Hawaiian I

Not Spam-a-lot, just delicious, inexpensive, and comforting island fare

You're not going to find labor-intensive, traditional Hawaiian dishes such as poi (gluey pounded taro root) or haupia (coconut pudding). L&L is a classic Hawaiian plate lunch dive, offering four variations each on seafood (shrimp fried, curried, cooked with garlic, and fried mahi-mahi); chicken (barbecue, or breaded and fried served plain, with gravy, or curried); pork (kalua, lau lau, roast, or barbecue pork chop); and beef (short ribs, barbecue, loco moco, and curried). This L&L also offers saimin (soupy Hawaiian noodles) topped with your choice of Spam, chicken, beef, or shrimp, a few sandwiches, and hamburgers (OK, but not what you're there for). L&L is a franchise, yet each outpost is a little different; the Vallejo spot does indeed offer haupia, as well as manapua (known in China as char siu bao, aka barbecued pork buns) and malasada (beignets), two of my favorite dishes there, leading me to think of that L&L as a place for getting M&M.

Out of curiosity, I tried the grilled Spam and the Portuguese sausage musubi, big thick blocks of rice — like sushi on steroids — topped with nori (seaweed), and thin slices of the processed meats, barely enough to flavor the rather bland concoction. (Try a bit of the bottled Asian hot sauces on hand, to encourage the musubi along.) The familiar spicy tang of the Portuguese sausage wasn't recognizable in the mild version used here; there was very little reason to choose between it and the Spam, an extremely fatty mixture of ground ham and faintly musty-tasting spices. I like the idea of it more than the actuality. And it looks cool. Musubi are guaranteed to fill you up cheaply, the everlasting gob-stoppers of the menu.

Get a big plate of Hawaiian soul food at this small eatery.
James Sanders
Get a big plate of Hawaiian soul food at this small eatery.

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Details

Barbecue mix plate $7.50

Roast pork mini $4.50, regular $6.50

Shrimp curry mini $4.75, regular $6.75

Chicken katsu mini $4.25, regular $6.25

Grilled Spam musubi $1.69

Portuguese sausage musubi $1.99

Loco moco mini $4.25, regular $6.25

956-2888

www.hawaiianbarbecue.com

Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday until 6 p.m. Closed Sunday

No reservations

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: difficult

Muni: 2, 3, 4, 15, 30, 45

Noise level: low to moderate

312 Kearny (at Bush)

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Not that you'll be hungry after, say, consuming loco moco, one or two Salisbury-steak-style hamburger patties topped with fried eggs, with rice and macaroni, the whole drenched in a salty, indeterminately brown, but pleasantly pearly gravy. I tucked into a mini version one noontime at the counter (fried eggs don't travel well), surrounded by dozens of hungry people, patiently awaiting their No. 9 plate lunch (fried mahi-mahi fillets with tartar sauce) or No. 10 (chicken katsu, another of my favorites, a thin pounded breast of chicken, breaded, fried as knowingly as a perfect schnitzel) or No. 15 (lau lau pork, shredded pork wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed). Nobody was going to be out more than $8.50, and everybody was happy.

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