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Five-0 Redux

Ono for ‘Five-0’ grinds

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McGarrett grinds on a Rainbow Drive-In plate lunch in "Kahu." (Photo courtesy CBS)
McGarrett eats a plate lunch from Rainbow Drive-In in “Kahu.” (Courtesy CBS)

This may be old news to some, but Hawaii folks love to eat. From watching three seasons of “Hawaii Five-0,” viewers have learned McG and his team enjoy many different types of “grinds” (foods) available in the islands.

With Kamekona shelling out shrimp plates and various SPAM-inspired confections, Danno’s seeming love for Side Street Inn, and Chin Ho dealing out Coco Puffs, the grine choices for the team are many and diverse.

(For those not familiar with Hawaiian Creole English, or Pidgin, “grine” is another way to describe eating plenny (plenty) ono (delicious) food.)

I thought it would be interesting to go through some of the restaurant mentions and food options presented by the show and explain where our diverse palate derives from. Follow along as I give you a few tips on how to grine like a true “Five-0” fan.


I know, many of you don’t get why we eat SPAM. I have found myself on many occasions defending Hawaii’s long love affair with the canned meat delicacy. So let me explain where it comes from — history, tradition, and cost.

Most Hawaii folks grew up eating SPAM. It has been a common item on our grocery list since it was introduced during World War II, and locals started to incorporate it into common meals. The cost of SPAM is reasonable, and because many families live in multi-generational households, money can be tight.

SPAM Musubi. (Photo courtesy Ernest Sanada)
SPAM Musubi. (Courtesy Ernest Sanada)

Look at it this way, if grandma grew up eating SPAM during the war, she feeds the grandkids SPAM, and when they grow up, their kids eat SPAM musubi (a block of rice with a piece of fried spam, wrapped in dried seaweed) and order SPAM, eggs, and rice at McDonald’s.

Probably the most popular SPAM dish — which we have only seen on “Hawaii Five-0” in the form of a car air freshener from Kamekona — is the SPAM musubi. It is a quick meal in a small package. You can buy them just about anywhere, even 7-Eleven. It’s a popular beach and picnic food because of its portability and convenience. Danno and McG could stash a few next to grenades in the glove box of McG’s car.

The bottom line is we have a special place on our table for SPAM. We also eat raw fish, octopus, just about anything pickled or plummed, pig and chicken feet, fermented soybeans, fresh and dried seaweed — the list of exotic dishes goes on and on. We like food in many different varieties and we’re not ashamed to taste test.

SPAM is just another type of food we have assimilated into our local cuisine. So when Kamekona adds SPAM to a burrito like he did in “ʻŌlelo Hoʻopaʻi Make,” he’s pretty much on track for local tastebuds.

Which means, gentle “Five-0” fans, if you want to grine with the team, you gotta eat SPAM.


A plate lunch consists of the standard two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad and a healthy portion of something hearty like shoyu (soy sauce) chicken, hamburger patties covered in brown gravy, beef stew, chili and teriyaki meat; or with something fried, like chicken or pork katsu, fried fish or fried chicken.

The Loco Moco plate lunch at Rainbow Drive-In. (Photo courtesy Linda Stein)
The Loco Moco at Rainbow Drive-In. (Photo courtesy Linda Stein)

Rainbow Drive-In is one of the most famous spots for a plate lunch in Honolulu. Kensi (Daniela Ruah) from “NCIS: LA” enjoyed their loco moco plate in “Ka Hakakā Maikaʻi,” and McG took Cath out on a date to Rainbow’s in “Kahu.”

The plate lunch was the start for drive-ins and manapua trucks (what we called food trucks growing up) across the islands. Manapua trucks would drive to popular surf spots, constructions sites, parks and heavily populated business areas to feed the crowds. You could get a manapua (a steamed Chinese bun filled with char siu pork), but they also offered other items, like plate lunches.

And on “Hawaii Five-0,” everyone grinds a plate lunch to celebrate after solving a difficult case.


Okay, they do — but there are so many other sweet treats to choose from for our men in blue.

Coco Puffs from Liliha Bakery and malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery would be the top two choices it seems for the Five-0 team.

