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The Best Plate Lunches Over the Rainbow

Columns Order of the Day

May 19, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

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