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Smoke Signals Lead to Good Grinds

Columns What's for Lunch?

November 24, 2013

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

Ho’omakaukau — are you ready — for some finger-licking backyard-barbecue style grinds? Conveniently located right on Kapiolani Boulevard, Kau Kau Grill’s food truck is the spot to fire up your appetite for lunch. The sweet smoky smells of barbecue are irresistible.

And so is the food. “We don’t give knives at our truck,” says Miles Oyasato, co-owner of Kau Kau Grill. Everything is made to be eaten with forks (think fall-apart tender meat), chopsticks (cubes of buttery ahi) or hands (plump shrimp tails).

Digging a black plastic fork into a thick slab of rib proves it: the meat easily shreds into saucy chucks. “Best ribs you ever ate,” exclaims co-owner Ty Takishita. Feel free to forgo the fork and pick ’em up. Substantial napkins are standing by. (No shame in using one as an adult bib. As they say, “If it’s not worth wearing, it’s not worth eating.”)

BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($8 mini, $12 regular) are rubbed with spices, slow cooked, then finished on the truck by grilling and basting with homemade barbecue sauce. “I don’t think we fit into any style of barbecue sauce; you have the real vinegary ones and the real molasses ones,” says Oyasato. “I think this is a happy medium everyone can eat.”

Everyone, including those you wouldn’t expect. “We have vegetarians literally trying the ribs,” says Takishita.

Pescatarians won’t have to convert to indulge in the truck’s seafood offerings. Melt-in-your-mouth ahi poke and garlic shrimp that patrons swear has butter in it — it doesn’t — are worth sampling even by carnivores.

“It’s not like the spicy ahi you’ve had before,” says Oyasato. After taste-testing the top poke on the island, from restaurants to little hole-in-the-walls, Oyasato experimented for a month to land on the perfect marriage: creamy, spicy and a hint of sweet. “It’s like an explosion of flavors in your mouth,” he says.

Oyasato is the only one who makes the batches of fresh never-frozen poke, the recipe a secret. “I don’t have measurements for my recipes,” he says. “It’s all by taste.”

Taste for yourself. The truck serves poke bowls over rice. Order spicy, shoyu or a combo for $8 or by the pound a la carte (market price).

If succulent crustaceans are calling you, save yourself a trip to the North Shore. “Trust us,” says Oyasato. Garlic Shrimp ($8 mini, $12 regular) sauteed with olive oil, garlic and secret herbs are flavorful without being heavy. “To us, it tastes better without butter,” he says.

The truck also has a variety of other plate lunches to pair with white or brown rice, tossed salad or spaghetti noodle “mac” salad. “Our menu appeals to any customer,” Oyasato says. Call your order in to beat the lunch rush, and stay updated with any specials by following the truck on Instagram.

Kau Kau Grill

1637 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
284-8293
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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