Spam me

Valencia Lee feeds Spam musubi to baby Lee Fuimaono at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

Valencia Lee feeds Spam musubi to baby Lee Fuimaono at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

Photo By David Robert

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

4991 S. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 677-8888

When I first saw L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, next to Border’s bookstore, I was skeptical. I thought to myself, “Somebody is trying to do Hawaiian food in Reno, this can’t be good.” I assumed it was another half-assed attempt to win Reno over with a restaurant gimmick—until I walked inside and realized that this is the real thing.

I’m not the ultimate authority on Hawaiian cuisine, but since I spent six months in Kailua-Kona, I was fortunate enough to experience some of the Hawaiian diners and local barbecues. The main staples I remember were sticky rice (short grain steamed rice), Spam, Kalua pork (the whole thing), ribs, Portuguese sausage, eggs and Musubi (Spam and sticky rice wrapped in nori seaweed). They’re all here at L&L. The only thing I noticed missing was the sweet chili glaze. In Hawaii, the restaurants have it on the table as a condiment the way we have ketchup on ours.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is as Hawaiian as it gets. It’s laidback, casual and very friendly. We walked in and ordered from the girl at the register. I could definitely feel the Aloha spirit here—which couldn’t hurt Reno. Since 1976, the Honolulu-based drive-in diner has been representing Hawaiian-style plate lunches and locals’ favorite breakfasts, like the loco moco: two fried eggs over a hamburger patty and steamed rice with brown gravy.

Before I stayed in Hawaii, I envisioned the food as being exotic, tropical gourmet masterpieces. Then, after watching the locals go crazy over canned Vienna sausages and Spam, my views changed. That’s just what they like to eat. I guess it has something to do with tropical storms and the shortage of fresh foods.

When I ate at L&L with my friend Monica, I ordered the mahi mahi plate lunch ($7.25), and Monica had the Hawaiian barbecue short ribs plate lunch ($6.95). Both of these lunches were the “regular” size and were served with two scoops of sticky rice and one scoop of macaroni salad. The mahi mahi was battered and fried, which I think is the best way to cook fish because it traps in all the flavor and moisture. Three large filets of mahi mahi came on the plate with tarter sauce. The fish tasted fresh, which, to me, makes the whole meal worthwhile.

Monica’s meal came with three big slices of beef short ribs. The ribs were marinated in the house barbecue sauce, which is similar to Kalbi, or Korean barbecue style, with a base of soy sauce and sugar. When the ribs are grilled over high heat, they become sweet and crispy from the caramelization of the soy and sugar. This preparation has always been one of my favorites. I think I could eat a hundred of them.

This is one of those places to go when you’re starving and want to eat for less than 10 bucks. You get a lot of good, inexpensive food here in a fast and friendly environment.