Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Raiders vs. The Buff n' Blues

Being in Manoa, when I was in high school and I had an off campus pass, we would always head into Manoa Marketplace for lunch.  As soon as class would end, we would pile into the back of Jeff's burnt red vintage '65 mustang convertable.   We would head up University Ave., with the top down, and Nerida's long blonde hair would whip in my face.   Usually, it was just a simple McDonald's run that we were after, although we would sometimes go to Island Manapua, Little Caesars, grab some bagels at Safeway, or whatever else we felt like that day.   But when my sister went to school, she didn't want to go to any place where she would be simply known as my little sister.    So she went to Iolani instead.  Naturally, it made me curious if Iolani kids did the same thing and where they would run off to for lunch.

It always amazes me that we have 2 of the top 10 college prep schools in the entire nation on this tiny little island, Iolani and Punahou.   Both are tremendous century old schools.   Both have educated world leaders in their histories.   Iolani trained the young Chinese man who would overthrow the Manchu Dynasty, who would eventually be credited as the "Father of Modern China", and whose efforts in nation building were very comparable to those of George Washington, Dr. Sun Yat Sen.    Whereas Punahou's latest claim to fame is of course the 44th U.S. President, Barrack Obama.   Working in the business world here in Honolulu, the first question asked is usually whether you went to Iolani or Punahou.   It is a rivalry that is not unlike that between Harvard and Yale.   Iolani, originally a Hawaiian boys school, has the reputation for being more scholarly.   Whereas Punahou, which originally taught the children of the missionaries, is known for its alumni business network and connections. 

So when students at these uber-prestigious institutions have a free period where do they run off to eat?  Well, my sister divulged to me how all Iolani students would head up the road and hit up H.K.'s Restaurant on S. King Street, right across from Old Stadium Park.   Meanwhile, her compatriots at Punahou would drive down the hill and hit up Pee-Wee Drive Inn on the corner of Punahou and S. King.   Not having attended either school, I decided to visit both places and see how they compared.

Beef Stew at H.K.'s Restaurant
My sister would reminisce about H.K.'s thick fries, and their famous stuffed cabbage.   But unfortunately the cabbage was not on the menu the day that I went.   So we settled on some plate lunch classics, beef stew and hamburger curry.    

Hamburger Curry at H.K.'s Restaurant
Honestly their beef stew just doesn't compare to the old school Hawaiian taste of the beef stew at Fresh Catch. Their hamburger curry was pretty decent, local style curry.   It was generally mild with just a hint of curry powder taste.  Both stews had nice big chunks of carrot and potato.  Even the hamburger in the hamburger curry were like small nickel sized chunks, instead of regular hamburger crumbles.  But, what I really noticed most about both dishes was the liberal amount of black pepper that they used.   Even their mac salad seemed to have a peppery kick to it.  

Shoyu Chicken at Pee-Wee Drive Inn
At Pee-Wee Drive Inn we tried to order similar dishes, to compare apples to apples.   However, whereas Pee-Wee had shoyu chicken on the menu, and H.K.'s didn't, we opted for that instead.   But again, we tried their hamburger curry just to keep a level playing ground.

Hamburger Curry & Mochiko Chicken at Pee Wee Drive Inn
Pee-Wee didn't have nearly the same pepperiness to it.   They were more of your standard plate lunch fare.  The hamburger curry was different though.   Theirs had a lot peas in it.   The peas gave it the strong taste and texture of cooked peas, like you find in split pea soup.   They also cut their carrots, potatoes, and corn to match the peas and hamburger, so it is a lot more evenly sized bits, compared to the big chunks at H.K.'s.  Their mochiko wasn't so crunchy, as it had more of the stick to your teeth chewiness that mochiko can get.  Price wise they were about the same, coming in at around $6 to $8 per plate, just what a high school student would be able to splurge on.

Given the choice, I slightly preferred the more classic taste at Pee Wee, compared to the peppery kick of H.K.'s., but in general they're both pretty standard plate lunch places.   Maybe it simply was because I didn't have the nostalgia for either place, that neither one stood out for me the way that they would for Iolani or Punahou grads.   In all honesty though, they may be getting a world class education at Iolani or Punahou, but with all of the old school eateries in Kalihi, I think the kids over at Farrington probably ate better.

1 comment:

  1. well, HK's was just one of the places we went to. We're also super close to Rainbow's, and anything else in Kapahulu. Not to mention, Waiola's.