From Our Editors
It is very Hawaiian at Islander's Grill. Inside the 4,000-sqare-foot plate-lunch-style island eatery, a surfboard hangs overhead, colorful chairs tuck under tables, and ukulele chords hula-hoop around booths and sound waves’ waists. All in all, it is a casual place—one that exudes the laid-back vibe of its owner, Keola Hunt. Yet, as cool and convivial as Keola may be, there’s one part of his business he’s decidedly firm about—his father’s recipes. “Dad’s an old chef,” Keola says of his father Kekoa. “He makes us all stick to the older traditions.” One of those traditions is Kekoa’s plate-lunch special—for which cooks marinate thinly sliced beef in a teriyaki sauce, housemade with soy shipped in from Hawaii. Kekoa’s signature dish, the mauna loa chicken, douses grilled chicken with a housemade lava sauce, built to heat levels of mild, medium, hot, or super Hawaiian, which must be suppressed in a leotarded jar. And while the father may have been so confident—or stubborn—with his flavors and recipes that he forbade menu substitutions, the son has given some slack. “I bend,” Keola says, allowing local macaroni salad to hitch a ride and sanctioning electric steam shovels to replace power lunchers’ forks. Every other Friday, a four-piece Hawaiian band sets up just off the dance floor for live sets. The large space accommodates group events and parties on weekends just as comfortably as it handles the downtown lunch crowd’s takeout and delivery orders on weekdays.