Hello, I just have a really super, super story for you guys. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, you may have already got wind of it, but there’s a local boy and a five-star chef—they’ve teamed up and they’ve just opened a lunch wagon and it’s in the K-Mart parking lot in Kahului. And the food is, like, out of this world. It’s like no plate lunch anyone’s ever had. And people are, like, just raving about it. And it’s kind of an unusual team: there is a kid born and raised here and a guy that’s worked in the best of the best restaurants in the country. And they’re doing this cute, cute little wagon with just great, great food: shave ice, local plates. I just thought it would be a hot story for you guys. You should check it out—K-Mart parking lot, Kahului. Later.
-Recent anonymous voicemail message
We used to call them roach coaches. Big, usually white vans equipped with refrigerators and grills that roll up to construction sites and college campuses selling usually cheap and nearly always terrible hamburgers, ham & egg sandwiches and burritos. Such food wagons seem to epitomize the worst of all possible food choices.
“Come on honey, have a burrito,” Peg Bundy tells her sulking husband Al in one episode from the classic white trash sit-com
Married With Children
. “Aw, come on Al, it’s off a truck.”
So you can imagine my delight when I got the above voicemail message (which I later found out was from the owner’s wife, but no matter). For a food writer, the chance to write about a roach coach that might actually be good is too tempting a challenge to pass.
The first time I tried to find the lunch wagon in question—named Solid Kine Grindz, by the way—I was thwarted by a lousy fundraiser that temporarily booted the truck from K-Mart’s lot. But a few days later they were back, and I bravely walked up to the window.
Unlike the roach coaches of my youth, this wagon offered a slim menu: just three plate lunches—kalbi ribs, hamburger steak and barbecued chicken—shave ice and canned sodas. The lunches come in two sizes—regular for $7 and mini for $5.
I opted for the mini barbecued chicken, and received a tender, delectable, smoky, delicious breast of chicken, a healthy scoop of white rice and a scoop of really good mac salad that went pretty far beyond the usual bland mac salad you find in plate lunches sold in restaurants equipped with things like tables and walls.
“We try to change the menu every two days,” owner Mike Lofaro told me later. “That way we offer a variety and everything stays super fresh. We don’t spread ourselves thin doing 10 items.”
According to Lofaro, any given menu can include the chicken—“we keep getting people asking for that”—ribs and hamburger as well as teriyaki steak and even Hawaiian hot dogs with all the condiments.
A former East Coast chef, Lofaro and his partner Jeff Scida opened Solid Kine Grindz just a few weeks ago. They’re currently open five days a week in the K-Mart parking lot, but that might change soon.
“We’re trying to get to Kihei in the beginning of May,” said Lofaro. “That’s where we’re from. We know a lot more people there, and it’s close to a lot of construction sites. We know a lot of those guys.” MTW