Grilled to Perfection

Cover Story

March 24, 2024

Story By: Dining Out Team | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

Pulehu Beef Short Ribs with Garlic Shrimp ($28)

Located in Mapunapuna, Kau Kau Grill has been serving up delectable, local-style plate lunches since 2013. Owners Ty Takishita, Miles Oyasato and Ryan Souza started the biz as a food truck before opening their brick-and-mortar two years later. Patrons may choose from a variety of gourmet dishes, including slow-cooked grilled ribs smothered in housemade barbecue sauce, sauteed garlic shrimp and fresh poke.

Everything on Kau Kau Grill’s menu is made in-house, using only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. The restaurant is known for its bestselling local items like Garlic Ahi, BBQ Ribs and Pulehu Beef Short Ribs. Plate lunches are served with macaroni salad and rice, but be sure to substitute the latter for the business’s Krazy Rice for an additional $2 per scoop.

To get the latest prices for the dishes mentioned and to inquire about menu items and catering options, call 808-476-5888 and follow the restaurant on X, Instagram and Yelp (@kaukaugrill).

This week, we chat with manager Ryan Souza to learn more about the business and all its scrumptious offerings.

DO: Give us a brief history about Kau Kau Grill. When did it open and how did the concept come about?

RS: I met Miles and Ty at my dad’s store, Containerland, where I worked in high school. We used to talk story all the time, and they asked me to join their team. There was an opportunity to build a food truck with a location that came up and we decided, ‘Why not give it a shot?’ We made some of our favorite dishes and shared it with our friends to see what would be on our menu. We started with the food truck but the goal was always to have a brick-and-mortar, which we opened in 2015.

DO: What do you love most about your brick-and-mortar location?

RS: It’s an easy location for the entire island. We cater to everyone from construction workers and first responders to office workers and nearby residents.

DO: What are some of Kau Kau Grill’s bestselling dishes?

RS: Our most popular is the BBQ ribs ($20). We slow-cook the ribs then grill each one before adding our special barbecue sauce. The Pulehu Beef Short Ribs with Garlic Shrimp ($28) is our version of surf and turf. It’s kalbi bone-in short ribs made with Hawaiian sea salt and pepper, grilled with a slight char. We do not add butter to our garlic shrimp, it’s our own secret blend. Our Smoked Meat ($17) is also popular. We marinate the pork, then smoke it in our smoker for about eight hours, cut it up and finish it in a pan with onions. Our Poke Plate ($20) and Salmon Aburi Garlic Mayo ($22) are also popular options. The latter features Ora King sushi-grade salmon, which is described as the ‘wagyu of the sea’ for its marbling and buttery taste.

DO: What are some unique items that can be found on the menu?

RS: We have the Ora King Salmon ($22), which is rare to find at a plate lunch place. Also, our entire ahi poke is fresh from the block. There are a variety of styles you can get the ahi in — shoyu, shoyu ginger, spicy ahi, spicy hurricane and shoyu limu inamona. I love to cook and have a passion for fish. Sometimes I bring the fish I catch to the restaurant, but most of the time we go to the fish auction and get the best fish for our customers.

DO: What experience do you hope customers take away when dining at Kau Kau Grill?

RS: We hope our guests enjoy our food. They get dine-in restaurant quality at our takeout spot. To avoid the line, we encourage phone orders. For big orders, we ask you order a day before.

Honolulu, HI 96819

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