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Digging into Dean’s

By Yu Shing Ting Photos By Nathalie Walker
July 1, 2012

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Stop by Dean’s Drive Inn during lunch, and you’ll most likely see a line going out the door, which is a good indication of what you can expect at this popular Kaneohe eatery. And don’t worry, the line moves fast, and the food is oh, so worth waiting for.

As a Windward resident myself, I’ve been a fan from when it first opened six years ago. The tasty, local-style, gourmet plate lunches are recipes of chef/owner Dean Mishima, who has three decades of experience in the restaurant business. Born and raised in Kaneohe, Mishima grew up eating a lot of the food he serves today.

It was always his dream to start his own restaurant, so after 19 years as executive chef for Liberty House, he decided to pursue it. (Now that I think about it, as a kid my mom often took us to eat at the original Gazebo at Liberty House in Ala Moana Center and I remember the food being really good.)

At Dean’s, Ahi Cakes ($9.45 mini and $11.45 regular) and Teriyaki Beef Steak ($9.45 mini and $11.45 regular) are the most popular menu items. There also is a combo of the two called Surf & Turf ($11.95). The ahi cake is surprisingly moist, and consists of round onion, green onion, water chestnut and egg, and is drizzled with a sweet aioli sauce. The teriyaki beef steak is nicely marinated in a homemade teri sauce, and then charbroiled, cut up into thick pieces and topped with a teri glaze. All regular plates include white or brown rice, and a choice of soup, tossed salad or macaroni salad.

There also are burgers, sandwiches, a vegetarian menu, and daily specials often with a variety of fresh island fish dishes such as shutome, ono and ahi belly. When you order, beware of the display of cornbread and desserts on the counter that are too hard to resist. Add a friendly staff to the mix, including Mishima’s wife Doreen at the register, and you’ll definitely be hooked.

From experience, it’s good to call beforehand to make sure they’re open as the restaurant will sometimes close for catering events. And if you can wait, step in after 1:30 p.m. to skip out on the lunch rush.

Dean’s Drive Inn

45-773 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe
247.1300
Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday closed