Fortunately, Hawaiian plate lunch isn't exclusive to idyllic islands in the Pacific, but can be enjoyed year-round — winter months included — at Sunrise Cafe and Noho's Hawaiian Cafe in Medford, the Grass Shack Cafe in Phoenix and, more recently, Hawaiian Hut in Central Point.
Hawaiian Hut is the first business venture of Crater High School graduate Wes Hunt and the first tenant in a new space between Mountain View Veterinary Clinic and Central Point Family Dentistry.
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1333 Plaza Blvd., Suite C
Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. See www.thehawaiianhut.com.
Hunt worked at a Hawaiian restaurant in Eugene while studying at Lane Community College. After a few years, he realized he had a better shot at owning his own business than getting into a highly competitive nursing program.
"I ended up walking into a bank and asking how to be an entrepreneur," he said. "Basically, they said it comes down to money."
Once Hunt had that, all he needed was a standout teriyaki sauce. He experimented in the kitchen until he found a recipe that was comparable to his former employer's.
The restaurant opened in February 2012 and "took off really quick," Hunt says. "I got lucky."
The Hut offers nine versions of plate lunch, and whether you stay or go, all entrees are served in sturdy, cardboard boxes with plastic cutlery.
If you do stay, the dining room is clean and casual with surfboards and beachscapes hanging from brightly colored walls, as well as tropical foliage, a vintage cruiser bike and tiki torches in various corners.
In the market for some comfort food, my husband, Sean, and I stopped in over the holidays. We ordered at the thatch-covered counter from a paper menu, helped ourselves at the soda machine and took a seat.
The menu touted nearly a dozen plates in three sizes as well as four sandwiches and several sides, including Spam.
Some of the plates are the "royal luau," sliced beef or chicken with vegetables in teriyaki sauce; the "kolea" special, sliced beef in a Korean-style teriyaki sauce; and the Kauai garden mix, vegetables in a teriyaki sauce. Most plates come with one or two scoops of short-grain, white rice and macaroni salad depending on the size.
I chose the classic "hulla hulla" chicken (regular, $7.95), and Sean ordered the kalua pig (large, $8.95).
The fatty chicken thighs soaked up the sweet teriyaki marinade much better than a leaner breast. The tender meat was served in bite-sized pieces, each consistently browned and coated in the caramelized sauce.
Sean's dish was a pound of shredded, moist but overly salty pork. This large helping was more than enough for two, and he dressed up the plain meat with some Sriracha sauce. Barbecue and teriyaki sauces also are available.
The macaroni salad had more kick than Noho's but less mayonnaise dressing. I liked the kick but also would have liked more dressing. I'm willing to accept the caloric consequences.
Throughout the night, there was a steady stream of folks picking up takeout while two, large groups of high school-age youths dined in. The Hut offers a high-school special and, according to Hunt, has a large Crater following.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. See the menu at www.thehawaiianhut.com; to place an order, call 541-727-7042.
— Teresa Thomas