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Cluster truck: Kapahulu’s new food truck pod

Five trucks so far, three more coming, more planned


Posted February 19, 2013 by Mari Taketa

I’m driving down Kapahulu, hunting for a saimin truck, of all things, when I come upon this: not one, but five food trucks, lined up in the lot just below Winam and above American Savings Bank.

What the truck? I think, and pull in, because parking is choke on this unpaved lot at 755 Kapahulu. And I find out this is new, only since last week: Nakai Saimin, Blue Truck Teppanyaki, Firehouse, Whatchafillin and Petite Suisse Crepes. And that’s only the start — organizer Leroy Guo also has Rico Rico Chicken, Shogunai Tacos and Taco Cabana coming in, and is looking to fill the lot with 10 trucks in all, maybe more.

The working name for this lot of food trucks? Lot of Food Trucks. I’m serious.

This isn’t the first time lot owners have tried out the permanent food truck pod concept in Honolulu. The difference is that while others were moribund, with few trucks or customers, this one’s already gaining traction. Guo, who’s leasing the lot, is subleasing spots for $600 a month, about half the rate charged at some other lots.

At 1 p.m. Monday there’s passerby foot traffic and drive-in traffic. I run into two people I know, both regulars already. One’s on his second visit to Whatchafillin and the other’s on his third trip to Firehouse. And I’m there on a tip from yet a third regular, who’s been to the Nakai Saimin truck four times since last week.

“Cool,” Guo says when I tell him. “I hope it works. I chose this place because it’s a high-traffic area and it’s near Waikiki.”

You remember Guo? Before Gogi, before Melt and any of the others, he opened the first fusion taco truck in Honolulu, back in the late summer of 2010. It was called T.A.S.T.E. and was actually a converted trailer Guo found on Craigslist, serving up the goods in a parking lot at Beretania and McCully. Now, with low rents in a high-traffic lot, he may be onto something else.

Here’s the lineup you’ll find:

Nakai Saimin

What: Probably the island’s only saimin truck, Nakai’s is actually a year old but had been parked in Haleiwa until now. Serves up the same silky homemade noodles and broth as at the Nuuanu Avenue restaurant, with sides like burgers. Won ton min, kimchee saimin, fried saimin and stuff.

When: 10:30 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. daily except Sunday.

 
 

Blue Truck Teppanyaki

What: The twin of the florid blue truck at the UH-Manoa campus, both extensions of the restaurant on Sand Island Access Road. Plate lunches cooked to order on a teppan grill.

When: Lunch and dinner. Which days are they closed? “I’m Chinese,” the owner says. “Do I look like I close?”

 
 

Firehouse

What: A little bit of Guam, a little bit of Texas. The menu changes daily but there’s usually chicken kelaguen, marinated in lemon, lime, coconut juice and chilies in a two-day process before it ends up in a Chamorro-style titijas tortilla. Other tacos feature Texas-style barbecue.

When: Lunch and dinner daily.

 
 
 


Whatchafillin

What: Fresh-griddled waffles stuffed with savory or sweet goods, like ham, cheese, caramelized onions, banana, peanut butter… Here’s Melissa Chang’s video look

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except Sunday for now, with updates posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 


Petite Suisse Crepes

What: It’s a trailer, actually, custom-fitted with griddles for making sweet and savory crepes to order. The same Petite Suisse Crepes you see at events around town, only this trailer will also have panini sandwiches and fresh lemonade.

When: Grand opening March 1st. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. the first week, then daily except Wednesday and Thursday.

 

Also:

Rico Rico Chicken, spit-roasting and serving up Peruvian-style chicken every Sunday from 11 a.m.
Shogunai Tacos, one of Honolulu’s original fusion taco trucks, with Osaka Jo pulled pork-and-kabayaki sauce, Greek Zeus tacos, fries. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 or 8 p.m., coming soon.
Taco Cabana, currently parked on Kapiolani Boulevard but moving to Kapahulu’s Lot of Food Trucks in March.

Comments


You can read all of Mari’s blogs at www.nonstophonolulu.com/Deliriyum. Follow Mari on Twitter @NonStopMari or email at mari@nonstophonolulu.com.

  1. Posted February 19, 2013 at 5:19 am

    Glad to see the food truck explosion is still going strong!

  2. Melissa808
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 8:50 am

    AHAHAHAHAHAaaaaaaa Pakes never close!!!!

  3. 808marv
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Sounds great and I like the fact that most of the trucks have late afternoon hours!  Maybe one day T.A.S.T.E.  can return too.  Just hope can find parking…this is Kapahulu after all.

  4. Amy1
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Mari, a year ago I comment in Nonstop on too many taco like truck a why can we have more noodle and Asia type food ?  Now WOW!  Some would be venders must read it and got ideal on what kind of food to sell.

  5. bettydalycity
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 11:36 am

    The Whatchafillin waffle in Chinese call Che Loo Bing  know as Car Wheel Cake in Taiwan.  Now people can get it from cooking ware stores in Taiwan pan to make it also.

  6. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    @WERUreo it seems there are more than ever, but aside from events, they’re hard to find bc they’re constantly looking for good spots. def makes it easier for u in a short time!

  7. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    @WERUreo it seems there are more than ever, but aside from events, they’re hard to find bc they’re constantly looking for good spots. def makes it easier for u in a short time!

  8. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    @Melissa808 i feel like i walked into that one.

