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Grindz of the Day: Byron's Drive-In and Toshi's Delicatessen

This past Aloha Friday (yesterday), Diner A and I ran an errand in the airport area, where for lunch, we decided to check out the grindz at Byron’s Drive-In.  This place has been a landmark here for decades, where interestingly, come to find out,  is the last remaining in the legacy of  restaurateur Andrew Wong, who has since passed…

Here’s the takeout menu, which includes most selections, except for a few more “specials” and miscellaneous goodies posted on the window in front…

Byron’s Drive-In’ daily specials for June 2010…


Also for your convenience, here’s a download link for the PDF of Byron’s Drive-In’s current menu (2 pages).

While I admittedly haven’t eaten here for some time now, it always amazes me how crowded the place gets every time I drive by, and today was no exception…

It got even more crowded than that after I snapped that photo.

There’s ample seating…

and games, too!…

So anyhow, getting to our “Grindz of the Day”, Diner A decided to sample “Byron’s Mix”…


Byron’s Drive-In – “Byron’s Mix: Teriyaki Beef, Teriyaki Chicken, Chow Mein Noodles, Mac’ Salad and Rice. $8.75

The verdict? Diner A gives it 3 SPAM Musubi, noting the tasty sauce and tasty charred edges on the meats. Oh-right!

I decided to sample one of their “signature” items, the Avocado Deluxe Burger and Onion Rings….


Byron’s Drive-In – Avocado Deluxe Burger ($5.25) and Onion Rings ($2.25)

Notice the classic “local style” mustard-mayo’ sauce just oozing over the edge of the bun bottom. Oh-right!

A better angle…

As always, the cutaway view…

The verdict? The thick slices of avocado were fresh and perfectly ripened, and added a nice “fattening” component to the already fattening burger patty. lol While the crunchy, zesty slice of white onion and acidic tomato added great contrast to them “fattening” stuffs. Then you have more fat comin’ at ya’ in the form of the mustard-mayo’ sauce. Can’t go wrong with that! While the ketchup on the top part of the bun brought it all together.

Complaints would be the bun, which could have been a little fresher, as it tasted like “2 day old bun” lol, while they also didn’t toast the insides, which is a critical factor (that it IS toasted) in how I judge a burger. Also, the burger patty was cooked on a flat top griddle (ugh), yet thankfully wasn’t dried out and still had decent moisture in it, while the crust was, well, FRIED.  Overall nothing really in and of itself worthy to write home or here about.

Yet that “local style” mustard-mayo’ sauce — which can make car bumpers taste good — along with the combination of ketchup, fresh veggies and avocado made it an overall very satisfying burger experience. Enough to give it 3 SPAM Musubi.

As for the Onion Rings, very nice. It had a Fish ‘n Chips type batter that’s airy inside and lightly crispy on the outside. The onions itself were regular whites, being not notably sweet, yet adequately flavorful to stick out within the batter. 3 SPAM Musubi for their Onion Rings as well.

I was gonna’ order their ‘Spicy Ahi Casserole’, which they tout as being a famous dish from the late ‘n great Andy Wong’s Orson’s Restaurant, but changed my mind at the last minute, preferring something more “sandwich-ee”. The Spicy Ahi Casserole was described as being baked with celery, onion and mayonnaise. No cheese? As odd as it may sound, tuna and cheese can be very good friends!

Anyhow, what was interesting was that, along with mostly blue and white collar workers waiting  in line, mixed in the crowd were also a group of mainland tourists who looked like they just off the plane. What a way to start your Hawaii vacation: grab a plate lunch at Byron’s Drive-In! Guy and the “Triple D” folks really should consider this place on their next Hawaii visit. Classic.

Next up we have an Okazuya plate that Diner “Uchinanchu” E picked up early yesterday morning from Toshi’s Delicatessen in Kalihi, a.k.a. God’s Country, a.k.a. “The Center of Hawaii’s Food Universe”. lol But in this case, what’s just as important as the food itself , is how it’s presented! You may recall several months ago, I did a write-up titled “Plate Lunch Presentation 101”, where I explained the various modern and old school methods used to pack a plate lunch.

I for one appreciate and prefer “old school” methods, and thankfully Toshi’s Delicatessen is one of the few remaining that adheres to the practice of wrapping their ROUND PAPER PLATE in BUTCHER PAPER…

It’s like a wrapped gift of oishiliciousness.

