Waipahu’s Highway Inn hits the road
Look for Highway Inn’s classic laulau plate, with kalua pork, pipikaula, lomi salmon and poi, at a new Waipahu location by year’s end.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Waipahu has been home to the original Highway Inn for nearly 72 years, ever since it was launched in 1947 on Farrington Highway by Seiichi and Nancy Toguchi. Since then, the restaurant has moved around the rural town twice — to Depot Road in 1960, just below Waipahu Sugar Mill, then to its current location on Leoku Street in 1984.
By the end of this year, the popular restaurant — which serves Hawaiian and local comfort fare to fans that extend well beyond the area — will move to another Waipahu site. Its new home will be at 94-830 Moloalo St., a step mauka from Farrington Highway in the old Napa Auto Parts building, said Russell Ryan, chief financial officer of Highway Inn Cos.
Ryan is married to Monica Toguchi Ryan, granddaughter of Seiichi and Nancy; Monica follows her father, Bobby, in running the family restaurant.
The move is a serendipitous one, as the new site is near the Waipahu Transit Center station. But Russell Ryan said that wasn’t the reason for the move.
“The existing lease (at Leoku Street) ends at the end of 2019, and we needed more space. We couldn’t get that in the existing space,” he said. “Being by the rail station is a plus.”
The new space, a build-out of the former Napa building, will feature some 100 seats, bathrooms, a bar, a small group-seating area and a space for musical entertainment. It will also include the Highway Inn Seafood Market that opened in the restaurant in 2000. The building is so spacious that Ryan said the company will sublease about a third of it.
Construction will begin around summertime, and the company anticipates the restaurant will be ready in November, or “definitely by the end of the year,” said Ryan.
He said the Waipahu menu will continue.
“In fact, we will take as much of the cooking equipment with us as possible, so that all those special recipe nuances will be kept.”
Plans also include increasing the hours of breakfast service upon or shortly after the new space opens.
Ryan said the company never considered leaving Waipahu, not just because of its roots, but because 90 percent of its 60 staffers live within a mile or two of the restaurant.
And while Highway Inn opened a second restaurant in Kakaako in 2013, the Waipahu location has never been short of customers. Even rail construction hasn’t affected the restaurant; in fact, “business has been great,” Ryan said. The local venue even draws tourists from Ko Olina.
“I think there’s a resurgence for authentic, old-style restaurants,” he said. “One of our strategies has been to stay away from tourist centers. (Tourists) have to find us, and if they do, they’re more invested.”