  9. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    @808marv leroy’s thinking abt it, but working on another cooking project in chinatown so pretty busy. and the lot has choke parking

  10. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    @Amy1 maybe! we also have an udon truck that’s parked on sheridan street.

  11. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    @Amy1 maybe! we also have an udon truck that’s parked on sheridan street.

  12. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    @bettydalycity u’re right, the idea is from asia, which has awesome street food

  13. DianeSeo
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I hope this catches on. Would be good to have more quick options when I’m in that neighborhood, whichis often.

  14. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    @DianeSeo i know, quick and options are key words when trucks cluster

  15. 808marv
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    @nonstopmari  Oh we can park in the lot? OK well that makes it a lot more convenient!  Will visit soon.

  16. Posted February 19, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    @DianeSeo Actually, as far as the ones I’ve gone to. None are “quick”. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love them!

  17. nonstopmari
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    @ParkRat but have u tried the kelaguen at firetruck? nothing green: chicken, coconut juice, lime juice, lemon juice, chilies, in a chamorro tortilla w/ red beans and rice. maybe? @DianeSeo

  18. Melissa808
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    @nonstopmari um, don’t forget,  @ParkRat  doesn’t eat fruits. So the juices might be out. He also doesn’t do spicy. And, no color. @DianeSeo

  19. Posted February 20, 2013 at 10:20 am

    @nonstopmari  @DianeSeo I tried Firetruck at some Ward thing that was going on one night. They weren’t any faster. Not that it wasn’t good or that it was overly slow. Just not quick.
     
    FYI – There are tents up in front of some of the trucks now too. I hear more tents coming soon!

  20. Posted February 20, 2013 at 10:21 am

    @Melissa808  @nonstopmari  @DianeSeo I do color! Red in the char siu. Hahaha.

  21. scrivener
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Aw man.  I went Wednesday at about 1:30 and Thursday at 5:00 and the Firehouse truck was closed both times.  :(

  22. nonstopmari
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 10:28 am

    @scrivener sry to hear abt that, i’m trying to get there for firehouse’s kelaguen too. next time try the number posted on their facebook page to ck before u go: 489-5252

  23. Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:09 am

    @scrivener So far the only trucks I have seen consistently open is the Blue Teppanyaki truck, @whatchafillin, and of course Nakai Saimin. And even for Nakai if it is later in the afternoon/evening we call before going down.

  24. scrivener
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Third time was the charm; I went Sunday in the late morning and finally got the kelaguen at the Firehouse truck.  I was surprised that the cubes of grilled, marinated chicken were cold, but it wasn’t unpleasant.  I didn’t taste much coconut, which was a slight disappointment.  The truck guy actually told me when he handed me my plate that there wasn’t much coconut in that day’s offering.
     
    The flavor was citrusy and bright, the chicken topped with finely shredded cabbage (I think!) and some kind of Thousand-Island-type dressing.  The chili-shoyu sauce (I forget what it’s called), provided on the side in a small plastic cup, was like a mildly spicy ponzu and went great with main dish.  I was slightly concerned about the sauce compromising the integrity of the white corn tortillas the kelaguen was served atop, but didn’t have any problems.  There was enough to drizzle over the nicely sticky red rice, too.
     
    I’m definitely going back, if I can catch it when it’s open.  Nine bucks for the kelaguen (two tortillas’ worth), red rice, and Nalo greens with a shoyu-vinegary dressing.  Tiny bottle of water for another buck.

  25. nonstopmari
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 11:50 am

    @scrivener woohoo, glad u finally caught them! excellent report on the kelaguen, which i saw at friday’s eat the street but was too full to get. i’ll get back to the kapahulu lot soon.

  26. harrycovair
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Somehow “choke” and “food trucks” just doesn’t seem right to be mentioned together in the same paragraph @nonstopmari . LOL!
     
    Gee I wonder who visited Nakai 4 times in the first week. 5x last week. Somebody should “rat” him out.
     
    Crepes was closed on the two times I’ve gone there. @whatchafillin was out sick on Friday. I’ve have yet to try Firehouse.
     
    I think Guo has hit on a new concept. A permanent place for food trucks to “park” and sell their goodies.

  27. Posted February 26, 2013 at 9:55 am

    @harrycovair  @nonstopmari  BTW – the Nakai people told me last night that they are going to start selling yakitori sticks on Wednesday! Whoo hoo!

  28. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 11:15 am

    EO:  I know this location and am wondering what the restaurants in the immediate vicinity are saying about the competition.  The lot has been vacant for quite awhile since the Shell service station closed and got leveled.

  29. nonstopmari
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    @Annoddah_Dave good point, this is a restaurant-dense area. we’ll see…

  30. nonstopmari
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    @harrycovair i’ve been told by my pidgin editor that i misused ‘choke.’ oh wells. crepes plans a march 1 opening (READ, harry!)

  31. Posted February 26, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    @Annoddah_Dave I think the biggest advantage these guys have is right now is that there is plenty of free parking.

  32. harrycovair
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    @nonstopmari  I was too busy laughing at “choke” and “food truck” to read further.

  33. harrycovair
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    @nonstopmari  @Annoddah_Dave I don’t envision a big drop in revenue for the brick and mortar establishments. The food trucks just offer another choice of gastrointestinal fortitude. Besides the trucks are on a leased parking stall so one day they may have to move somewhere (but I hope not too soon).

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About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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