Now we shall commence with the unveiling…

Ooooh…aaaahhhhhh….ooooohhh…aaaahhhhhh.

Unwrapping that, we have this…

What the? Balut? Hah? Oh, oops, sorry, wrong pic. LOL!

In this next “sequence”, notice the parchment paper liner. Part of the “romance” of this part is pulling it off, where you get some of the food stuck to it…

This is the part when, if no one is looking, you put the parchment paper up to your mouth and try and nibble off every last piece of shoyu long rice noodle stickin’ to it. lol

Finally, presenting Toshi’s Shoyu Chicken, Chow Funn, Shoyu Long Rice and Nori Musubi Okazuya plate…


Toshi’s Delicatessen (Okazuya) – Shoyu Chicken, Shoyu Long Rice, Chow Funn and Nori Musubi. $6

The verdict? Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E gives it 3 SPAM Musubi, which would be the equivalent of 4 or 5 SPAM Musubi for you and I. I must say, he gave me a sample of the chow funn to try and it is TOTALLY ONO. I hate to admit it, but this might just beat the reigning champ, St. Louis Delicatessen (Okazuya). I think Toshi’s has even more flavor, yet remains subtle enough to remain silent, yet effective, if you know what I mean.

Well, that’s it for today’s Grindz of the Day. Toodles!

26 thoughts on “Grindz of the Day: Byron's Drive-In and Toshi's Delicatessen

  • June 5, 2010 at 9:28 am
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    For those coming into or leaving Kwajalein, Byron’s comes highly recommended, and it’s one of the only all night diners open at o-dark-thirty when you need breakfast before checking into the 6:55 am outbound ‘Island Hopper’ flight to Kwaj or arriving on the inbound ‘Island Hopper’ at around 2:00 am and there’s nothing open at the airport!

    Best thing about Byron’s is that it’s within walking distance of the airport hotels (Ohana and Best Western) so if you have a hankerin’ for local-style grindz and you’re jetlagged to all hell, Byron’s is the place to go!

    Domo arigato for the review, Pomai-san!

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  • June 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm
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    Where in Kalihi is Toshi’s located Pomai??

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  • June 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm
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    This was da place in the sixties an seventies. Da bomb

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  • June 5, 2010 at 2:42 pm
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    Oh man…the memories! Pomai, I love, love, love visiting your blog not only for the ono food photos/reviews , but the memories.

    “Small-kid-time”, we would always stop at Byron’s for a bite after dropping some visiting relative at the airport.

    I think back in those ‘ole days… nobody else had onion rings. So we always got those!

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  • June 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm
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    hapa bento and skip, I knew Byron’s Drive-In would spark lots of memories here. Most old school drive-ins in Hawaii do. Actually, all old school drive-ins around the NATION have that charm. What I find especially cool is the full retro “roundhouse” architecture of the building, right down to the retro-red color of the roof. Speaking of which, the Kia dealership on the corner of Nimitz highway and lagoon drive is still housed in the old South Seas Restaurant that was run by the once popular Spencecliff company.

    Yoro, Toshi’s is located right across the Kapalama/Kalihi Post Office, just a few steps ewa of Richie’s Drive In. Like most Okazuya joints, you gotta’ go early for best selection. By noon plenty of stuff is already sold out. They open super early too. I think 6am.

    Chuck, I bet business from visitor arrivals and departures declined quite a bit at Byron’s since the highway overpass was built, yet somehow, they’re surviving. Obviously the workers in the area know about the place. Being open 24 hours is great for the folks working the airport graveyard shifts.

    You know what would probably sell well at the airport, is a Chun Wah Kam or Libby’s Manapua “express” kiosk, so folks can bring manapua, pork hash and half moon as omiyage when they “hele” off somewhere. That is, for those who forgot hit Kalihi street to get some on their way to the airport.

     

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  • June 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm
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    Ha Ha, very funny with the balut. I now wait a while to head to Byrons and Toshi for stomach need to settle.

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  • June 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm
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    Pomai, I actually had the “Byron’s Mix” plate and it was $8.75.

    I gotta try the ono chocolate shakes they were making from scratch. A total of 3 of them walked by me while waiting for our order. I think that’s why there’s always a line there.

