The More Food, The MerrierCover Story Features
February 26, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
`SINCE FIRST OPENING in Kaimuki in 1998, Big City Diner has made a name for itself in a big way — expanding to become Hawaii’s go-to spot for comfort food and local-style favorites served up in a fun, family-friendly environment.
The island-style diner is known for its wide selection of menu items, perfect for even the pickiest of eaters, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night and brunch menus, not to mention catering services. And with five locations supplementing the original Waialae Avenue restaurant — located in Ward Entertainment Center, Waipio Shopping Center, Pearlridge East, Kailua and Windward Mall — you’re never far away from a meal of epic proportions.
Corporate executive chef Dennis Franks recently gave Dining Out a tour of the popular Kailua branch, where a cozy main dining room extends to a breezy indoor/outdoor bar and al-fresco lanai, which becomes an exciting neighborhood hub for live music Thursday and Friday nights. But regardless of which location you visit, one thing you can count on at all Big City Diners is that the portions hold true to its name — and bigger is, indeed, better.
Mac & Cheese Burger ($15.99), for instance, takes the cheeseburger to a whole new level with a hearty heap of macaroni and cheese — oozing with melted white and yellow cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses — atop a hamburger patty amped up with honey-cured bacon and all the fixings.
With the recent cool and stormy weather, Franks says guests have been bundling up with The Big Ramen, as the shoyu-broth soup simmering with loads of noodles, veggies, egg and kimchee will warm patrons right down to the soul. Customers have a choice of char-grilled kalbi ($11.99) or Spam ($8.99) as their ramen topper, and you can’t go wrong with either.
“Once it goes out to one table, other customers follow and all of a sudden we just get swarmed with ramen orders,” shares the chef, with a chuckle.
In addition to offering more indulgent best-sellers like slow-roasted Baby Back Ribs with Famous Guava Barbecue Sauce, Franks and owner and president Lane Muraoka are dedicated to ensuring their patrons have a plethora of healthy menu items to choose from, including vegetarian and gluten-free options. On the rotating weekly specials menu, Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wraps with Fresh Mint & Cilantro ($12.99, available this Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. till sold out) stands out as a popular low-carb dish loaded with fresh greens, carrot, onion, bean sprouts and protein-rich shrimp cooked with roasted garlic and Thai dressing. “It’s a big portion, but at the same time healthier, and we can also swap out the shrimp for chicken, beef or tofu,” describes Franks.
The chef adds that customers may request to have the lettuce wraps prepared in accordance with the Blue Zones Project, a large-scale initiative aimed at helping communities across the U.S. lead healthier lifestyles. Big City Diner’s Kailua and Windward Mall restaurants are both certified by Blue Zones, but you can find the affiliated healthy menu items at all locations.
As for enjoying a leisurely weekend brunch at Big City Diner, Fire Roasted Portobello Mushroom & Avocado Benedict ($12.99) with grilled local tomato and fresh spinach strikes that ideal balance between splurging and eating well. Available during breakfast and brunch Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the hollandaise-covered Benedict offers “a whole bunch of healthy vegetables that really come together nicely,” confirms Franks.
Visit any Big City Diner Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to midnight. And to learn more about how to “live longer, better” through Blue Zones Project, Muraoka encourages patrons to visit bluezones. com or go to hmsa.com and search “Blue Zones.”
TIME TO Party!
Owner and president Lane Muraoka invites patrons across Oahu to host their next special occasion at Big City Diner. “We have a private dining room that holds up to 50 people at our Windward Mall restaurant, available for birthday parties, family reunions, wedding rehearsal dinners, community meetings, sport teams, clubs, etc.,” he says. Additionally, the Pearlridge, Waipio and Kailua eateries offer secluded patios ideal for meetings and functions. If you’re interested in reserving one of these spaces, call Tina in the catering department at 487-8588, or ask an in-store manager for assistance.
THRILLED TO ‘Bites’
Who doesn’t love relaxing after work with some discounted drinks and pupus? Take that much needed break during Big City Diner’s pau hana happy “patio” hour Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., during which you can enjoy $3 Corona throughout the whole restaurant and 50 percent off pupus at the bar and patio (first come, first served). There’s also a late night happy hour Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. until closing, and Friday to Saturday from 10 p.m. to midnight with $3 Blue Moon pints and pupu specials.
If you’re wondering what to munch on, start with a local-style take on Buffalo wings, aka Wings Over Big City ($11.79 regularly; half off during happy hour). “Our sauce is a version of our Famous Guava Barbecue Sauce that’s sweet and spicy. It’s kicked up a little bit with some chili flakes and hot sauce,” says corporate executive chef Dennis Franks.
As an added plus, Big City Diner welcomes pets in its patio areas.
Big City Diner
Kailua Town Center
108 Hekili St., No. 101, Kailua (and five other restaurants)
Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-midnight