Hawaiian Island Grill Adds Steam Table Craziness

It was practically a year ago this week that I first wrote about Hawaiian Island Grill, the plate lunch arm of a three headed take out spot that also includes Chinese (Gordon Chen’s Kitchen) and Japanese (Hakata Grill) food (on 53rd btw. 2+3rd).  Seeing as I knew nothing about Hawaiian food, I roped in native Kathy YL Chan to join me- and we sampled practically the entire menu.  The Verdict:  It wasn’t going to replace any of Kathy’s favorite hometown spots, but with good menu management you could end up with a decent lunch.

Well it’s a year later, and Gordon’s Hawaiian Hakata has added a fourth option to their repertoire… the steam table lunch special!  $6.50 gets you pretty much whatever you want. (No joke!) And ironically enough the options are mostly Korean food.


I know it flies in the face of freshness (and usually quality as well) but I find it hard to resist an Asian steam table.  (You might say the secret ingredient is variety.) Most places like this will give you one or two choices (if you’re lucky) plus rice or noodles.  But what makes this one so amazing is that there are pretty much no rules.  That’s right.  You pay $6.50, and they’ll pretty much give you whatever you ask for.  I got the sense that they might charge you a bit more if you go overboard, and obviously they’re going to  cut back on the scoops of each item if you start asking for everything… but who cares.  Just the fact that they give you option of trying 3 or 4 or even 5 things off the steam table is incredibly exciting.


You get a choice between white rice or fried, plus an assortment of meats and a couple of veggies.  The lunch special also comes with a side salad or macaroni (a Hawaiian plate lunch staple.)  I opted for the fried rice, and a bit of the eggplant (which tasted just like the sweet gloppy eggplant you get at Chinese places like Panda Express).  And for meats went with the Korean chicken, the Kalbi beef, and the rotisserie chicken (which we had tried off the regular menu last year.)   Of the three, I’d probably say the Kalbi beef was my favorite- although a lot of it was just bones and fat.  But the good pieces were real good.  Nothing was spectacular, but everything was good enough (and easily improved with a dip into the green sauce.) And for $6.50 it’s a pretty amazing deal- just be sure to get there on the early side, because things run out pretty quickly.

Once word gets out about this deal, I’m guessing the “whatever you like for $6.50″ will morph into a 2 items plus rice situation…  so if you’re as much of a steam table fanatic as I am, you might want to strike while the iron is still hot.

Hawaiian Island Grill Won’t Remind You of Oahu, But This Fat Guy Didn’t Mind


  • This has been around for several months now and recently I’ve been eating this around twice a week. The staff is great and generous with the portions, though I’ve recently noticed a growing crowd of people huddled in their little basement at lunch. Hopefully this post won’t kill it Zach!

  • Man, 6.50 for the variety plate sounds like a good deal. Zach is starting the Hawaiian food uproar and then watch the downgrade of their portions occur…let us hope not.

  • Kalbi is the best choice here(but then it’s kinda hard to make ‘bad’ kalbi). I didn’t like their rotisseri chicken at all. but it is an excellent deal for $7(inc tax).

  • what kind of hawaiian place doesn’t have loco moco?

    they should have fried-to-order eggs, hamburger patties, and a self-serve vat of beef gravy next to that table.

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    Wow! What a great find. This place is really good. Love the food here. Going to eat here at least twice a week.

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