This is a guest post from my husband, Michael, who travels the world and brings home stories of his many culinary adventures.
When traveling to even familiar places it’s nice to know a local. My friend Donn has lived in Hawaii all his life and when I asked him about the Rainbow Drive-In his face broke out in a grin as he chuckled, “It’s not very touristy.” In Honolulu with all the visitors, crowds, and overhype something like this simple drive-in has a certain appeal.
The Rainbow Drive-In is not easy to find, set back from the road and concealed by a mob of cars out front, and you really have to keep an eye out for it. It’s just past the zoo, in an older part of town. We parked on the street and carefully made our way across the busy road. The building is basically square with the kitchen in the back. Diners place and pick-up orders in the the front and there are about six stainless steel tables under an overhang on the side. A short cinder block wall separates the seating from the parking lot just high enough to block the cars. There are no windows but you don’t need them in Hawaii.
Even though it was just after 11 am the place was mobbed. The line moves quickly, so much so that if you are unfamiliar with the options it’s better to stand off to the side and glance over at the board of selections. Everyone I saw paid in cash, and the menu is about as cheap as you can get for quality fair, particularly for Hawaii. Although there is a continual flow of patrons through the drive-in the entire area is amazingly clean, including the rest room.
I heard they made a great Loco Moco so I ordered that along with a cherry slush float. The menu offers a choice between a plate or a bowl with the bowl being a regular single serving and the plate a double serving. I ordered the plate but later regretted it as I could have been easily satisfied by the single Loco Moco. We took our orders and sat down at one of the steel topped tables firmly attached to the ground. When a rookie pops the lid of what appears to be medium sized pizza box they’ll wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into—a bit of breakfast and a bit of lunch fused together. The steam and aroma will set you at ease as it tickles your nose. This is definitely plastic fork and knife eating at its best.
So what is a Loco Moco? At the base is a large scoop of white rice topped by a quarter pound hamburger, then they pour on a ladle of brown gravy over both and top it off with an egg cooked to order, I recommend over easy. A Loco Moco plate is two of these dressed on the side with a large scoop of macaroni salad. The macaroni salad is done classical-style with elbows and a hint of chopped vegetables, all liberally coated in mayo.
What comes to mind with the first bite is that this combination of tastes somehow works, even with the macaroni salad. On a hot day the cherry slush with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream is a great chaser. The drink takes me back to my childhood growing up in the Midwest, and once again the flavors work, particularly if they sit for a while and the slush melts into the ice cream. It was sweet heaven for me.
I left this experience very full and not wanting food for the rest of the day. At a little more than ten bucks this lunch is one of the best deals in town, but for most people, save the extremely hungry, the single Loco Moco in a cup should satisfy.