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Order of the Day

Dean’s Delights Diners in Kaneohe

By Kyle Galdeira Photos By Leah Friel
September 9, 2012

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When Dean Mishima had the opportunity to open a restaurant in his home-town of Kaneohe, the culinary craftsman wasn’t sure how the community would receive his cooking style. However, more than six years after Dean’s Drive Inn opened its doors, customers still flock to the eatery, some even coming from as far away as the Leeward coast in pursuit of the gourmet offerings served plate lunch-style.

Mishima has spent more than 30 years in the food service industry, including nearly 20 years as executive chef for Liberty House before the popular department store transitioned into Macy’s. When he moved on to open Dean’s, Mishima strived to provide great-tasting food while also including fresh, local ingredients.

“I was born and raised in Kaneohe, but when I decided to open up my own place, I never thought it would be here,” says Mishima, chef and owner at Dean’s. “So far, it’s worked out pretty good. We decided to offer a different style of cooking; Kaneohe was always about offering a lot of food at a cheap price. So, I thought about going for quality and presentation, and while the prices may be a bit higher, it worked.”

Mishima also has experience in the distribution of produce and meat, and he makes an effort to bring in fresh, locally grown items — including his meats, which are never frozen — when creating his stellar menu offerings. And while Mishima is capable of offering complex culinary creations, he has learned that simply seasoned dishes cooked perfectly resonate with the local clientele.

“In this area, most local people want their food plain and tasty,” Mishima explains. “For example, the first time I served lamb, I prepared it with a marinade and rosemary, but customers would eat it and say, ‘What am I tasting?’ So, I decided to do it local, pulehu style, seasoned with Hawaiian salt and cooked over the charcoal. You don’t want the meat to be overpowered.”

Dean’s continues to add new dishes and daily specials, including Broiled Salmon ($10.95), which is served atop a bed of somen salad. Mishima and his wife, Doreen, who greets customers behind the counter, also are glad to announce that the popular Vegetarian Maui Taro Burger ($7.95) is back on the menu after nearly a year.

“Customers have been asking for it, and we can serve it again now that the taro patties are back in stock,” says Mishima of the dish, which is served with soup, tossed salad or french fries.

Chopped Steak ($8.50 for a mini, $9.75 for a regular plate) is another mainstay on the menu, while Fresh Island Shutome ($9.50 for a mini, $11.50 for a regular plate) features light, buttery fish prepared in the customers’ choice of three savory sauces, including lemon, butter and capers.

All offerings are MSG-free, and plates come with either white or brown rice, and a choice of soup, tossed or macaroni salad. Dean’s also offers a wide range of burgers and sandwiches, not to mention a host of freshly made dessert creations available at the counter.

Dean’s Drive Inn

45-773 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe
247.1300
Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Fridays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Closed Saturdays
Note: Call beforehand as the eatery is occasionally closed for catering events.