Happy Birthday, Highway Inn!
The Highway Inn in Waipahu is truly a landmark island eatery. Situated in an unassuming strip mall on the west end of the dusty former plantation town, Highway Inn has served “a taste of old Hawaii” since 1947.
Which means, of course, that this year marks the Highway Inn’s 60th birthday. A special occasion marked today, in fact, with a giant cake, ice cream, balloons, cheers and smiles. The staff took pictures, put together a small prize drawing, and gave the day’s patrons a coupon for 20 percent off a future visit.
It was fate that the family and I ended up at Highway Inn today. Justin, a “LOST” fan visiting from Ohio, wanted to try some traditional Hawaiian food. But as I noted in my plea for advice in a “Hawaiian Food Restaurants” thread at HawaiiThreads, most Hawaiian eateries were closed on Sunday. Thankfully, Highway Inn had limited Sunday hours (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and a very good reputation. Though I’d never been there before, it was the perfect choice for a taste of the real thing.
It was founded by Seiichi and Sachiko or “Nancy” Toguchi, who lived through World War II and Japanese internment camps, and its first home was originally on Farrington Highway (hence the name) where Bank of Hawaii now sits. It relocated to Depot Road below the old Waipahu Sugar Mill in 1960, where it served hungry plantation workers and locals for more than 20 years. In 1984, it moved to its current spot on Leoku Street. They even opened a seafood market next door in 2000.
Highway Inn is still run by the same family, three generations on.
We went straight for the Hawaiian Menu greatest hits. The “Stew Combo” (choice of beef stew, tripe stew, or na’au pua’a), the “Kalua Pig Combo,” and the “Laulau Combo,” all three of which also came with rice or poi, lomi salmon or mac salad, and pipikaula and haupia. One of each came to our table, Justin going for the Laulau Combo with poi and a beef stew on the side.
It was fantastic. The lau lau was chock full of good stuff no pathetic blobs of fatty pork in a mountain of spinach here! and the pipikaula was an especially tasty treat. The lomi salmon was wonderful as well… so fresh and cold, it still had a little bit of ice mixed in.
Having discovered this gem so late, we know we’ll have to return several times to try all the other delicacies on the menu, including tripe stew, squid luau, chicken long rice. pipipulehu BBQ, huakai egg soup, and of course poke (sesame or limu). Highway Inn also does breakfast (just not on Sundays), and also has an “American Menu” and a selection of burgers and sandwiches for when you’re in the mood.
And we definitely hope Highway Inn is around for another 60 years, to serve another three generations of local families like ours.