Leonard's Bakery traditional sugar covered malasadas. (Photo courtesy Dana Marks Rachlin)
Leonard’s Bakery malasadas. (Courtesy Dana Marks Rachlin)

In season one, Danno was caught by McG in “ʻOhana” with malasada sugar all over his tie.

A malasada is Portuguese confection that came with our ancestors from Madeira, Portugal to celebrate their version of Fat Tuesday. Leonard’s makes the traditional version of fried yeast dough covered in sugar, but they also make malasadas covered in cinnamon, stuffed with haupia, chocolate and custard.

Another local favorite is the poi malasada, made out of taro dough, fried, and sugar glazed by Kamehameha Bakery. I think the team needs to meet that version of the malasada very soon.

The Coco Puff was introduced to Danno by Chin Ho, and if Danno thought he liked malasadas, he was done when he met Liliha Bakery’s chilled pile of sweetness. A Coco Puff is a chocolate-filled pastry covered in chantilly frosting. They are nothing short of illegal, as Danno so perfectly classified them in “E Mālama.”

So do like the Five-0 team does — have a malasada or Coco Puff to start your investigative day. You won’t be sorry.


Danno sure seems to like Side Street Inn. He promised McG a “big plate of wings from Side Street” when he got back from Korea in “ʻŌlelo Paʻa.” He also mentioned that he would treat McG to lunch at Side Street after he was kicked in the figurative gut by his ex-wife in “Heihei.”

 A Zippy's Zip Pac. (Courtesy photo)
A Zippy’s Zip Pac. (Courtesy photo)

There are two Side Street Inn locations; visit the original on Hopaka St. near Ala Moana Center, or the newer restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue. Wings come a few different ways at Side Street — Buffalo style, spicy Wing Zing’s, or Chef’s Lani Wings, which are marinated in a secret sauce. Danno could also entice McG with plates of kim chee fried rice or the award-winning Side Style fried rice, or the always-popular pan-fried island pork chops and Lilikoʻi BBQ baby back ribs.

Whatever the team decides to order from the menu, it’s all good at Side Street.

Zippy’s has not been explicitly mentioned on the show, but their Zip Pac was offered by McGarrett in “Pūʻolo” to help Danno take his mind off the fact he just helped his ex-wife deliver another man’s baby.

A Zip Pac is basically a bento lunch, a box meal of rice covered in furikake (a Japanese condiment of dried fish or shrimp, nori, sesame seeds, and salt), a slice of teri beef, a piece of fried chicken, battered fish, and yes, a slice of SPAM. Like the plate lunch and SPAM musubi, it is a popular portable meal that locals often take to the beach, to sporting events, and family picnics.

Liliha Bakery's famous Coco Puff. (Photo courtesy Wendie Burbridge)
Liliha Bakery’s famous Coco Puffs. (Courtesy Wendie Burbridge)

I’d like to think McG had an ulterior motive, because I think of a Zip Pac along the lines of local comfort food, so offering to buy Danno one after his special delivery was pretty on point. Zippy’s offers the same types of plate lunches as most other drive-ins, but they also have dining rooms at some locations and you can get buckets of fried chicken and chili for those nights when you’re on a stakeout or working late on a case.

There are a few other places mentioned by the Five-0 team. Max mentioned Wailana Coffee House for all-you-can-eat pancakes, and Cath wanted to hang out with McG at Haleiwa Joe’s. (Both were mentioned in “I Helu Pū.”)

We can’t forget that the team very much enjoys hanging out at (the fictional) Kamekona Shrimp Truck, but you can get a really ono shrimp plate in real life at Macky’s Sweet Shrimp Truck — or a number of others — along Kamehameha Highway from Laie all the way to Haleʻiwa. The team also enjoys dining at Tropics Bar and Grill at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

So, “Five-0” foodies, take a ride with the team and try all of the exotic choices and options Oahu has for them to sample. In Hawaii, just like everywhere else, food is a way for families to gather and spend time with each other. It’s not always about what you eat, but who you eat it with — and for McG and his team, that’s what truly matters.

Redux Side Note:

I know I missed writing about our love of poke (pronounced poh-keh), a dish of raw ahi, cubed, and marinated in shoyu, green onions, and seaweed for starters. Poke deserves a blog post all on its own. Danno is introduced to one of our favorite dishes in this week’s repeat of “Lana I Ka Moana.”

