I’ll Take The Combo Please!
Now here are a few meals for the most indecisive of diners. You know, those of us who think everything on the menu looks so good and we just … can’t … decide what to order! Combo meals were made for us, as they allow us to have a taste of it all. They’re a true American kind of meal because they represent the land of opportunity, where we have the freedom to try just about anything — and in large quantities, of course.
Here in the Islands, some of the most iconic local cuisines we have to offer can best be experienced through a combo meal. Whether enjoying a plate lunch or diving into a bento box, islanders know how to sample the sweet variety of life.
On these Ono, You Know pages, we’re ordering up some perfect local-style combinations, but before we take the first bite, I’ll leave you with this fun fact: According to an article by Hank Cardello published in The Atlantic online, the “combo” was originally created to increase efficiency in operating restaurants. After all, it was easier for customers to pick out pre-established combinations than to decide what to order from the menu.
For me, the benefit is just as much for the customer, as combos allow us to pack more flavors into one divine meal.
SHIRO’S SAIMIN HAVEN
At Shiro’s Saimin Haven, there are more than 60 types of sizzling saimins to choose from, not to mention a host of other local favorites. Make your selection easy by going for one of the longstanding eatery’s winning combinations: No. 55.
Known as The Ron Mizutani Special ($8.95), this combo presents a “Hula Burga” alongside house-made, medium-sized saimin brimming with pork-and-green-onion wun tun, Chinese cabbage, luncheon meat, char siu and egg roll in a purely delicious broth. The burger perfectly complements the soup with a mixture of lettuce, ketchup and tartar sauce seasonings.
No. 55 has been popular for years, including with local news anchor Ron Mizutani, who did a heartwarming special on the restaurant’s legendary founder Franz Shiro Matsuo after he passed away. The eatery — which is still operated by Matsuo’s family — was so touched by the special that it decided to name the combo after Mizutani.
According to manager Sheena Arca, “A lot of regulars love it. That’s one of the popular ones that they will order all the time.”
Shiro’s Saimin Haven
Waimalu Shopping Center,
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea
488-8824 for restaurant and catering;
488-4834 for takeout
MAC 24/7 Bar and RestauRant
Perhaps the most quintessential combination in the Islands is the universally loved mixed plate. We all know of our favorite spots to get one, but would you believe me if I told you there is an absolutely amazing version of this local staple right in the heart of Waikiki?
It can be found at MAC 24/7 Bar and Restaurant at Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel, where American and Island comfort foods are given a gourmet touch.
Mac-Aloha ($25) features expertly prepared huli huli chicken, kalbi, fresh ahi that’s lightly seared and seasoned with some spice, and homemade fried rice. There’s no Styrofoam box presented with this elevated mix plate-style meal, but the comfort is served just the same.
“The culture of the restaurant is gourmet comfort food, both American and Hawaiian. This represents a good, solid Hawaiian comfort food dish, and it’s done very well. We pump out so many of these that they’re always made fresh,” says director of restaurants Mark Nelsen.
As is the case with these options, once you go combo, you won’t go back.
MaC 24/7 Bar and Restaurant
Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel, 2500 Kuhio ave.