Hooked on Dean’s

Ali Carte Columns

August 5, 2012

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

As a food enthusiast, the only question I have about Dean’s Drive Inn is, why didn’t I know about this place for the last six years? It has the best in fresh, local-style plate lunch with a gourmet touch. Just recently, I joined the throngs of diners ready to get their lunch on at this popular Kaneohe eatery, and I have to say, my taste buds are thanking me.

It makes sense that Dean’s is the kind of place with a loyal following, seeing as you can’t help but fall in love with this cozy little spot when you meet the wonderfully warm Mishima family, who owns and operates it. And did I mention the food is amazing too?

Owner/chef Dean Mishima brings three decades of experience in the restaurant business to his drive inn, serving up fresh local fare from behind the counter. One thing you’ve got to try is the Ahi Cake Sandwich topped with sweet chili aioli sauce ($9.95), as it takes the chef’s famous ahi cakes to a whole new level. These light, moist patties are topped with lettuce, onion, tomato and a delicious sauce, then served with a choice of homemade soup, tossed salad or french fries.

The restaurant’s inviting atmosphere is reflected in its menu as well with some delectable grinds for vegetarian palates. Tofu Steak topped with ogo lomi tomato ($9.95) presents an exciting array of fresh flavors. “We top it with a little teri sauce,” says Dean. “You get a little sweet taste, and then the crunch from the ogo (seaweed).”

Regulars also can’t get enough of the chef’s fresh catches. “People, especially in this area, they love fish, fresh fish,” he explains. “All my fish is all-local, Island fish.” The menu currently features a mouth-watering bite of Fresh Island Ahi Belly topped with shoyu ginger sauce ($11.45). “We fried it so it’s crispy, then we top on the shoyu ginger sauce.”

You won’t be able to leave the drive-inn without devouring something from the display case, which features deliciously addicting cornbread and a selection of desserts made by Dean’s wife, Doreen. One of her new creations, Baked Butter Mochi with haupia pudding ($2), is gaining quite a following. The beautiful combination of rich, gooey, buttery mochi topped with the creamiest of haupia puddings truly lends to an “aha moment” in dessert clarity. “We just recently started making that, and I couldn’t fill (the case) fast enough,” says Doreen.

“She makes all kinds of desserts here,” adds Dean.

With that, I wish you a happy journey to Dean’s Drive Inn, and I’ll probably see you in line.

Dean’s Drive Inn

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

Kaneohe, HI 96744

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Hawaii's Best