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A Food Truck Invasion

Cover Story Features

June 22, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

It may have taken the Islands longer than other parts of the country to join the food truck invasion and catch on to this contemporary way to eat. But now on the local dining scene, mobile eateries are trending like the hottest thing since sliced bread.

Dining Out recently pulled up to 755 Kapahulu Ave., where, at first glance, appeared to be nothing more than a gravel-filled, industrial parking lot with large trucks and limos parked at random. But beyond that it is home base for local food truck Kau Kau Grill.

It’s 9 a.m., and owners Miles Oyasato, Nolen Tosaka and Ty Takishita are hard at work prepping for the lunch and dinner crowds (most of whom are devout followers of their routes).

Mondays, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Kau Kau Grill is parked in front of Central Pacific Bank Plaza. Then, Tuesdays and Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the food truck relocates to Keeaumoku Street (across from HMSA) and 3-6 p.m. it caters to patrons on Kaheka Street (near the Pan Am Building). Kaheka Street also is the happening spot Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., as Kau Kau Grill cooks up a storm.

“Everything here is cooked to order, but the service is quick (orders usually are ready between 5 and 10 minutes) and the quality is superb,” says Oyasato. A 2002 graduate of Leileihua High School, Oyasato and his friends turned a far-fetched idea into reality, and Kau Kau Grill came into fruition in April 2013.

“Opening a restaurant was always in the back of our minds. Then, a friend of ours purchased a delivery truck, we refurbished it and here we are.”

The food truck’s snow-white exterior now serves as a review board, boasting notes of endearment and plate lunch recommendations from avid fans — both kamaaina and visitors alike. (If you look closely, you’ll find a little love note from Dining Out.)

The menu is simple, with only a handful of items based on food that the owners like to eat. Each lunch item is derived from original recipes and is brought to life with homemade sauces.

Tosaka received formal culinary training at Kapiolani Community College, and most recently gained on-the-job experience at Bartolotta, a five-star restaurant in Las Vegas. As for Takishita and Oyasato, a passion for cooking and love for good food account for more than enough to help their business thrive.

At a time when our nation’s finances aren’t at its best, Oyasato says he was hesitant to invest in a restaurant space, but was determined to be part of a culinary innovation, serving inexpensive, broke da mout grinds. For $12 a plate, customers can feast on Kau Kau Grill’s BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Garlic Ahi, Pulehu Beef Short-ribs and Garlic Shrimp.

“When we get together for parties or backyard barbecues, these are always the staples,” Oyasato says, as he serves up a “Trust Us” Combination Plate (two choice combo, $15), the ultimate pairing of ribs and shrimp. The ribs are glazed with a sauce so good it may leave you at a loss for words. Sweet, tangy, savory and zesty pretty much sum it up. And the meat is so tender, it falls right off the bone and into your mouth. Surf’s up, as morsels of shrimp are doused in a savory garlic blend infused with freshly chopped garlic, olive oil and a flavor burst of seasonings. Finally, white, brown or “Krazy” rice, along with tossed salad or potato mac salad with spaghetti complement the main entree. Truth be told, this example of an authentic plate lunch also is known as a kanack attack in a styrofoam box.

Pulehu Beef Shortribs bring out the inner carnivore in customers, as charbroiled, smoky chunks of beef are generously enhanced with equal parts Hawaiian salt and pepper.

Each item speaks to the cross-cultural identity of the Islands, including Spicy Mayo Poke Bowl ($8) and Shoyu Poke Bowl ($8). Feel the need to sweeten up your palate? Kau Kau Grill’s bite-sized Chocolate Chip and Melting Moments cookies ($5 per container) are winners.

“The cookies are made from my mom’s special recipes, and I promise you can’t eat just one,” Oyasato says with a laugh. All kidding aside — he’s right.

In the midst of a food truck revolution, Kau Kau Grill has established its own devout army of supporters and also has expanded its reach to community events, including Honolulu Night Market and Eat the Street in Kakaako, where hundreds of hungry people line up for their food truck fix. Come July 4, Kau Kau Grill will be a part of Pearl Harbor Hickam’s Independence Day festivities.

Stay on the move with Kau Kau Grill and receive updates through Twitter, Instagram (@kaukaugrill) and Facebook blasts. You’ll be in the know and your taste buds will thank you.

Kau Kau Grill

Call 284-8293 to place pre-orders and for more information.