Rainbow Drive-In: Go-to place for Plate Lunch
3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, Hawaii
The plate lunch is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine. Dating back to the islands’ plantation days, the plate lunch is a simple and filling meal eaten by plantation workers in the 1880s. Many of the plantation workers were from Asia so there was lots of Asian influence on the plate lunch, the meal could possibly have been an American twist on the Japanese bento box. The plate lunch consists of two scoops of rice, one scoop of super sweet macaroni salad and a protein, spam is popular. If a plate lunch contains more than one protein, it’s categorized as a mixed plate. The plate lunch is basically a loco moco without the gravy.
The Rainbow Drive-in, the neighbourhood eatery with the multi-coloured roof in Honolulu famously serves one of the best plate lunch in Oahu. The Rainbow Drive-in embodies everything about Hawaiian dining: casual, comfort food, usually eaten outside. The Rainbow Drive-In has been opened in Honolulu for more than 50 years and has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Hawaii Five-O and Lost. In an episode of Lost from the later seasons, Hurley and Sayid were filmed grabbing a burger and discussing how to get back to the island.
When the Rainbow Drive-in is not featured on screen, it’s a popular hang out for locals and surfers. Cars and trucks with surf boards in tow pull up and plate lunches fly out the window along with slush floats and fried chicken.
It was so hot the day that we ate there, I couldn’t wait to slurp up a slush float: ice cream mixed in with slushies. We ordered the cherry flavour and it totally hit the spot: instant brain-freeze. The thing you have to remember about Hawaii is just about everything is extreme in flavour: desserts (and for some weird reason, macaroni salad) is 10 times sweeter than regular desserts, salty items like nuts or poke are very very salty. It takes some getting used to.
We ordered two classic Hawaiian dishes: the plate lunch and the mixed plate. Since we hadn’t had breakfast yet, we added two fried eggs to our plate lunch but a traditional plate lunch would only consist of rice, macaroni salad and a protein. The food is exactly as comfort food should taste, familiar, homey and delicious. I could eat plate lunches all day long. The spam (my new addiction) was perfectly fried, the runny yolks of the egg pulled everything together on the plate.
The mixed plate featured three types of meat: fish, chicken and beef. The beef was the best thing on the plate, savory and succulent.