‘Ohana dining secret to local-kine grinds

WAIPOULI — When ‘Ohana Diner opened its doors, owner Ilima Lopez said there were a few kinks — or lack thereof — in the traditional Hawaiian dish saimin that they serve.

“Our first batch came in straight and looking like spaghetti,” she said.

But that hasn’t stopped a hungry crowd from patronizing the new eatery, which offers local-kine grinds.

‘Ohana Diner opened its doors just about a month ago after many weeks of being closed as motorists glanced to see if the “Open” sign was up.

“When I bought my lunch wagon, the person who sold me the wagon offered me one piece of advice — don’t cut down on the portions,” Lopez said. “I thought that was good advice, and it seems to be working.”

Lopez said she has a crew of workers from the Big Island who patronize the eatery in the Waipouli Complex several times a week to enjoy the restaurant’s offerings which is based on “grandma’s taste.”

She said the workers have even offered to make Big Island connections for her, suggesting places she can get items for her menu.

Ilima said they have discussions on new dishes, and the creation doesn’t get past the kitchen door if it doesn’t meet her taste test which is based on what her mother and grandmother used to cook.

‘Ohana Diner’s menu is fashioned after food residents are used to eating after a hard day’s work or play and includes the typical Hawaiian plate lunch of kalua pig or laulau, lomi salmon, beef or tripe stew.

Those local-kine dishes have taken an exotic twist in their “Keapana Wrap,” kalua pig or chicken wrapped in a flour or spinach tortilla with salad greens and papaya seed dressing.

Additionally, there are even more local-style side orders such as pipi kaula, smoke meat, poke (Hawaiian style only), mac salad (short for macaroni salad), patele, and although not on the menu, gandule rice.

To further “brok’ da mouth,” opihi, akule and black crab is offered “when available” at the going market prices.

Disappearing into the inner sanctum of the tiny eatery, Lopez re-appeared with side dishes of pipi kaula and smoke meat for sampling.

“I treat the people like they were coming to my house,” Lopez said. “I don’t cook, this is entertaining.”

But the various philosophies practiced by the staff, which Lopez points out is all family, works because she said she is already booked for graduation parties, and is so busy, she is contemplating bids for the lunch wagon she bought and worked out of before opening the restaurant.

‘Ohana Diner is open Mondays through Fridays from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. for lunch. They re-open from 4:30 until 8 p.m. (or beyond?) for dinner.

On Saturdays and Mondays, dinners only are served from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“We’re closed on Sundays and some holidays,” Lopez said.

But beyond the normal hours of operation, ‘Ohana Diner offers take-out and catering as well.

For more information, call 821-2498.

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