In Hawaii, L&L Drive-Inn is ubiquitous. The red-and-white sign beckons customers to its comfort food menu of teriyaki-glazed barbecue plate lunches and other Hawaii favorites, such as the loco moco, kalua pork with cabbage and the Spam musubi.
Today, the chain has more than 200 franchise locations in 15 states, with more than 30 in the Bay Area, serving up 20,000 Spam musubi per day, 3 million cups of rice a month and a half million pounds of macaroni salad a year.
Though there are many Hawaii-style restaurants in the continental US, very few of them can claim they started out in Hawaii. How did this restaurant, which began with a small Honolulu eatery, come to take over Hawaii and beyond?
It all started with a small orange-and-white building in Honolulu’s Kalihi neighborhood in 1976. L&L Drive-Inn served Hawaii barbecue lunch platees, hamburgers, loco moco and beef stew. From this one location, where it still stands today, it expanded across the Islands, then to California in 1991 as L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.
As popular as the restaurant is today, its story begins with humble origins: a family of immigrants coming to Hawaii in pursuit of the American dream.