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Airport Eats: Driver's Diner

For yesterday’s greasy spoon pauhana Friday grindz, the three of us decided to check out Driver’s Diner near HNL. They’re located on the corner of Ualena and Ohohia street, right across the street from Royal Hawaiian Movers…

If for some inexcusable reason you don’t know where Royal Hawaiian Movers are (because you know, everyone living on Oahu should know where they are lol), than this lonely high rise office building in an otherwise low-rise industrial warehouse area still emblazoned with Wyland’s Humpback Whale mural art a little down the street should help point you in the right direction…

Once inside, you’ll find a quite large, very clean and newly renovated dining room space…

I think owners of restaurants are putting flat screen TVs in their establishment as much for themselves as they are for their guests. lol But no, that’s not the owner sitting there slacking off, but a customer. The owner is a pretty young looking Filipino guy (although all Filipino folks look young, even when they’re old!).

I wanted to ask more questions about the restaurant, but before we knew it, the lunch hour rush busted down the door and they became too busy to bother…

Once again Diner A’s made it into one of my shots, this time giving a shaka, although sometimes he’s been known to sneak in hand signs of the New York variety. lol Notice the clientele of mostly blue jeans and workboots “truck drivers” (actually they were roofers working next door). Fitting for a place named ‘Driver’s Diner’.

Actually, we had heard of this place through Lyle Galdeira and Russell Yamanoha on KHNL News 8’s latest “Cheap Eats” segment. There used to be a place on the corner of Nimitz Highway and Kalihi street named ‘Driver’s’, but we don’t think it was the same owner. That place has recently opened again under the name ‘Lotto & Bento’, which now serves Korean food.

Back to Driver’s, they didn’t have a permanent menu board, but only this dry-erase set of selections for the day…

With that, Diner A decided on trying the Cajun Grilled Ahi with Garlic Shrimp…

Diner E went for the Philly Steak Sandwich with Fries…

A look under the hood of this bad boy…

Man-o-man, that looks AWESOME!

Diner AC ordered the Laulau, which came accompanied with green “salad” (that’s pretty weird)…

Finally, yours truly decided to try their Shrimp Scampi Fetuccine (SIC on the menu as “Fetucinni”)…

Let’s have a bite…

The sauce coating the perfectly al dente Fetuccine pasta tasted like a lemon caper cream sauce, with maybe  just a slight amount of Parmesan cheese in it, but not heavily. It was more like just a thickened cream. There were also generous bite-size pieces of fresh tomato, sauteed onions and mushrooms in the mix. Overall, the sauce was just OK but a little plain tasting and lacked any herbs or “kick” if you will. I would have preferred if it were more like an Alfredo with a heavier-hitting cheesy punch to it.

Let’s try the shrimp…

They were cooked just right, but flavorwise, kinda’ plain and lacked any garlicy-buttery goodness to it that I was expecting them to have.

The green “salad” (if you want to call it that) was really lame, only consisting of cut pieces of romaine lettuce with barely a hint if none at all of dressing on it. On top of that, it was kind of wilted and not crispy fresh.

Summing up my Shrimp Scampi “Fetucinni” plate was generally a satisfying lunch thanks to the HUGE “truck driver’s portions” and perfectly al dente pasta, but lacked anything that stood out in taste. Then again, what can I expect for just $6. With that I give it 1 SPAM Musubi.

Moving on, let’s sample Diner A’s Cajun Grilled Ahi…

Diner A gave me a piece to try, and I must say, it was really, really good. Super moist, and the seasoning was DYNAMITE! It made it almost taste like a beef steak, and not fish. Thumbs way up on this!

Now let’s sample the shrimp…

Notice they’re individually deveined and left with the shells on for flavor. I didn’t try them, but Diner A RAVED about it, giving the them 4 SPAM Musubi right off the bat.

Here, Diner A shows off how jumbo-sized these shrimp are…

He noted that he enjoyed these shrimp as much as he did the ones we had at the Blue Water Shrimp Truck. He also gave a thumbs-up on the Mac’ Salad, giving our “simple, cool and creamy” seal of Mac’ Sal’ approval. They got the Mac’ Sal’ right, so that alone gives Driver’s Diner all the respect.

