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Kalihi Eats: Penny’s Lunch Wagon…

Penny’s Lunch Wagon -circa 1965

Leave it to Diner E in finding yet another classic eatery in the area over at Penny’s Drive In on Sand Island Access Road.

What you say? Penny’s Drive In? But it’s titled “Penny’s Lunch Wagon”. What gives? Well, the picture above reveals the roots of Penny’s Drive In: Penny herself standing in front of her lunchwagon, circa 1965. Shoot, that’s before even I was born!

According to Diner E, this was a popular wagon back in the day, and it shows, as they’re still going strong, except for one thing: they’ve given up the wagon and opted for a fixed establishment.

Not hard to understand, considering the HARD dynamics of the lunchwagon biz. I know. My sister ran one, which I did a little helping out.

Familiar to this, you might recall Tsukenjo, who ironically also sported a red truck, recently giving that up after decades of iconic presence on the corner of Ward avenue and Queen Street; thankfully maintaining their good name on solid ground at their long-standing Tsukenjo Lunch House on Cooke street.

Penny’s now has their home at a prime truck-stop location located next door to Dancer’s on Sand Island Access Road…

Just as you’d expect from the lunch wagon – and THEN SOME – all the familiar local grinds are here…

Speaking of daily specials, get choke, too.

After scanning the huge selection and going through a brief debate in current mood, I went for the Pork Tofu and Long Rice special of the day…

Penny’s Drive In – Pork Tofu & Long Rice plate, $6.50

Diner E went with his usual “gauge plate” and ordered the Hamburger Steak, this time going for the Shoyu Chicken mix…

Hamburger Steak & Shoyu Chicken mix plate, $7.25

So how was da’ grinds?

The sauce used in the Pork Tofu was a little too sweet for my taste. Topping that off, the mac sal’ also had a hint of sweetness to it, making the dish as a whole slightly off balance. Don’t get me wrong: major grindz and probably a gem to many regulars there, but personally I would have preferred it having less sugar – or mirin – or whatever other sweetener they added have less of. Also, I would have preferred there NOT be rice under the long rice. I mean, sheesh, I’m not Michael Phelps!

As you see, portions are massive, and in fact, I could barely eat half of it. This, along with that plate of Sashimi from Alicia’s easily did me in.

Diner E gave his hamburger steak and shoyu chicken 3 SPAM musubi, noting the flavorful, home-style patty and thick ‘n rich gravy…

But it’s not necessarily the plate lunches here that’s as remarkable as it is the longevity of the place.

As it stands, Since 1965, and years before that, Penny’s Lunch Wagon, now in the form of a “drive in”, still operates today. That’s one tough truck.

Penny’s Drive In
(formerly Penny’s Lunchwagon)
205 Sand Island Road (next to Dancer’s)
Tel. 845-6503
Hours: Monday – Friday 5am to 2:45pm

The Tasty Island rating:

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it. (Ono)


6 thoughts on “Kalihi Eats: Penny’s Lunch Wagon…

  • September 11, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Wow, lau lau, that plate is frickin’ big!

    And yeah, I’d probably ask that they not put rice underneath the long rice.

    Great writeup!

  • September 11, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Their price not bad at all I will check it out.

  • September 12, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    You got to try the roast beef or roast turkey. Good stuff. Craved for it every so often. Sometimes you’ll get pieces of the crispy tasty outer layer of the roast beef. Both are already cut up into small pieces to grind. Also, you got to try the pickled onions to balance the sweetness of the mac salad for these plates.

  • December 8, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    nice writeup Pennys shoyu chicken and pickled onions is a must have. i go there every week just to buy it broke da mouth everytime

  • January 5, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    OMG! Got to try the pickled onions…w/ the Hawaiian plate.  Winner!!!

  • January 5, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    OMG! Got to try the pickled onions…w/ the Hawaiian plate.  Winner!!!


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