Serving Aloha Worldwide

Cover Story

May 26, 2024

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

Garlic Shrimp

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue has been serving Hawaii comfort food with its delicious plate lunches for more than 50 years. It first started as a dairy in 1952, then to a soda fountain before finally becoming an eatery in Liliha when Johnson Kam and Eddie Flores purchased it in 1976. Today, there are more than 200 L&L restaurants in Hawaii, the continental U.S. and in Japan.

The origin of plate lunches can be traced back to the 19th century when laborers of sugar plantations and pineapple fields would bring rice and other leftovers to work in compartmentalized tins. During this time, lunches would often be shared with one another, resulting in a beautiful blend of home recipes from all over the world.

“The restaurant follows the inspiration of the local comfort food of Hawaii, the ‘plate lunch,’ which serves Hawaii’s wide array of dishes culturally influenced by many of the ethnic groups that make up Hawaii’s rich cultural mix,” says director of marketing Brandon Dela Cruz.

We had the chance to chat more with Dela Cruz and learn more about L&L Hawaiian Barbecue and all of its ono offerings.

DO: What is unique about L&L’s ambiance and décor?

BDC: Each franchised L&L location has its own special character. What draws customers to our restaurants is the heart and soul of the restaurants presented through the big plates and bold flavors that make up our menu that has now transcended Hawaii’s Pacific Ocean borders and is now available internationally and in the U.S. continent.

DO: What do you love most about L&L?

BDC: What I love most about L&L is the mission of bringing Hawaii’s unique flavors across the world for everyone to enjoy.

DO: What are five of L&L’s bestselling dishes?

BDC: First, our BBQ Mix (all prices vary by location) is a mouthwatering combination of succulent beef, chicken and short ribs. Next is our Loco Moco, which comes with savory hamburger patties over rice, and is topped with brown gravy and two fresh fried eggs. Another bestseller is the Chicken Katsu, which boasts tender pieces of deep-fried boneless chicken and our piquant katsu sauce. The Garlic Shrimp and Spam Musubis are also very popular. Local plates are accompanied with two scoops of white rice and one scoop of mac salad.

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

BDC: While many of the L&L flavors have become familiar beyond Hawaii, several of our L&L locations offer local favorites that are very specifically unique to Hawaii. These include our Hawaiian Plate, which includes kalua pork and laulau, or our Saimin — a local Hawaii derivation of the popular Japanese ramen dish. Also, each L&L offers specials that are specific to a particular L&L Hawaiian Barbecue location.

DO: What’s your favorite dish on the menu?

BDC: My favorite dish is the Garlic Shrimp. It’s L&L’s take on the popular garlic shrimp that is offered on Oahu’s North Shore that thousands make the pilgrimage to enjoy every year during their visit to Oahu.

DO: Do you have any “pro tips” when dining at the restaurant?

BDC: A pro tip for customers is that many menu items can be “customized,” such as asking for brown rice instead of white rice, having the eggs of the loco moco made a certain way, or asking for a substitution for a menu item in a mixed plate. Each location varies, so inquire within a particular restaurant for details.

DO: Tell us more about L&L’s catering options.

BDC: While each L&L location is different with varying menu offerings, right now is graduation season and L&L offers the best catering variety around. Many of our menu items at L&L are available in large catering sizes, making it a great go-to option for those preparing to celebrate the graduation of their loved ones with delicious food.

DO: What are some of L&L’s upcoming events?

BDC: We are going to be hosting the fourth National Spam Musubi Day on Aug. 8 (8.08).

With a proclamation from Hawaii Gov. Josh Green and a recognition in the National Day Archives, National Spam Musubi Day is now officially a holiday. As the No. 1 fan of the Spam Musubi, we are excited to celebrate this drool-worthy holiday with customers every year on Aug. 8. Customers can redeem their free Spam musubi by downloading the official L&L app and visiting a participating L&L Hawaiian Barbecue location.

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best