Sticky, sweet BBQ meats, dozens of unique entrees, and servings large enough to feed an entire family: a meal at WikiWiki Waikiki Hawaiian BBQ is about as close as you can get to an authentic Hawaiian luau feast this side of the Pacific.
The restaurant itself is unassuming at first glance. A small, one-room space with a handful of tables scattered about, diners order at a small counter that looks more like it should belong at a take-out only restaurant rather than a cozy sit-down spot.
What the restaurant lacks in aesthetic comfort it makes up for in hearty comfort food — albeit of an untraditional sort for mainlanders.
Tick-cut Spam on white rice wrapped in seaweed — a traditional Hawaiian snack called Musubi; a breakfast dish of white rice, a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy, known as Loco Moco: the Hawaiian food of WikiWiki Waikiki combines elements of traditional American cuisine with ingredients typically associated with Asian cuisine.
This combination of familiar and unusual items makes exploring WikiWiki Waikiki’s exotic menu surprisingly easy.
One of the most popular dishes, the Waikiki BBQ Mix, comes out as a heaping pile of BBQ chicken, teriyaki steak, and beef short ribs. This meal carries a perfect balance of the American and Asian elements that fuels Hawaiian cuisine. The sweet and tangy BBQ sauce on the chicken could be straight out of a Texas grill house, while the sesame seed-topped teriyaki steak has flavor notes from half a world away.
The side dishes at the Hawaiian restaurant are the key to whether a patron’s meal is more American or Asian in nature. Kimchee, french fries, poke, and macaroni salad are just some of the options available, and each are executed by the chefs at WikiWiki Waikiki with varying degrees of success. Their kimchee was perfectly tart and spicy with a diverse array of vegetables — a welcome treat for anyone looking to a more Asian-inspired meal. Their french fries, on the other hand, came out a little on the soggy side.
If a meal at WikiWiki Waikiki Hawaiian BBQ is a sort of make-your-own luau feast, the biggest downside is the lack of a charismatic host. The owners, at least during a recent lunch hour, were brusk and disinterested in talking with their patrons beyond the exchange of food for money.
Regardless of the lack of social finesse from the management, WikiWiki is worth the visit for their delicious BBQ alone. Next time you’re in the mood for something tropical, give it a try.
WikiWiki Waikiki Hawaiian BBQ
9935 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito
Monday - Saturday: 10:30 am to 9:30 pm
View their Yelp page here.
Photo: WhoIsShylo on tumblr