The food we call Hawaiian might be the most perfect encapsulation of Pacific Rim cuisine. After all, the island chain is both physically and soulfully right in the center of it, and people have been arriving to the island chain for thousands of years.
There has long been a Hawaiian population in Los Angeles County, especially in the South Bay. But there's been an increased interest in all things Hawaiian-inspired in L.A. lately, especially in the realm of food: We know all about poké, and now the city is ready for a deeper dive into the Hawaiian culinary repertoire. Some restaurants are adding Hawaiian items to the menu, such as Umami's loco moco burger (a burger with rice, gravy and a fried egg); some poké stands like TikiFish are expanding their menu to include other classic items such as mac salad. But other restaurants are fully Hawaiian — which means pan-Asian mixed with Portuguese mixed with Pacific Islander mixed with middle American. Here are some of the best.
Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop
This bowling alley restaurant is famous for its comfort classics — don't leave without ordering fried rice.
Breakfast, featuring char siu and Spam and Vienna sausages and other preserved meats, is served all day here, and is recommended. There's classic, live Hawaiian music on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, too.
This is mostly a bakery (you've seen its Portuguese-style buns at the grocery store), so unsurprisingly the desserts are a highlight — especially the technicolor Paradise cake. But the huge savory menu incorporates everything from plate lunches to luau staples such as Kalua pig and lau lau (pork and/or fish steamed in taro leaves).
This Little Tokyo stalwart offers a good, simple introduction to the cuisine, and makes especially good Spam musubi.
The leader of the game, this small Culver City restaurant has been serving combo plates and shave ice since 1976.
A-Frame had Hawaiian elements from the start, but last year Roy Choi made it official, with yakisoba, Kalua pork ramen, that famous furikake kettle corn and malasadas (custard-filled doughnuts) on a menu full of Hawaiian-inspired plates.