Kauai Family Restaurant serves the aloha spirit with every item on the menu.

by Jay Friedman

A knock on Georgetown, for some, is the noise from the nearby Boeing runways. But I have a hunch you’ll happily put up with it when you come to dine at Kauai Family Restaurant, a humble spot in a nondescript strip mall. The restaurant has been in Georgetown for 25 years, and it’s the place to find the feel of Hawaii without need to board a plane.

Go to KFR on a Saturday, as I did, and you’ll walk into a bustling dining room that might feature a live band performing. The diversity of diners reflects the diversity of global influences on local Hawaiian cuisine. The staff will tell you it’s home cooking—where home includes settlers from Spain and Portugal, as well as those from Asian countries such as Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines. The food is not so much bold as it is filling and comforting.

KFR serves big breakfasts all day, though the first item on the menu, the Blahla Special, is available only until noon. It comes with saimin (some call it the poor person’s Japanese ramen), two eggs, and two pieces each of Spam, Portuguese sausage, and Vienna sausage—along with rice. Don’t be surprised to see some eating it all with a scoop of KFR’s “famous” macaroni salad.

Loco moco, with a side of spam musubi. Photo by Jay Friedman.

I opted for a smaller breakfast: a four-ounce portion of loco moco. A favorite of Hawaiians, loco moco is a hamburger patty, smothered with brown gravy, atop rice and served with a fried egg. It’s simple yet satisfying. Along with this, I had to try some spam musubi. Think Japanese onigiri (rice ball) topped with Hawaii’s favorite canned meat, wrapped with a strip of seaweed.

There’s a larger portion of loco moco available, but I saved room to follow up with a pork cutlet plate from the lunch/dinner side of the menu. My mistake, perhaps, was getting this with the same brown gravy that comes with the loco moco; the other choice, fruit sauce and ketchup, seemed like it might be too sweet. This replica of Japanese-style tonkatsu comes with two scoops of steamed rice (fried rice is available for fifty cents more) and tossed salad or that famous macaroni salad for an even more filling experience.

Pork cutlet plate. Photo by Jay Friedman.

Also on the lunch/dinner side is the highest priced item at $16.95: a combo plate of lau lau (pork and fish cooked in a taro leaf wrap), slow-cooked kalua pig (salty, smoky, and succulent), and lomi salmon salad. (Yes, of course it comes with rice and more of that macaroni salad). Other favorites at KFR include poke, poi (paste made from taro root), and pipi kaula (dried beef).

Stuffed from my breakfast-through-dinner experience, I mellowed out on the music for a moment. I couldn’t leave, though, without taking advantage of KFR’s Saturday-only special: malasadas. Customers were buying these Portuguese-style doughnuts by the bagful at the counter. I wish they were served warm, but I still relished the chance to sample them while enjoying the warm feeling of aloha spirit here in Seattle.