In Hawaii, L&L Drive-Inn is ubiquitous. The red-and-white sign invites customers to experience its comfort food menu of teriyaki-glazed barbecue dishes and other Hawaiian favorites, such as loco moco, kalua pork with cabbage and Spam musubi.
Today, the chain has more than 200 franchises in 15 states, including more than 30 in the Bay Area, serving 20,000 Spam musubi a day, 3 million cups of rice a month and half a million pounds of macaroni salad per year.
Although there are many Hawaiian-style restaurants in the continental United States, very few can claim to have started in Hawaii. How did this restaurant, which started out as a small restaurant in Honolulu, come to conquer Hawaii and beyond?
It all started with a small orange and white apartment building in Honolulu’s Kalihi neighborhood in 1976. L&L Drive-Inn served Hawaii BBQ plate lunches, burgers, loco moco and beef stew. From this unique location, where it still stands today, it expanded across the islands and then to California in 1991 as L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.
As popular as the restaurant is today, its story begins with humble origins: an immigrant family coming to Hawaii in pursuit of the American dream.