Grab and Go: Noodles rule at Leeward Drive-Inn
Leeward Drive-Inn is the kind of place that locals go when they’re ready to do some serious grinding, and know they’ll get a massive amount for their money.
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Anything, it seems, is better with oodles of noodles at Leeward Drive-Inn in Waipahu. Why settle for the humdrum two scoops rice when you can add those chewy, stir-fried saimin noodles to any plate?
Located in the old West Gate Shopping Center, Leeward is the kind of place that locals go when they’re ready to do some serious grinding, and know they’ll get a massive amount for their money.
Brothers Roy, Melvin and Jerry Yamaki opened Waipahu’s first fast-food restaurant when it was a burgeoning plantation town. Their weathered sign, “since 1964,” with a drooping numeral 6, looks like it’s been there for all those 55 years.
About a decade ago, the aging owners sold the drive-in to Anthony Kim, who added Korean food to the menu, according to a 2007 Honolulu Advertiser article.
Garnished with strips of fishcake, char siu and lots of chopped green onions, the fried noodles make a complete meal, or as a side dish they turn anything into comfort food. If you can’t choose a meat, cover all the bases with the Ultimate Mix Plate, loaded with kalbi, hamburger steak, fried chicken and spareribs.
Two can easily split a plate and there’s even enough for three if they believe in portion control. Lloyd Shimizu and his wife, Mary, visitors from California, shared a Box Lunch ($10.79) with mother Rose Shimizu, who lives here. It came with fried chicken, two Portuguese sausages and teriyaki beef, but they couldn’t resist an extra order of the fried noodles. There were plenty of leftovers to take home.
The husband and wife eat at Leeward on every visit to Hawaii, Lloyd Shimizu said, because the food is “closer to the traditional food I used to be able to get a long time ago — the flavor, the smell — it’s like going back 40 to 50 years to the original Hawaii local flavors.”
Mary Shimuzu pronounced the fried noodles excellent, adding that picky eaters in their family also love Leeward’s food. She also raved about the chili and rice. “I was not expecting it to be as good as it was.”
Leeward is also known for freshly made fruit turnovers, distinguished by a hefty pie crust instead of the flaky pastry that other bakeries strive for. At $2.49 apiece, they come in peach, pineapple and the combos of apple/coconut and coconut/pineapple.
WHAT TO ORDER
Original Leeward Fried Noodles ($6.59) can be accompanied by any side of meat for $2.95, such as juicy barbecued chicken, chicken katsu, Spam or Portuguese sausage; kalbi is $3.50.
The most popular Ultimate Mix Plate ($13.95) comes with both fried noodles and requisite rice. Smaller alternatives include the bento, with two pieces of Spam, three slices of Portuguese sausage, an omelette, rice and fried noodles ($9.69).
ALSO ON THE MENU
Standards such as mochiko chicken, mahimahi, beef curry and meat jun plates ($7 to $14). A Korean barbecue plate ($15.95) includes kalbi, rice, mac salad, toss salad and fried noodles; or with pork or chicken alternatives, $10.49.
Bright orange picnic tables and benches are set up in front, and in a shady room off to the side.
94-209 Pupukahi St., Waipahu
>> Hours: 4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m Mondays through Thursdays; 4:30 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays; 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays
>> Call: 671-7323; or order through BiteSquad
Grab and Go focuses on takeout food, convenience meals and other quick bites. Email ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.