On Oct. 4, Bobbie’s Island Restaurant & Catering celebrated 10 years of service. The Hanapepe restaurant is known for oversized servings of house-made meals. Owners Derek and Dawn Hosaka are siblings who were born and raised on the West Side with an affinity for food and family. In fact, Bobbie’s is named after their mother Barbara Hosaka, who passed in 2001.
“My mother was an extraordinary woman,” recalls Dawn, “and I wanted to name the restaurant after her to keep her memory alive.”
Dawn’s father was a commercial fisherman and as a child, she watched him make food for his crew. One Saturday morning he made scrambled eggs in the family kitchen. Dawn asked if he would teach her how and in the process, she fell in love with cooking.
Derek took the culinary program at Washington State University and cooked in the college’s kitchen. When he graduated, he continued to work there for four years before taking a job as a management trainer. He moved to Oahu and worked for Transpacific Restaurants and in 1961, moved back to Kauai. After 15 years as a chef at Wilcox Hospital, he took a job as sales manager at Koa Trading Company, where he still works today.
Derek and Dawn created the recipes at Bobbie’s, which include homemade tartar sauce, hand-shaped hamburgers and pork laulau. Noodles from Hamaura’s Saimin are folded into a dashi broth that’s made-to-order. Sista’s Fried Chicken ($9.95) are cubes of boneless chicken thighs sprinkled with a flavorful homemade spice blend, and that’s it. It’s served with garlic Parmesan dip, two scoops of rice and mac or tossed salad. Order a large fried saimin ($7.95) and you’ll get a massive serving with bacon, eggs, and fish cake.
“Large servings were my mother’s philosophy,” says Derek. “When she invited you to our home for a meal, she didn’t want you to go home hungry.”
Korean Chicken ($9.95) is a fiery blend of cubed, boneless chicken thighs that are drenched in flour and deep-fried. Straight from the fryer, the get a bath in Korean sauce made with garlic, chili peppers, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame seeds and onion powder, and garnished with green onions.
Roast Pork ($9.95) is made with pork shoulder that’s been braised for three hours. It’s either shredded and served as a sandwich with house-made barbecue sauce or served with a rich and silky house-made gravy.
“It’s all about love,” Dawn tells me after I say it’s the best brown gravy I’ve had on Kauai.
Every Friday during Hanapepe Art Night, Curt Karish, Bobbie’s night manager, lights up a grill. After 90 minutes, the pork ribs and huli chicken are smoky and succulent. Early one afternoon last summer, Curt cooked halves of chicken that were brined for two days with fresh limes and lemons, pineapple juice, salt and vermouth. The crowd had yet to come and a familiar man sat at the table wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap.
“This is the best brined chicken I’ve ever had,” the lone stranger told Curt. “I have a couple of restaurants on the Mainland and I never really got into brining until recently. Now I’m brining everything, including prime rib.”
Curt smiles as he recalls the memory.
“I took a closer look and it hit me,” says Curt. “I said, ‘Hey, are you …’ The man took his hat off and said, ‘Hey, I’m Bobby Flay.’”
Marta Lane, a Kauai-based food writer since 2010, offers food tours and is the author of Tasting Kauai: Restaurants – From Food Trucks to Fine Dining, A Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island.