The spread

Newsflash: Rainbow Drive-in is open in Kalihi

Now there's gravy-laden mix plates and chili on School Street
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You know what's better than a mix plate with gravy all ova? Not having to drive across town to get it! 

Rainbow Drive-In Kalihi at 1339 N. School Street
The tarps came down and lines have been growing at the spot where Kamehameha Bakery fried up their famously purple poi malasadas. 

A Kapahulu stalwart and ode to how things in Hawaii used to be, Rainbow Drive-in opened up shop on the corner of School and Houghtailing streets on May 1 and crowds of plate lunch lovers have been growing ever since. 

Rainbow Drive-In lines
There are two lines, one for cash payments and the other for cards. Be sure to find the right queue before committing to the wait.

From private school students and faculty to National Guardsmen and aunties from the neighborhood, you'll see everyone lining up for their favorite Rainbows dishes. Mine? 

The Rainbow Royale ($4.45) is a double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion.
The Rainbow Royale ($4.45) is a double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion. Each bite tastes like a time warp. 

At Kapahulu, I normally go for a classic cheeseburger Royale (Rainbow's moniker for sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and onion) but since they offer it with a double patty as the Rainbow Royale, I had to upgrade. It's nothing spectacular, but the simplicity of the slightly charred burger with the crisp lettuce, juicy tomato and pungent raw onions takes me back to my dad's impromptu weekend backyard barbecues. Homemade burgers are the best kind of burgers, especially if someone else makes them for you. 

Boneless chicken cutlet
Boneless chicken cutlet with brown gravy ($8.75) is a mainstay.

The signature brown-on-brown plate in a cardboard box has to be the boneless chicken cutlet with brown gravy. For a moment while I was in line, they announced they were out of mac salad and I swear time stopped. By the time I put my order in, the truck from Kapahulu had come to deliver tubs of the stuff along with other products they needed for the lunch rush. 

If you don't know what to get, the mix plate ($9.95) is your best bet.

Besides the boneless chicken, for $1.20 more you can opt for the mix plate, which adds teri beef and the fried fish filet and for 60 cents more you can have your plate with gravy all ova. Reports say that it's pretty much the same as Kapahulu, but be prepared to wait. My table's order of two mix plates, two boneless chickens, a chili fries and Rainbow Royale took roughly 10 minutes. 

The chili fries ($4.75) are meaty but need cheese and onions to be where I want them.
The chili fries ($4.75) are meaty but need cheese and onions to be where I want them. 

As for general pricing, it looks to be the same as the Kapahulu location, but the menu is quite limited to the favorites. I didn't see tater tots or I would've grabbed them, nor did I see any daily specials. For now, this location is only serving breakfast and lunch, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 3 p.m. As the team works out early kinks, please be patient and sympathetic and go in knowing that they just opened two days ago. 

If you're looking for parking, the surrounding streets and the overflow parking lot with about 18 large spaces out back are your best bet. Since the dining room is small, most cars are in and out of there quickly. 

Overflow parking lot located on Houghtailing, behind the building.
Overflow parking lot located on Houghtailing, behind the building. 

 

Rainbow Drive-in Kalihi
1339 N. School Street
Kalihi
784-1163
Daily 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. (soft opening hours)