Before I walked into L & L Hawaiian Barbecue, I was attracted to the bright orange building and the location by Twin Lakes Beach.
However, when the aromas of teriyaki sauce and deep fried goodies hit my nostrils, my thoughts suddenly changed to “What do I want to eat from this menu?”
Folks often refer L & L Hawaiian Barbecue as the "McDonalds" of traditional Hawaiian spots, yet, there was nothing that resembled anything like a cheap fast food joint.
The popular West Coast chain started in 1976 when Johnson Kam and Eddie Flores, Jr. purchased the L&L Drive-Inn on Liliha Street in Honolulu, Hawaii. There they blew up into an immediate success and the pair decided to expand their delicious and affordable food in other areas around the state.
Kam and Flores introduced L&L Hawaiian Barbecue to California in 1999 where it became a huge hit. The business has spread world wide since then and now there are close to 200 L&L restaurants in Hawaii, California, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Texas, New York, American Samoa, New Zealand and Japan.
Inside the Santa Cruz restaurant, the walls are painted green, yellow, and blue to resemble the similar vibrant color that is used outside of the restaurant. There are also pictures of hula dancers and a jumbo-sized portrait on canvas of the inside of a wave.
A couple of my family members joined me on my midday lunch after a lovely cruise along West Cliff back towards Watsonville, and they couldn’t figure out what to order.
I scanned through the menu behind the front counter and came across interesting items like the local favorite Loco Moco ($7.25): hamburger patties over rice covered with brown gravy and topped with eggs served island style.
Another dish that caught my eye was the Kalua Pork ($6.75), a plate full of smoke flavored shredded pork slowly cooked to a point where the meat just melts in your mouth.
L & L also offers burgers ($2.45 - $3.50) and traditional Hawaiian saimin or noodle soup ($4.75).
Most of the dishes come with a choice of macaroni salad, fresh greens, white or brown rice, crinkle cut fries, or veggies.
My dad, Manuel, ordered the Garlic Fish Healthy Plate ($7.75) with a scoop of brown rice and fresh tossed greens with Italian dressing on the side. He said they went a little heavy on the garlic and would have ordered white rice instead of the brown, but overall enjoyed the dish.
As for my brother, Christian, he decided to go with the Seafood Combo Plate ($8.95) with fried fish, fried shrimp and Hawaiian BBQ short ribs along with a side order of white rice and fries. There were no complaints from his end.
The last person of the group, my cousin Kevin, kept it simple and ordered a Fried Shrimp platter ($7.25) with white rice and fries to accompany the crunchy, crispy seafood companions. He too had no problem with his dish and hopes to come back soon to try something else.
I was in the mood for something a bit lighter but with all the necessary ingredients to satisfy my taste buds. I went with a BBQ Beef Bowl ($5.75) served over white rice and fresh steamed vegetables; it was perfect
The broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers were moist and crisp, the white rice was warm and fluffy, and the thinly sliced BBQ beef was a tender and juicy wonder of its own. This hefty bowl of goodness slaps down the Teriyaki Bowl from Jack in the Box without a doubt.
I wiped out everything on my plate and left no traces of any kind that indicated any food was put into the empty bowl. As for my lunch companions, the amount of food was perfect and ended up with plenty of rice and fries as leftovers.
My experience with Hawaiian food is slim to none, but I was pleased with the time I had at L&L Barbecue. I was content with the food and the polite service they provided, all of this ultimately convinced me to want to come back to try something different until I run out of options.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is located at 460 7th Avenue in Santa Cruz and its phone number is 831-475-8898. They offer sit down meals, takeout and catering.
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