    I’m also curious about the Little Red Hen chicken. I wonder if it is good as Pioneer’s was in Salt Lake. They had a reddish broasted batter that was to die for. Oh the memories…

    I just clicked the KitchenDaily ad below, ka ching!

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  • June 5, 2010 at 8:51 pm
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    Diner A, sorry ’bout that. Close enough, yet I’ll fix it. As for the ‘Little Red Hen Chicken’, I’m also very curious about it and MUST return to try it! An upcoming “Fried Chicken Tasty Island Shootout” is DEFINITELY now on the front burner! Your “Kernel’s Batter” K-Mart surprise would make a great start.

    Erica, hope it all works out!

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  • June 5, 2010 at 11:12 pm
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    OMG, sneaky guy, putting in that balut photo! I think that’s the equivalent of that video where they lull into paying attention to the scenery and the creepy guy jumps out and screams at you. ;)

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  • June 6, 2010 at 8:58 am
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    Pomai, not sure I will order balut with other food at Toshis but soy sauce long rice look good. Now you’re on a break from ramen quest so what next? Blogers do have many fine recipes they could to share .

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  • June 6, 2010 at 9:14 am
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    Alice, my ramen “break” is over. Another ramen review coming up shortly! But, yes, I have another recipe on “Hilo Style” Chicken Hekka that I’ll be sharing here soon as well. Give me about a week.

    Jenny, I know which videos you’re talking about. One of them is a monkey, and the other one’s this green monster dude. They made a bunch of those sneaky-creepy videos. You gotta’ turn up the volume for maximum scare effect.

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  • June 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm
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    I hear what you’re saying about the look of the place, Pomai… it takes a guy back to a different time. And the food’s good! Byron’s has saved the day for me a coupla times when I found myself doing an overnighter at one of the airport hotels, with my stomach grumbling.

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  • June 7, 2010 at 9:52 am
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    We saw Byron’s near the rental car place and didn’t know what it was about. Now I know and will check it out when we return in October. Thank you!

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  • June 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm
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    I feel as though I would like Byron’s very much, however, the one time I went there late at night, I ordered some sort of garlic fried chicken (if I’m recalling correctly) and was extremely disappointed. It was way too salty, I couldn’t even eat a fourth of it! It was such a sad dining experience especially with the high expectations I had held prior to it. I guess I’ll try it out again and order something else or order what you had ordered. Hopefully, I won’t be let down!

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  • June 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm
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    Hi Pomai! I am so in love with your blog! I get sooo homesick whenever I read your entries. :( waah And we just got here 3 months ago!!!

    There are no plate lunch places around here… I think the nearest one is in NY or Virginia Beach. There was a “Luau” at the club on Ft Meade in Maryland (where we are stationed at) and they couldn’t even spell “Kalua” right so I decided not to go. They also have a “Latin Luau” nights and I’m not even going to touch that with a 10 foot pole, lol.

    Keep up the good work :) Makes me look forward to visiting my homey’s in the winter! Aloha!

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  • June 11, 2010 at 4:00 am
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    I love the paper wrapping! I’ve never had one like that. Brings back memories of when I was a kid and on rare occasions my Mom would let me get a plate lunch at Sea Breeze drive-in in Waianae to take on a elementary school field trip. The best though was her own cooking when she’d make fried chicken and musubi (with the ume in the middle) and send that with me. She’d freeze an RC cola overnight and wrap it in newspaper. By the time we had lunch on the field trip (often on the grass at the old Blaisdell center), the soda was slushy! Thanks, Mom! Youwere old school. I appreciated it then. I appreciate it now!

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  • June 11, 2010 at 5:17 am
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    Pomai, I don’t remember of the old days but my uncle does. It was at Honda long time ago the okazuya on Liliha St. and other along the way. They all wrap food on paper plates butcher paper with rubber bands. Too bad they do not have any more maki sushi rolls in egg sheet instead of nori. It was sold in many okazuyas during the 1960 to 70 times of my uncles and aunts.

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  • June 11, 2010 at 1:34 pm
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    Kimo and Alan, the butcher-wrapped plate lunch somehow makes the food taste better. I think because it traps the flavor in. Either that, or like I said, it’s like a psychological “gift wrapping”. Same effect like when opening a birthday or Christmas present.