And I wish the team would one day dine at the fans’ favorite place to gather and watch “Hawaii Five-0,” Big City Diner. BCD servers up a mean loco moco and kim chee fried rice, as well as sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Make sure you add it to your investigation list.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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  • Ahhhhh Wendie…. such wonderful culinary memories of my trip to Oahu! Before I got there, when Hawaii was just a hopeful dream, I watched as friends and Ohana came and went and went back to Hawaii posting picture after picture of food. “Is that all you did in Hawaii? Eat your way across the island?” I watched my favorite 808ers post picture after picture of plates of food day after day, asking, “is that all you people do there…eat?”

    Then my dream came true and there I was, Oahu and I got my answers. Yes and Yes! Of course there are the beautiful sites of the most beautiful place in the world. There are the wonderful local people who are warm and friendly. There are the great friends who made my trip truly something I will NEVER forget. Then there was the food.

    I told my husband before we ever got on the plane in Philly that I was not going to Oahu to eat the same food I can eat at home and for the most part we stuck to that plan. From Kalua pig quesadillas, poke, malasadas, coco puffs, loco moco, more kinds of fish than I’ll ever see again….we did indeed eat our way across the island.

    I never made it to Side Street nor did I get a chance to munch down on a Zip pack. Just not enough time in one week to do it all. I suppose that means I just have to resign myself to the fact that we have to go back. I know, I know…how will I ever deal with that eventuality??

    • When I come to Philly we’ll make Loco Mocos:) I can’t promise on the Gravy- but it will be similar maybe close:) When I travel I’m the same way- I don’t want to eat Asian food or rice or anything from home– I know what you mean:) Thanks for the use of your great pics:) I’m so glad you came with an open mind and tastebuds! Aloha, Wendie

  • Wendie, let me tell you, you had my mouth water with all the pictures! I had a wide grin on my face the entire time I was reading this, and now you make me want to go to Hawaii more then ever!

  • Dear Wendie,

    It’s Saturday morning and I’m 4,000 miles away from Leonard’s or Liliha’s or even Rainbow Diner! Arghhhh!

    Dear 808ers,

    Please go eat some malasadas, Coco Puffs and Loco Moco for me today! I’ll let you decide if you want Spam.

    Can’t wait for my next trip to Oahu to eat my way across the island again! Thanks for all the reminders, Wendie! (Do have to say this is a less caloric way to enjoy Hawaiian goodies!)

    • Lynnette- so true- looking at pics definitely is better on your waistline! Let’s hope that if any 808ers eat something from the blog, they will be kind enough to post pics here. 😀 Thanks for always reading and commenting and supporting! Aloha, Wendie

  • Oh, Wendie, another great post. But now I’m hungry. Darn.

    I love it how the show integrates all these great places. I mean the team has to eat, and why not show the fans some of the great many places?! Thank you for explaining it all to us.

    • Hi Sam- I love how the show integrates local customs, language, and popular places as well! I think itʻs one of the reasons that makes “Hawaii Five-0” unique and different from other buddy action cop shows. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Glad you liked it:) Aloha, Wendie

  • Now I really want to try Hawaiian food. I am always impressed with your blog.
    You give those of us not lucky enough (yet!!) to have visited Hawaii a glimpse into the heart of her, and a great look at the behind the scenes of the show. Mahalo!
    Can someone please send me some cocoa puffs now? This healthy oatmeal isn’t cutting it…

    • LOL Luna- I was just thinking the same thing as I ate my greek yogurt and blueberries:) Thanks for reading- and thank you for the compliment:) Mahalo for your comment- hope you get to try some local food soon! Aloha, Wendie

  • ok you have officially made me hungry and I never “understood” what traditional or local Hawaiian food was till now :=) and of course for me Side Street will be place for Danno when Rachel rts but not in a “kick to the gut” way – but more friendly manner XO

    • Thanks Dina- I didn’t really get a chance to talk about what is real Hawaiian food. This is what you said is “local food.” Actually the only dish that could be considered Hawaiian in this post is poke. Rice is Asian, Kim Chee is Korean, SPAM is American, Malasadas are Portuguese, Coco Puffs are maybe based on French pastries…. our food is all a conglomeration of all the groups who moved here to work in the cane industry. Real Hawaiian food consists mainly of fish, kalo (taro), fruit, salt, and pork. Mostly cooked in an imu, or underground oven, or over a fire. Not really what you would even get if you went to a Waikīkī Lūʻau. But I would say, any time you eat a local dish– it will be nothing short of interesting to our palate and your ‘ōpū. 🙂 Thanks for your comment and reading Dina:) Aloha, Wendie

  • I love all this info! As you know I’ll be Honolulu in November with my Sweet Adelines’ Chorus. I’ve shared this article with them so we can all try the local fare. 🙂 I’ve got to tell you, I think Coco Puffs are #1 on my list.

