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Good Food runs in the family

Cover Story

May 24, 2020

Story By: Nicole Monton |

Lauren, Erin and Shannon Araki of Kuhio Grille

Sisters Lauren, Erin and Shannon Araki grew up around food.

Their grandma Sueno would make laulau from their home in Waipio Valley on the Big Island, and their parents Sam and Nellie opened up Kuhio Grille in Prince Kuhio Plaza in 1995. So, it was no surprise when the trio expanded the family business to Oahu and opened a Kuhio Grille location in Kaimuki last August.

“Our lives pretty much revolve around food,” says Lauren with a laugh. “And we grew up making a lot of the stuff ourselves.”

Homemade is the name of the game when it comes to Kuhio Grille’s extensive menu, which has everything from breakfast essentials and sandwiches to plate lunches, udon and tempura.

Kanak Atak ($22.99) A. Consillio photo

In the Original Kuhio Grille Fried Rice Loco ($11.99), there are no frozen patties reheated in the microwave or powdered gravy mix to which you just add water. It’s all handcrafted in-house for a true homemade meal.

The same goes for the Yakitori Chicken ($12.99), which is deboned and soaked in the Kuhio Grille kitchen before being cooked with the establishment’s homemade teriyaki sauce, as well as the Pork Watercress Tofu Stirfry ($13.99) that can be turned into a vegetarian’s dream dish with all tofu instead of meat.

“I think things just taste better when it’s homemade,” adds Lauren.

Want to indulge in a mini luau for one?

The Kanak Atak ($22.99) — it’s aptly named, trust us — is the eatery’s famous one-pound laulau, and comes with lomi salmon, picked onions, kalua pig, rice and haupia.

Oreo Cream Pie (price varies)

“To me, this is the ultimate combo,” says Lauren.

Breakfast fanatics can look forward to Taro Corned Beef Hash ($10.49), which features a number of local ingredients.

“We pretty much grew up on a taro farm, so we switched it out instead of a basic potato,” explains Lauren. “It gives it a little bit of a different texture and flavor.”

This classic — with a local-style twist — comes with two eggs and two scoops of rice, and those wanting to get their hands on some of Kuhio Grille’s Famous Fried Rice can upgrade their starch for $4.50.

Kuhio Grille has been serving up homemade goodness for years now, and its patrons couldn’t be happier.

But more than the quality of ingredients is the care with which everything is made — that’s what makes Kuhio Grille so special.

“We love cooking and feeding people,” says Lauren. “We like seeing people happy.”

Just Desserts

There’s nothing like a homemade sweet treat to end a satisfying meal, and Kuhio Grille has got you covered with its array of baked-in-house desserts — all priced at or around $5.25 (visit in person to see what’s on rotation). Fans of fruit will enjoy the Strawberry Jello Cream Cheese that features fresh berries and Jell-O atop a shortbread cookie crust and cream cheese mix. So popular is this rendition that one customer recently made two trips in a row from Kailua to Kaimuki to satisfy his sweet tooth.

Chocoholics will love the Oreo Cream Pie concoction (pictured above at right) — the establishment’s Lauren Araki especially likes this one — that has layers of an Oreo cookie crust, homemade cream cheese whip, chocolate pudding, more whip and even more Oreo cookie crumbles.

For a bit of local flavor, opt for the Mac Nut Cream Pie that sits on a shortbread cookie crust. The highlight of the dessert is the heaping portion of whipped topping goodness that has handfuls of mac nuts mixed in — and the extra macadamia nuts sprinkled on top for an added crunch in each bite.

“My daughter, who doesn’t eat mac nuts, likes this one,” says Araki. “She likes to clean the bowl.”

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