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Carrying on a flavorful legacy in Kaimuki

Inside Feature

February 2, 2020

Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Here’s a bit of sensible advice for your first visit to Kuhio Grille in Kaimuki: Save room for dessert!

Though it’s almost impossible, try to resist finishing every bite of your entree, because when you’re finished, your server will ask cheerfully if you’d like to see the dessert tray. Who can resist such an invitation?

“All our desserts are made in-house,” announces Lauren Araki, whose family launched Kuhio Grille in Hilo in 1995.

It’s practically impossible to improve on mouthwatering options like mac nut cream pie, bread puddings with haupia and custard, crunchy peanut butter mochi, chocolate cream cheese pie with Oreo cookies, and sweet potato haupia pie, all of which make regular appearances on the dessert tray.

This little restaurant has a delectable tradition of excellence that goes back four generations, to Waipio Valley on the Big Island. In the early 1900s, Genji Araki — the great-grandfather of Lauren Araki — began farming taro in Waipio Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii, eventually enlisting his first son Tetsuo to take over. Tetsuo’s wife, Sueno, used the taro leaves to make enormous, delicious laulau. After Tetsuo retired in 1982, his sons Sam and Derrick continued the family farm. Some 14 years later, Sam Araki and his wife Nelline decided to open a restaurant that featured those amazing laulau. All three of their daughters — Erin, Lauren, and Shannon — have since followed their parents into the family business.

Kuhio Grille still runs a thriving business at its original location in Hilo, and Oahu residents were delighted last August when the Araki ohana opened a location in Kaimuki.

ALL GOOD STUFF

The splendid Kanak Attack ($21.99) includes a 1-pound beef, pork, or chicken laulau; kalua pig, steamed rice, poi, lomi salmon, pickled onions, and haupia for dessert. “I call it my Mini Luau!” chuckles Lauren Araki of Kuhio Grille. “It has all the good stuff.” Made in-house by Kuhio Grille, with a recipe and techniques unchanged for generations, each laulau is wrapped in taro leaves grown on the Araki family farm deep in Waipio Valley.

EVERYTHING GOES GREAT WITH GRAVY

For an onolicious classic that’s both satisfying and priced right, the Original Kuhio Grille Fried Rice Loco ($11.49) includes a half-order of Kuhio Grille’s famous fried rice, a homemade hamburger patty, eggs, and brown gravy generously ladled over the whole delicious affair. “It’s local-style fried rice, so you have three kinds of meat, eggs, green onions, and the sauce we put on it,” describes Lauren Araki, daughter of Kuhio Grille founders Sam and Nelline Araki. (

‘HASH’ IT OUT

Kuhio Grille’s Kaimuki location is now offering breakfast, and Taro Corned Beef Hash & Eggs With Rice ($10.49) make for a splendid morning meal. Two scoops of the rich, savory hash are accompanied by two eggs, and your choice of rice, toast, or salad (upgrade to fried rice for $4.50). “It’s something Mom and Dad wanted to do as a more local dish, using taro instead of potatoes,” says Lauren Araki.

DIVE INTO DESSERT

Photo courtesy Kuhio Grille

In Hilo, Kuhio Grille is as legendary for its incredible desserts as for those spectacular laulaus. The rotating assortment includes sweet treats like macadamia nut cream pie, bread puddings made with haupia and custard, banana cream pie, crunchy peanut butter mochi, lilikoi cheesecake, chocolate cream cheese pie with Oreo cookies, sweet potato haupia pie, and more. Desserts at the Kaimuki location range from $4.50 to $6.25; all are made in-house by the Araki family.

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