salad. I can wait 30 minutes to an hour for my food, so it’s smart to call in the order before you come and pick it up.”
The menu on the wall of the restaurant is simply displayed with a dozen plate lunches offered, all enormous proportions and including rice and mac salad.
The restaurant gets most of its meat from Tamura’s Market, which has its own butcher and is within walking distance.
Mini plates cost about $7, and regular plates start at $10. Choices include garlic chicken, steak, loco moco, roast pork, kalbi, burgers, mahi mahi and, at $17, the famous Big J, which consists of eight grilled pūlehu ribs, eight pieces of garlic shrimp, rice and mac salad.
Zachary Rupp-Smith, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter