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Honolulu Harbor Eats: Pier 21 Lunchroom


Last week upon looking around Google Maps in satellite view for a business-related business (for realz), Diner E stumbled upon this eatery near our office named Pier 21 Lunchhouse. A place we NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE, and we’ve worked in this area for YEARS.

As you can see from that screen shot, Pier 21 Lunchroom is located LITERALLY on the pier in the heart of Honolulu Harbor, right past where the former Hawaii SuperFerry Terminal still stands (the square building with the light jade-colored roof).

Also right in front of Pier 21 Lunchroom is the still-standing structure of the now-closed Pendleton’s Hawaiian Flour Mill


Wheat and flour storage silos from the former Pendelton’s Hawaiian Flour Mill, which closed in 2014 after 50 years in business. The old Flour Mill looms at the front of Pier 21’s dock jetty. It’s now converted to have the ability to launch ICBMs, while also doubling as microbrewery tanks, storing nothing but Hawaii-brewed IPAs and Stouts. lol


View looking towards Kukahi Street, mauka-bound (towards the mountain) from Pier 21 Lunchroom 2nd floor entrance; note the former Hawaii SuperFerry Honolulu Harbor terminal to the right, with the light jade green roof (see previous Google Map screen shot for reference)

A walk up the stairs to the upper floor of this very old dockside warehouse (still in use), we’re in Pier 21 Lunchroom…

Notice the State of Hawaii Department of Health green “PASS” placard on the cold beverages refrigerator…

These are the wonderful owners of Pier 21 Lunchroom, Mr. and Mrs. Siu, who say they’ve been in business at this same dockside warehouse location for over 18 years!….


Pier 21 Lunchroom owners Mr. and Mrs. Siu (Cantonese)

Mr. and Mrs. Siu are again VERY VERY nice, however I must note that they can’t speak much English (they’re Cantonese, originally from Hong Kong), so I couldn’t get many of the questions I had answered properly. I’ll have to look up their son who runs the Pier 21 Lunch wagon that operates in the Dillingham Boulevard and Sand Island areas for more information about the history and stuff about Pier 21 Lunchroom.

Whatever the case, wow, 18 years in business in this old, hidden spot on the docks at Honolulu Harbor? Amazing!

Want waterfront dining? You got it..

This is the “view” if you look through the screen that separates their dining room and kitchen from the warehouse that’s right on the dockside edge of Honolulu Harbor below…

OK, let’s get to business and check out what stay get fo’ grind, laddat…


Pier 21 Lunchroom Breakfast, Sandwiches ‘n Sides Menu (current as of 5/26/16)


Pier 21 Lunchroom Plate Lunch Menu (current as of 5/26/16)

On his first-time visit, Diner E sampled Pier 21’s BBQ Chicken (Teriyaki style glaze) and Hamburger Steak plate…


Pier 21 Lunchroom ~ BBQ Chicken and Hamburger Steak Plate Lunch Combo $10

He liked the hamburger steak plate so much, he returned a few days later and got the Loco Moco….


Pier 21 Lunchroom Loco Moco, including a fresh ‘n local Kalei Egg ~ 8.50

Note that there’s two slices of roast pork on this plate, which Mrs. Siu was so kind to offer Diner E as a “sample”. To which he gave me one to try, and it was EXCELLENT. Super tender ‘n porky-tasty-good!

Back to da’ Loco Moco, da’ hamburger patty has lots breading filler, typical of the local style burgers you’d find at most old school lunchhouses…

I got a taste of the gravy from Diner E’s Loco Moco, and found it almost tasted more like a turkey gravy, albeit with some beefiness to it. It was a bit on the salty side, yet in a good way, not overbearing. In other words, da’ gravy was packin’ flavor big time. I’d definitely order this Loco Moco next time for myself!

On a loco moco “binge”, the very next day Diner E opted for Pier 21’s Beef Stew Moco…


Pier 21 Lunchroom ~ Beef Stew Moco (beef stew topped with a local Kalei Egg) $6.00


Pier 21 Lunchroom ~ Beef Stew Moco (beef stew topped with a local Kalei Egg) $6.00

And? Diner E was VERY HAPPY with the Beef Stew, noting it had a “home-cooked” flavor (meaning lots of LOVE), while the chunks of beef were super tender and tasty, as was the overall flavor of the stew broth itself. The carrots, celery and big chunks of potatoes were also perfectly al dente, not being overcooked and mushy at all. Oh, and that Kalei egg running its yolk all ovah da’ stew was “mean”. lol

I went there myself (hence many of these photos) and sampled the Onion Ginger Chicken…


Pier 21 Lunchroom ~ Onion Ginger Chicken Plate Lunch $6.75

Look at how tender and moist the poached chicken is…

And? The Onion Ginger Chicken plate was SUPAH ONO! The chicken was poached to tender and juicy perfection, seasoned with just the right amount of salt to act as a brine and flavor it wonderfully. While that Chinese style “pesto” was DA’ BOMB DOT COM!

The Mac Salad is “interesting”. It was a little on the soggy side, yet still good, while also a little on the sweet side. Otherwise very creamy and fresh-tasting, not having any off-putting sourness to it as you Mac Salad fans know what I’m talkin’ about. Definitely a commendable Mac that works well with the whatever meaty entree you’re eating it with. The two scoops rice were also cooked perfectly, not being too hard or mushy, with just the right amount of “stick”.


Chinese “Pesto” for Cold Ginger Chicken, made with grated ginger, Chinese parsley, green onion and peanut oil… I LOVE this stuff, and Mrs. Siu was so kind to add extra on my chicken!


Pier 21 Lunchroom Chili Frank Plate Lunch ~ $7.00

Post edit: Diner E went back a week later and ordered their Chili Frank Plate. He gave me a sample of it, which I found definitely on the sweet side, just like their mac’ salad. It’s definitely a lot different than Zippy’s meat-based Chili, but actually kinda’ close to Zippy’s “vegetarian” Chili, with lots of mixed veggies in it, including celery and corn kernels. Incredibly, for just $7, it included not one but TWO hot dogs, which Diner E said tasted like your basic Bar S or Farmer Johns type. Again, the portion is incredible.

Post edit: Diner P (Yours Truly) went back (via Diner E’s delivery service!) to try their Roast Pork plate lunch…


Pier 21 Lunchroom Roast Pork Plate Lunch $7

First impression of the Roast Pork? SUPER TENDER and very tasty, where they definitely don’t skimp on salting their food, however like everything else, the saltiness wasn’t overbearing, but definitely “intense”. Just make sure you have preferably drinking water to “chase” it and you’ll be good. The gravy is more the poultry type than a pork or beef-based darker brown gravy. Almost like Turkey gravy. While it’s not my favorite rendition of Roast Pork, I’d definitely order it again when in the mood for the dish.

Diner E also returned (again) to sample their Chicken Adobo mini plate….


Pier 21 Chicken Adobo mini plate

And? I sampled an entire piece of their Chicken Adobo myself (we turned both plates into a combo) and can say like their Ginger Chicken, the adobo version was very tender and seasoned nicely with salt and the BASIC adobo marinade of shoyu and vinegar.


Roast Pork & Chicken Adobo “hacked” combo

What I did find lacking was any hint of bay leaf and peppercorn in the flavor, which are two other key ingredients to authentic Filipino style adobo.

I also did find it needed more vinegar, as it was more shoyu chicken than adobo in overall flavor, with only a hint of acidity to say, “OK, it’ll pass for adobo, but barely”. It would definitely be better, even as subtle as their flavors are, if it were pork instead of chicken adobo.


Mr. & Mrs. Siu, owners of Pier 21 Lunchroom on 5/25/16


Mrs. Siu of Pier 21 Lunchroom with Pomai ~ 5/26/16 (VERY early in the morning before Diner P started work; note, they open at 5am)

Summing it up, you can’t go wrong with the selection, prices, portions, and most importantly TASTE at Pier 21 Lunchroom. Ono ‘kine local grindz fo’ sho’ah! If “greasy spoon” plate lunch joints are your “thang”, this place right on the edge of Downtown Honolulu @ Honolulu Harbor has got your name written all over it, like “gravy all ovah”!

Pier 21 Lunchroom
705 N. Nimitz Highway
(turn makai on Kukahi Street either Diamond Head or Ewa-bound, and drive or walk all the way to the end of the pier)
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

Tel. (808) 599-7715
Open Monday – Friday 5am to 2pm

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good/excellent. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Ono!)

P.S. Speaking of piers and docks, while I was there, some folks were jumping off “the wall” into the “clear blue waters” of Honolulu Harbor right by Pier 21…

Nah, jus’ kidding. That’s a total “Photo-chopped” job. lol They were actually jumping off Waikiki Beach “Walls” last weekend on a beautiful sunny day…


Via land, air and sea (plus SPRAYS!) off Waikiki Beach “Walls” ~ 5.22.16

I wish I had this still shot (taken with my Note 4) on video, so it could be YouTube’d in slow-mo’ in reverse, with the splashing water getting sucked back into the ocean… that would be WAY cool!


Via land, air and sea off Waikiki Beach “Walls” ~ 5.22.16


Via land, air and sea off Waikiki Beach “Walls” ~ 5.22.16


Via land, air and sea off Waikiki Beach “Walls” ~ 5.22.16


Waikiki Beach “Walls” pavilion (at the end of the wall) ~ 5.22.16


View of Waikiki, Ewa-bound from Waikiki Beach “Walls” ~ 5.22.16


A swimmer wades in the turquoise water on the Ewa side of Waikiki Beach “Walls” ~ 5.22.16

View of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach “Walls” last Sunday, 5.22.16. This is the very same spot (way before “the Wall”) where my mom was on a surfboard as a young little girl with her cousins when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. All she remembers was hearing faint “booming” sounds, then seeing planes going back and forth across the distant sky. Then her brother (my late uncle) yelling at her to get out of the water. She was too young to be scared, only puzzled what was happening.

9 thoughts on “Honolulu Harbor Eats: Pier 21 Lunchroom

  • May 27, 2016 at 1:02 pm
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    Howzit Pomai, wow lucky thing you guys found this place. If my work was close by, I would be lunching there often! That kaukau looks so ono! The beef stew looks like old school lunch wagon style and the prices is very reasonable. Cold chicken with pake pesto is one of my favorites too! Thanks for the story!

    Reply
  • May 27, 2016 at 3:10 pm
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    I didn’t know those places still existed. And those prices. If I worked anywhere near there I would open up a lunch account. I would tell the front desk that 21 gets paid first. Quiet, good food, Eat in peace. Menu does need Chop Steak, Mahi Mahi plate  and Beef Tomato. Small quibbles for such a place.

    Reply
  • May 28, 2016 at 3:48 am
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    Pomai, who need Waikiki prices and location ?   Local loves great deals

    and food.  Hamburgers like mom make it for family when we were little.

    Location not bad mom and pop.

    Reply
  • May 28, 2016 at 7:18 am
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    @ Kelike – Who knows? One day “Pier 21” may be THE SPOT in Honolulu as an uber-hip restaurant, bar & nightclub. The name and location is PERFECT for that. Yet FWIW, nothing can beat the romance of an old school dock workers’ harbor-side lunchhouse, just the way it is.

    @ Pat – A lunch time “regulars” charge account? Sounds like our affair with Zippy’s. Regarding chopped steak, Beef Tomato, Mahi Mahi and other menu ideas, I actually threw that at Mrs. Siu, and she was like “Pffft. Been there, done that.” lol


    Kenny’s “In the Kam’ Shopping Center in Kali-heeee” Kama’aina Chopped Steak plate


    Local style Beef Tomato from Ethel’s Grill in Kalihi Kai

    @ Kurashima-San – Oh, like say Meg’s Drive-In or the Board of Water Supply Cafeteria!

    Reply
    • May 29, 2016 at 4:12 pm
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      You notice they look alike. That is because both are really Beef Tomato (also invented in Hawaii, BTW). Real old style Chop Steak has Onions, a bit of celery slivers. No Tomato, no Bell Pepper. A couple slices of carrot for color were considered exotic when I was young.

      Reply
  • May 28, 2016 at 1:04 pm
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    Pomai, glad you got extra green onion ginger sauce for that chicken and rice

    for that Chinese like to eat this dish with extra rice and sauce.

    There lot restaurants with piers on their name in San Francisco but not

    like Pier 21 Mom and Pop they are fancy types

     

    Reply
  • June 1, 2016 at 6:07 am
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    What a great find, brah!  Places like Pier 21 Lunchroom are the hidden treasures of Hawaii. Mom and Pop places are where I look for – my wife used to have her list of “GD’s”  (Great Dives). No-frills places with great food wherever we were stationed. I always get asked by Mainland friends on how expensive it is to live in Hawaii… I tell ’em that housing is priced like DC, NYC, SFO (all about location).  But for food I advise them to go to eat where the locals go, not in the Tourist traps. Oh yeah and get used to eating lots of rice! LOL

    Reply
  • June 3, 2016 at 2:26 am
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    @ Keith-San – Speaking of “Great Dives”, from what I understand, while Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is quite true to its name, from what I understand the kitchen and overall appearance of said restaurants they feature on that show still have to pass a somewhat strict appearance standard that’s at least “fit for TV”. I’ve spoken with several owners here who have said their business shot up over 25% or more after their restaurant was aired on “Triple D”.

    Hopefully the feature here of Pier 21 Lunchroom has helped boost their business, as they hardly have any reviews on Yelp (odd nowadays, as Yelpers seem to find ALL the dives).

    @ Amy – Next to Egg Fu Yong, Cold Ginger Chicken was another one of my faves whenever we ate out for Chinese while growing up. Mainly because of that Ginger-Onion “Chinese Pesto” sauce. As Guy Fieri would say, “I could eat that off a flip-flop!” lol

     

    Reply

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