    • Oh, youʻll like Coco Puffs Amy:) And your group can eat breakfast at Liliha Bakery, but they are pretty small. But they would do something similar as Zippyʻs or Wailana Coffee House for a meal. And youʻre close to Wailana for all you can eat pancakes:) Enjoy your time! Aloha, Wendie

  • This is really awesome, I can’t wait to have more of the Coco puffs, they are delicious! I am also hoping to eat again at Zippy’s and Wailana Coffee shop, great food!! Thanks!

    • What did you have at Zippy’s and Wailana? And try Big City Diner if you get a chance:) They are great too- and there are several places on O’ahu to eat at- we tend to eat at the Pearlridge location and the Ward location. Thanks for sharing your experience:) Aloha, Wendie

  • Wow, this is fascinating and, yes, it’s making me hungry for Hawaiian food! I remember that episode where Steve was chowing down in the car with his girlfriend next to him. There’s nothing wrong with his appetite! Now, if we can just learn some more of the Hawaiian language–that would be great!

    • You can make your own Ed:) We did just last week. It was delicious- and we used ground turkey for the burger and organic eggs. You can make one for yourself to tide you over until you get to Rainbow Drive-in. 😀 Aloha, Wendie

  • In Season 1, there was a deleted scene in which Steve and Danno are on a stakeout in a beach parking lot, and Steve is eating some kind of dog. Pookie Dog, or something like that. Do you know what I’m talking about?

  • Hi Wendie,
    First, I’m glad that Hawaii dodge the bullett, so to speak, with the Storm. Hope all are OK.
    For those like me who don’t live in Hawaii, we have a franchise called L & L Hawaiian BBQ. I’m not sure how far they go, or if they are even in Hawaii, but they are in California. I tried the Musubi, even though you can have it with other meats, I did try it with spam, and it was good. I was a little leary, because I had tried spam as a kid, and did not like it, but this was good. They also have Loco Moco, Saimin (soup with spam in it), and Lau Lau & Kalua Pork. All other dishes are great as well.
    But I would prefer to someday try these in Hawaii.
    Thanks for the article Wendie, and the other article that are keeping us connected to Hawaii while we wait for our favorite show to begin another season.

    • Hi Diane:) L & L is from Hawaii- itʻs a franchise started in the 70ʻs by Eddie Flores- it was a mom & pop plate lunch place in Kalihi that Flores franchised and sold all over the world. I think thereʻs a few in Japan and New Zealand! 🙂 The dishes you talked about- only Lau Lau and Kalua Pork are actually what locals would consider Hawaiian food. Saimin is a local version of the noodle soup most Asian groups eat- Japanese eat Ramen, Chinese just eat noodles- soup is separate, the Vietnamese eat Pho, and Koreans eat Kook Soo in chicken broth- with or without Mun Doo (a Korean meat filled dumpling- like gyoza or won ton). Saimin is more of a local plate lunch place staple. But it is yummy! SPAM is one of the condiments you add to saimin- most places also add egg strips and green onion, sometimes getting fancy with cabbage and bean sprouts, and often you can get Won Ton in your saimin- like Mun Doo Kook Soo or Ramen with Gyoza. There are hundreds of ways you can eat Saimin- and Ramen and Pho and Kook Soo…. as long as you have the base broth and noodles- add what you like- itʻs all good:) Thanks for the saimin mention Diane! Mahalo for reading and commenting. Aloha, Wendie

      • Thanks Wendie. So L&L is from Hawaii, thanks for the info. All I knew is that it all tasted good, I go there often. I even had them cater a lunch at work. Take care.

        • Oh I want to work with you:) Glad you like the food! It is a taste of Hawai’i for sure;) Mahalo for the share! Aloha, Wendie

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