    Nancy, let me guess: they spelled ‘Kalua’ either “Kulua” or “Kailua”? However they did, you probably made the right decision not to go. And a “Latin Luau” sounds like they’re using the term “Luau” as just a swap for “Feast”, with otherwise barely anything Hawaiian about it, except for maybe a tropical theme decor. Yet I’m just assuming. Anyway, glad you enjoy the blog. Mahalo!

    Haein, I was actually skeptical I’d like the food at Byron’s, but it turned out better than I expected! I forgot to say, we only could see one cook in the kitchen making orders for droves of customers. Certainly a recipe for disaster, but he somehow seemed to have it under control. Our order took about 10 minutes-plus.

    Traci Jay, Byron’s loud ‘n proud red roof and retro-circular architecture certainly has DRIVE-IN written all over it. It’s definitely one of the most distinctive and unique buildings currently standing in Honolulu that I can think of.

    Marcus, I need to do blog series on late-night and 24-hour restaurants in Honolulu. Byron’s, Wailana Coffee Shop, Eggs ‘n Things, Liliha Bakery, Million, Taiyo Noodle, Zippy’s, Anna Millers, Sorabol, Mac 24-7, plus a few more.

    Raph’, top of mind I have to top contenders: Soul Patrol by Chef Sean Priester and the Tatsutaage Chicken at Goma Tei! I miss Cajoe’s near the airport. Their southern fried chicken and cornbread was the shiznizzle!

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  • July 20, 2010 at 9:52 pm
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    Hey Pomai:

    While reading thru this and looking at the plate lunch, I wondered if you have ever tried to make some plate lunch style macaroni salad at home.   I always wanted to try and duplicate some of the mac salads that I considered noteworthy over the years (I love mac salad – lol).   Like the venerable Kanda Lunch wagon at Kewalos with cabbage, the old Chunky’s Drive Inn mac salad, even the sweetish one served at Penny’s Drive Inn on Sand Island.     Anyone ever work for these places and have an idea what the recipes might be?    I could never duplicate the taste at home – any ideas?   There are some horribly lackluster mac salads offered up on plate lunches out there these days (tasteless and bland sometimes) most often found at L & L type clone drive Inns.       Anyone else out there have any thoughts on mac salad?     

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  • July 20, 2010 at 10:02 pm
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    Kurt, cabbage is definitely a go. Peas a no! Grated carrots a go. Tuna, no!

    One secret is from a recipe we found online from AlohaWorld.com from “Waianae Drive-Inn”. The recipe calls for (drum roll please) a 1/4 cup of MILK. Yes, the secret is MILK. And of course it’s gotta’ be Best Food’s Mayonnaise (a.k.a. Hellmans).

    Between Diner A, Diner E and myself, we all agree when it comes to Mac’ Sal’, the SIMPLER THE BETTER.

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  • July 21, 2010 at 8:35 am
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    Kurt, Da secret dakine ono  Mac salad (Dakine we like!) is when you cook da macaroni u gotta put da hawaiian salt in da water (like 2-cup mac with 1 tablespoon or more) das what give the mac da taste! Den afta U pau cook’um drain um good, den before U mix’um U gotta put milk inside, yeah Milk dakine come from da cow (Das what make da salad creamy) maybe 1/2 cup mix’um up den drain when U ready to mix da mayonaise (Gotta be Best Food or Hellman’s) Chop up da cabbage or carrots (I like only Cabbage like Kewalos Lunchwagon) and mix in da Mayonaise in and U can put some Sugar inside if U like’um sweet like Penny’s lunchwagon and no foget da Black pepper, Den Kau kau wit da Beef Stew or (my favorite Hamburger Steak) Easy Bruddah!

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  • July 23, 2010 at 8:46 pm
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    Thanks for the tips, guys!   I’ll give it a try.  

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  • July 25, 2010 at 6:35 am
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    Kurt, yup, as Diner E reinforced, da’ milk is da’ (Waianae Drive In) secret. You add just enough to coat the macaroni noodles after they’re cooked and drained, then add the mayo’. Also don’t forget to add some ground black pepper. Winnahz laddat!

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  • February 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm
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    Byron’s is no more after today … another one bites the dust!

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  • October 2, 2013 at 11:26 am
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    Yay! Someone else remembers Waianae Drive Inn! They had the best hamburger curry, and lau-laus! I don’t see any mention of Waianae Drive Inn anywhere else except that Mac salad recipe!! I’m only 36, so if I remember that drive in, somebody else has to as well! Was around at least until the mid-80’s

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