If there’s a single place that really represents what “Hawaiian Food” is, the first place probably has to go to Zippy’s (their competitor L&L Drive Inn comes in at a close second). Zippy’s is a combination fast food and casual restaurant (literally, since most Zippy’s have both the fast food counter and a table service dining room) that started in Honolulu in 1966. Filling nominally the same sort of market niche that Denny’s does on the mainland, the key to Zippy’s is that just about every local Hawaiian food item I’ve talked about is on their menu in one form or another. Spam musubi? Check. Plate lunch? Check. Saimin? Check (both fried and as soup). Teriyaki burger? Check. Portuguese sausage? Check. Shrimp plate? Check. About the only thing I didn’t see on their menu was a malasada. So their motto is “All your favorites”, and at least with Hawaiian food, I think they’ve got that covered. So, on our last morning on Oahu, it was finally time for me to make some time for a stop in at Zippy’s, ducking into their Kaneohe location right by the Windward Mall.
Okay, I’m sure most you are are going “Did I just read that right? Is Rich reviewing 7-Eleven, the convenience store?” Indeed, I am. I’ve mentioned before that Hawaiian culture and Asian culinary traditions have influenced each other making a fairly distinct Hawaiian culinary tradition, but one of the more interesting things to me is that this culinary tradition is strong enough to influence chains imported from the mainland. Sure, that 7-Eleven you wander into in New Jersey is probably nearly identical to a 7-Eleven in, say, Southern California, that’s not quite the case in Hawaii. In Hawaii, 7-Eleven fully embraces Hawaiian cuisine, in that every single one on the island has, in addition to the standard 7-Eleven items (like Slurpee and chips), a substantial amount of counter space at the front dedicated to serving up a selection of Hawaiian items, with the notable items being Spam musubi (in several varieties) and Manapua (also in several flavors), pork hash, and several other island treats. Seriously, you can even check out their menu.