Sign up for news and special offers from Dining Out
Order of the Day

The Best Plate Lunches Over the Rainbow

Story By Kelli Shiroma Photos By Nathalie Walker
May 20 - 26, 2012

See more articles from

Since October 1961, Rainbow Drive-In has provided some of the best plate lunches at reasonable prices to Hawaii’s locals. Now, more than 50 years later, long lunch lines and numerous takeout orders are a continued sign of customer satisfaction.

“Our peak times are from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (for lunch), and at night, it’s from 5 to 7:30 p.m.,” says executive general manager Lance Shimabuku.

While Rainbow Drive-In has been more popular among locals in previous years — and continues to draw a large local clientele — Shimabuku says that more customers from the Mainland have visited the eatery since last year.

“We have a lot of surfers and locals, but after we did a segment on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives last year on Food Network, we’ve been having a lot of Mainland visitors,” he confirms.

Rainbow Drive-In is well known for its good food, friendly service and reasonable prices, according to Shimabuku.

Indeed, plate lunches range from $6 to $8.25, including Mahi Mahi with tartar sauce ($8.25), BBQ Steak ($7.25), Beef or Pork Cutlet with Gravy ($7.25) and Chili Dog Plate ($6.75). Items on the breakfast menu — such as Sweet Bread French Toast ($5.50) and Corned Beef Hash with Gravy and Egg ($5.50) — are priced at $5.50 or less. Besides the entree, all plate lunches come with two scoops of rice and one scoop of macaroni salad or coleslaw.

When it comes to Rainbow Drive-In’s signature dishes, Shimabuku is quick to name Loco Moco Plate ($7), Mix Plate ($7.75) — comprising Barbecue Steak, Mahi and Boneless Chicken — and Boneless Chicken with Gravy ($7). However, many of the other menu items are customer favorites, such as the renowned Chili, which is sold by bucket ($18.50) or is available in Chili Rice or Chili Cracker Bowl ($3) options.

“Our Bento ($7.50) — which consists of our Boneless Chicken, BBQ Steak, Spam and rice with furikake — is popular,” Shimabuku says. “So is our Chili Dog Boat ($4.25) — it’s a hot dog with our famous chili on it. Our Loco Moco Bowl ($3.95) — which consists of one scoop of rice, one hamburger, one egg and gravy — also is popular. It’s a mini version of our Loco Moco Plate ($7); the egg is cooked any way you decide.”

With summer just around the corner, Shimabuku anticipates numerous orders of the eatery’s popular Slush drinks (regular $1.75, large $1.85).

“Summer’s going to be really hot and it’s such a refreshing drink; it’s a sure way to beat the tropical heat!”

In addition to the plate lunches on its daily menu, Rainbow Drive-In also offers customers a variety of specials that are only served on certain days. For example, Roast Pork with Gravy ($7) is only served Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while Shoyu Chicken ($6.50) is served Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Other specials include Pork Long Rice ($6.25) — served on Mondays and Fridays — and Spaghetti with Weiner ($6.25) and Chopped Steak with Vegetables ($6.75), both of which are served Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The end of June marks a one-weekend-only special at Rainbow Drive-In, according to owner Jim Gusukuma.

“We’re teaming up with 50th State Poultry on the last weekend of June — June 30-July 1,” he states. “(We’ll be serving) a rotisserie, huli huli-style chicken only for that weekend. We’re going to sell plates for $7 and we’ll be selling the chicken (itself) for $5.”

Rainbow Drive-In

  • Where
    • 3308 Kanaina Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Call
    • (808) 737-0177
  • Hours
    • Open daily
    • 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Notes
    • Free parking available.
  • Website