Best of Both Worlds
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We’ve all heard the saying, “Having the best of both worlds.” But where … where is this elusive utopia, I’ve often wondered? For those who are right there with me, eureka we have found it: Fairwood Drive Inn & Pho 27. This side-by-side dynamic duo is half take-out counter, half dine-in eatery — and a whole lotta delicious. “Say a whole family comes in, and everyone wants something different — kids, mom, dad — we wanted to provide a place where it’s easy to please everybody, and everybody’s happy,” explains owner Tiffany Ko.
Upon arrival, already I am impressed with the ingenious juxtaposition of these two popular culinary concepts housed under one roof. The dine-in Pho 27 exudes an atmosphere that is chic and modern yet comfortably casual, while Fairwood next door is a no-holds-barred, come-asyou-are comfort food counter perfect for the person on-thego or one who just wants a heapin’ helpin’ of no-frills french fries, hamburgers or plate lunch kine cuisine.
Sounds perfect, right? But I am a particularly picky pixie and alas, there is one final hurdle this joint must jump — I call it the vegetarian gauntlet — Dun Dun Dun! I swagger up to the Fairwood counter, square my shoulders with hands on hips and muster up my most intimidating Eastwood stare: Go ahead, make my veggie day. And they did.
After consulting with the counter helper, who assured me that many dishes could be adapted to my strict aversion-to-meat mentality, I was served — piping hot and chock-full of vibrant color and taste — Fairwood’s featured dish this week: Mixed Vegetable Stir-Fry on Rice ($8.50). A generous portion of carrots, zucchini, onion, broccoli, celery and choi sum is cooked just to the edge of perfection, maintaining that slight crisp texture that you can really bite into versus overcooked veggie fare I have previously fallen victim to.
The accompanying garlic sauce is flavorful without overpowering the entire meal, taking its proper place as co-pilot rather than Top Gun. Beneath this earthy bounty is a bed of steamed rice (you may also substitute wheat noodles) cooked fluffy and fresh — not clumped together in a chewy, gelatinous goo. “This dish is very popular with both our vegetarian and even meat-eating customers,” says Ko.
Fairwood’s signature Ice Milk Tea beverage ($3.50) supplied the perfect balance to my meal with its smooth, creamy sweetness and full-bodied taste. And lucky for me, with a satisfying sip like this, who needs dessert?
So drive in, dive in and don’t worry about what you, the carnivore hubby or the picky keiki will order. It’s all here at Fairwood and Pho, and with such delicious veggie options also available, you literally can take it or leaf it.
Fairwood Drive-Inn & Pho 27
Kaimuki Shopping Center
3221 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu
Open daily, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.