Loco Moco: This Hawaiian
favorite is a heaping, tasty
mound made from seven types
of imported rice, covered with
a thick beef (or turkey) burger
paddy and sunny-side-up egg,
all topped with a rich brown
gravy and served with fries
and veggies on the side.
'Ono' flavors from all 50 states at Hawaii 51
By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Naomi Lai
51, WuChang St
Walk into Hawaii 51 on the fifth day of any month and you may have trouble finding a space among its 100 seats, overflowing with college kids enjoying a big juicy burger and soda for only NT$99. While this monthly special is exceptional, the big crowds are certainly not at this friendly eatery, jammed daily with Taiwanese and foreigners seeking what it offers--hearty, tasty American bistro-style food for about half the price of well-known chain restaurants.
Amiable owner/chef Renata Lin loves American-style food and not only spent years working at T.G.I. Friday's, Chili's, and Evergreen Laurel Hotel, but also lived in the U.S. for two years. This included a year in one of her favorite places, Hawaii, which visibly influences the restaurant's food and sunny-looking decor. In addition to little tips on Hawaiian lingo ("mahalo", "kau kau", etc.), the menu includes some true Hawaiian comfort food not found anywhere else in Taiwan--notably the "Loco Moco" (NT$180). Local Hawaiians testify to the authenticity of this filling entree, which is rapidly winning Taiwanese fans. Other items inspired by the Islands include the Pineapple Burger (NT$160), Oahu Salad with Crispy Chicken (NT$160), and homemade 'Honolulu' Molten Chocolate Cake, baked with the sauce inside and served with ice cream.
However, that's just the tip of the iceberg or, rather, volcano here. Most popular off the long menu are the burgers and ribs. Big juicy burgers (NT$140-190) all come with a handmade ground beef or turkey patty, including the BBQ Ranch Bacon Burger, Hot Chilli Bacon Burger, Philly Cheese Burger, and Cajun and Chipotle Burger. Then there's the Grilled Ribs with BBQ (or fruit) sauce (NT$250/half rack, NT$450/full), Grilled Short Ribs (NT$450), and USDA Choice Grilled Ribeye Steak (NT$590). You can lead into these entrees with a tasty starter like Hawaii's South & Hot Wings, or Deep-Fried Jalapenos with chips (NT$120).
There are also meat pies with mash and gravy (NT$180), pastas (NT$150-180) and Tex-Mex fare like various quesadillas (NT$160-190), fajitas (NT$200-300), chicken wraps, soups and salads (with six dressings). Finally, there are mouth-watering American desserts like the Country Apple Pie, or Mocha & Marshmallow Sundae. A long drink list features NT$100-120 beers, tropical-sounding cocktails, iced coffees and fruit teas.
Thanks to Renata and Hawaii 51, it is possible to enjoy some truly "ono" American "kau kau" for the right price anytime you feel like it.
(Editor's Note: In Hawaiian, "ono" is "delicious" and "kau kau" is "food".)