If you had to describe a plate lunch to
someone who had never been to Hawaii, you might start with the words,
“It’s huge, and ….” Plate lunches are often judged not by the
quality of the food but the quantity. But unlike some places, Keneke’s,
located in Waimanalo, doesn’t forgo
flavor or courteous service.
It’s easy to find Keneke’s, as there is
always a huge crowd outside of the little, white-cinderblock building.
Standing in line gives you plenty of time to read through the lengthy menu
and decide what grinds to try. Kalua pig, lau lau, barbecue chicken, pork
adobo, kalbi, mahi mahi — the choices are many, and the listings are
painted right onto the wall. (I guess if they have to change a menu item,
it’s time to whip out the whitewash and start over.)
The most popular selections are the plate
lunch ($5.75), which comes with fries or rice, and macaroni salad, or the
mixed plate ($6.75), which comes with three servings of meat. You can also
get a mini plate ($3.75) if you have a lighter appetite but I have to warn
you, even this mini is an enormous serving. If you’re a delicate,
salad-nibbling type of creature, Keneke’s probably isn’t the place for
you. If, on the other hand, you want a plate piled high with delicious,
shredded, not-too-salty-but-just-right bits o’ pig, then you will be in
hog heaven here.
You can also order loco moco, a variety of
sandwiches or even breakfast, which is served all day long. Vegetarians
will get by just fine, as options include grilled cheese sandwiches and
Our order was taken by Keneke’s owner,
Keith Ward, a large man with a bald head, bushy white beard and sweet
manner. He was unfailing polite to customers, despite the noonday heat and
long lines. We settled into the back area, where there is some shaded
seating, and enjoyed our hamburger steak (two patties in the “mini”
size), kalua pig and mahi mahi. All three were good. The thick-cut
potatoes made for excellent steak fries and the gravy on the rice was
smooth and well-seasoned. The macaroni salad, to my taste, was completely
bland, but that’s really the traditional way of serving mac salad in the
islands. Relish? Celery? Pepper? No, just mayonnaise.
More spicy is the people-watching at
Keneke’s, as the clientele includes surfers, locals, some Polish guy in
a Speedo, sunburned tourists – it’s a wonderful mix of styles and
colors, all seeking an inexpensive, filling lunch. The decor is
interesting too, with hand-painted Bible scriptures festooning the walls.
(Keith coaches a team called the “Fear God Powerlifing Team.”)
While we were pretty full from the giant
portions, we couldn’t resist sampling dessert. I chose a lychee shaved
ice with a “snow cap” – a shot of condensed milk. Again, the serving
was huge. My friend’s “one scoop” of vanilla macadamia-nut ice cream
was a towering pile of creamy goodness. I can’t image what three scoops
would look like, but it might involve a carton of ice cream. The ice cream
was particularly good, with hunks of real nuts, and the entire dessert
bill, for both of us, was only $4.
For a plate lunch and for sheer atmosphere,
Keneke’s is one of the brightest spots on the Windward side.