Aloha, all!

I have a con­fes­sion to make: I have been out of town for the past week-and-a-half, which is why I didn’t blog last week and why I’ve been a little spotty about reply­ing to com­ments. Specif­i­cally, I have been in Hawai’i, for the offi­cial pur­pose of vis­it­ing my brother and his fiancée (who have taken up res­i­dence in Hon­olulu for the time being) but also the poorly-​veiled ulte­rior pur­pose of avoid­ing the god-​forsaken icebox that is the North­east. As far as I under­stand it, an ice demon has pieced Boston with its rimy claw, form­ing a howl­ing fis­sure from which issues forth a bone-​chilling wind that no mortal crea­ture can escape. I am not eager to return.

Before I move on, please allow me to drive this point firmly into the ground, via the magic of num­bers. The lowest recorded tem­per­a­ture in Hon­olulu ever—ever—was 53 degrees Fahren­heit. That’s 11.6 Cel­sius for the more sensibly-​minded in the crowd. That is not very cold. (The hottest recorded tem­per­a­ture, by the way, is 95 F / 35 C.)

A final exam­ple, this time anec­do­tal: During one meal we started chat­ting with our waiter. He men­tioned plans to move to L.A. How­ever, he was con­cerned that the weather there might get uncom­fort­ably cold.

Point is, it’s pretty nice in Hawai’i. I sus­pect this tidbit may not be news to you. In fact, I sus­pect I’m coming off as kind of a dick, the way I’m bela­bor­ing this point. So let’s talk about some­thing more or less entirely unre­lated to gor­geous weather and scenic hikes and pic­turesque vistas and the like. Let’s talk about fast food.

Every city and region of the US has its own fast food ecosys­tem, each dis­tinc­tive in its own excit­ing way. I love having the chance to observe and sample these local fast food scenes. I sup­pose it’s my juve­nile fas­ci­na­tion with the idea that some­thing incred­i­bly mun­dane to one person can be thrilling and new to some­one else. It may ulti­mately boil down to the fact that I am easily amused.

For exam­ple, Chicagoland1 seems to enjoy (?) a pretty high con­cen­tra­tion of McDonald’ses (prob­a­bly due to its being the birth­place of the fran­chise). I would argue that this has stunted burger chain diver­sity in the area, as things don’t get much more exotic than the occa­sional Burger King or Wendy’s. How­ever, you’ve got a ton of inde­pen­dent hot dog joints, and deep dish pizza is also a Pretty Big Deal (although I guess it’s not tech­ni­cally “fast food”).

Turn­ing our fast food gog­gles else­where, I hear that the fried chicken joints in the south (such as Chick-Fil-A) are incred­i­ble. Or what about Cal­i­for­nia, famous as the birth­place of modern fast food? In-N-Out’s rep­u­ta­tion for deli­cious­ness is non­pareil. And my expe­ri­ences in Boston have taught me that, while folks here cer­tainly like their chow­der, they really really like their Dunkin’ Donuts.

So what about Hon­olulu? Unsur­pris­ingly, the city is home to a number of fast food chains for­merly unfa­mil­iar to me. During my visit, I’ve gath­ered that the most per­va­sive “local” fast food chains are: Zippy’s, L&L, and Golden Coin2.

Upon fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever, it looks like Golden Coin has only three loca­tions, call­ing its status as a Chain Of Sig­nif­i­cance into sus­pi­cion. And upon fur­ther fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion, it looks like L&L has made its way to the main­land. (It even has a loca­tion in New York!) But L&L def­i­nitely makes itself out as a dis­tinc­tively Hawai’ian chain: not only is the restaurant’s full name “L&L Hawai’ian Bar­be­cue”, but look at the video on their web­site. See? HAWAI’IAN.

Oh! There’s also Blazin Steaks. I like Blazin Steaks a lot, because: (1) their steaks are blazin’; (2) you can get a fairly hefty steak lunch for only $6, which is pretty dang cheap for the islands; (3) their super-​sized steak meal is “too big to close!”; and (4), did I men­tion the extent to which their steaks blaze? It is sig­nif­i­cant.

It may be worth men­tion­ing that at Ala Moana Center I expe­ri­enced what is pos­si­bly the largest food court I have ever encoun­tered. Even so, this depot-​sized food court could scarcely hold all the dining oppor­tu­ni­ties in the mall. A ver­i­ta­ble pan­theon to fast food! I was trans­fixed at the altar of deli­cious­ness. It took me 15 min­utes to decide where to eat.

Wrap­ping up, I’d like to con­clude with a fac­toid I learned from my brother. Accord­ing to him, there is some­thing of an affin­ity between Hawai’i and Alaska. I imag­ine that if all the states were anthro­po­mor­phized and schmooz­ing at a party, these two would both be hang­ing out in a corner, dis­cussing how cramped map insets can be and how nice it was to get a little of the lime­light during the elec­tion. Per­haps Guam is also with them (pro­vided it was invited to the party at all). Else­where, New Jersey has gotten itself absolutely trashed and New York looks on dis­dain­fully. Wyoming has wan­dered to the coast look­ing for more of those deli­cious little weenie plat­ters, but finds itself making awk­ward chit-​chat with Oregon after Idaho has left to go to the bath­room. And every­one cannot help but cringe slightly at the ter­ri­ble faux pas of invit­ing both Vir­ginia and West Vir­ginia, who have been metic­u­lously avoid­ing one another since the bitter divorce.

Well, you get the idea.

But in addi­tion to the Alaska-Hawai’i con­nec­tion, did you know that Las Vegas is col­lo­qui­ally con­sid­ered the “ninth island” of Hawai’i? I read it on a t-shirt in the local Wal-​Mart; there­fore it must be true.

1 I’ve been told that this term sounds ridicu­lous to anyone who has never lived in Chicagoland. Rest assured, this term is in no way ridicu­lous.
2 I’ve also seen lots of Jack in the Box here—unusual for the parts of the coun­try where I’ve lived, but my under­stand­ing is that they’re pretty common most every­where else.

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Discussion (6) ¬

  1. Nick says:

    Huh, non­pareil is a word out­side of the candy. I would not have known.

  2. nsub1 says:

    Plus, the tem­per­a­tures quoted are for HNL, in case anyone was won­der­ing.

  3. Sara Bee says:

    Hey, Boston wasn’t that bad this week­end, except for Sat­ur­day maybe.

  4. Drealien says:

    So, where does Ari­zona fit in that snazzy little state party you’ve got going there?

  5. Greg says:

    @ Sara: Per­haps. You catch my drift, though.

    @ Drealien: I was dis­cussing this yes­ter­day, and it was sug­gested that some­one under­stocked the bar serv­ing the south­west states. Ari­zona, Nevada, and the rest are all argu­ing over who gets the last few drinks.

  6. Pops says:

    One thing about Oahu restau­rants ….
    If Obama actu­ally fre­quented all of the restau­rants that claim he did, he’d weigh well over 300 lbs.