With that, Diner A weighed in between giving his Cajun Grilled Ahi and Shrimp plate either a 3 or 4 SPAM Musubi rating, but since they passed our critical Mac’ Sal’ test, I’ll take the liberty of awarding it a FOUR!  I must say, that Cajun Grilled Ahi was definitely in it to win it.

Diner AC gives her Laulau 2 SPAM Musubi. Not bad, not great. The “salad” not even worth mentioning. She thinks it’s a store-bought brand, not house-made. I’ll stick with Highway Inn, who I think so far makes the BEST LAULAU on the island.

Finally, let’s see what Diner “Saimin Kaukau” (Simon Cowell) E thought of his Philly Steak sammy…

Oh. My. God. In all of its downright sloppy, drippin’ ‘n oozin’, meaty ‘n cheesy glory,  doesn’t that look absolutely ONO?!!! Dammmmmmm’, I just wanna’ reach right through my monitor and take a bite of that right now! Gino’s & Pat’s, eat your heart out, baby.

“Saimin Kaukau” liked it. Thumbs up. Not way, way up, but enough to grant it 3 SPAM Musubi, which by his critical Simon Cowell standards, is considered very, very good. He noted the beef was grilled nicely and was very tender, which I tried a piece and can concur to. The grilled red bell peppers and onions added tasty fourth dimension to the toasty hoagie roll, melted swiss and grilled beef, although he said there just  might have been “something” missing, but he didn’t know what.

He was also OK with the fries. Not great, but OK.

Summing up Diner E’s Philly Steak and Fries, he gives it 3 SPAM Musubi. I gotta’ say though, just lookin’ at it, I’d give it a 10!

Driver’s Diner
3006 Ualena st.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Tel. 836-1575

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Related links:
Cheap Eats: Driver’s Diner – KHNL News 8 (Hawaii News Now) Video Report
Driver’s Diner – Yelp user reviews

5 thoughts on “Airport Eats: Driver's Diner

  • March 14, 2010 at 8:38 am
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    Wow – major major props to Driver’s for getting the hoagie roll right! ..And is that American cheese? Nice! Peppers aren’t traditional, but nice grill marks on them and the onions. Only issue is that the beef looks thick, like it’s sliced, not shaved. But I got to say, that is one impressive looking cheesesteak!
    Pomai, you ever been to Philly? You ever come by, we’ll show you some sweet grindz!

    Reply
  • March 14, 2010 at 9:27 am
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    Aloha Liz,

    Not American, but Swiss. I believe the “real” cheese to use on a classic Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich is the very “unreal” Cheez Whiz, right? Wit’ o’ wit’out.

    You’re right, the beef was sliced, not shaved on a deli slicer. It was about 1/8″ thick. It tasted like good quality stuff though. Possibly ribeye. Very fatty (flavorful) and tender!

    Never been to Philly. If I’m in the area I’ll remember your offer and email you to take that up!

    :-)

    Reply
  • March 15, 2010 at 10:21 am
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    Where’s the mushrooms on cheesesteak? :(

    Reply
  • March 16, 2010 at 9:09 pm
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    aloha pomai! :D the cheesesteak looks ono–my fave thing to put on a cheesesteak would be hot cherry peppers along with sweet peppers. that to me seals the deal! those onions look real tasty too. crispy hot fries with plenty of ketchup too :D was there any parmesan nearby for your alfredo? most places i like to generously sprinkle more cheese onto my alfredo! maybe that could have saved an otherwise large & cheap plate. not sure about putting salad in the same container as hot food–that tends to wilt the greens–i would say, if a place is going to give salad…it should be in its own box. you’ve done it again pomai–i’m licking the screen!!!! :)

    Reply
  • April 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm
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    Just ate there today and had the hamburger steak. Good thing I got the mini ($4.50) because it was junk! The mac sal’ was tasteless, well aside from mayo and a hint of relish juice?… The hamburger had weird seasonings, but no taste. Gravy was blah too. :( so sad

    Reply

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