Hawaii's Food Truck Phenomenon

©istockphoto/jewhyte The Aloha state has long been associated with its ono grinds (translated: delicious food). One especially noteworthy niche that these gorgeous tropical Islands have adopted is an intense affinity for the freshest fare on wheels. You heard right. Almost everywhere you look, from the bustling streets of Waikiki, to the country roads of Oahu's fabled North Shore, vendors are literally wheeling out their wares...or in this case, fares -- and Hawaii's hungry are eating it up. So "roll" up your sleeves and get ready to dive into some good eats as we explore the food truck phenomenon driving Hawaii's gastronomy. Kau Kau Grill, one of the Island's well-known restaurants on wheels, is beloved for its melt in your mouth baby back ribs and generously portioned plate lunches. One of the owners, Miles Oyasato recalls that, “Opening a restaurant was always in the back of our minds. Then, a friend of ours purchased a delivery truck, we refurbished it and here we are.” Oyasato went on to explain that at Kau Kau Grill, “Everything here is cooked to order, but the service is quick (orders usually are ready between 5 and 10 minutes) and the quality is superb.” Such stellar service, efficiency and quality seems to be the recipe for success as the steady stream of customers lining up for Kau Kau and similar sellers speaks volumes -- attesting to the fact that delivering dishes on a cart versus a la carte just may be Hawaii's new wave to ride. Quite possibly the most famous of the food trucks are those schlepping shrimp. Found all over, yet particularly dotted along the East and North stretches of Oahu, seafood lovers, fresh from the sunlit surf and accompanied by hearty, well-earned appetites, flock to feast. With no shortage of varieties to choose from, on the go diners have their pick among a myriad of flavors. Poll any local and tourist alike, and unanimously, garlic shrimp is the preferred and most popular. The various trucks also offer spreads boasting secret and signature Island-inspired flavors like pineapple, western BBQ and even coconut. Ask around for suggested vendors—everyone has their personal favorites, regardless of which specific company receives your patronage. And don't forget to bring your wet naps, because things sure can get more than a little messy. While you're at it, bring a toothbrush, some Scope and if you have business to attend to later, perhaps some cologne or perfume. After standing in line and sampling these ono grinds, you'll likely leave smelling like food. Vegan or vegetarian? No matter. Leave it to Oahu to happily cater to the health-conscious crowd. From smoothies to meat-and-dairy-free burritos, these enlightened eateries offer hearty and ample options. Think of it as mobile manna from the heart-healthy heavens—and it tastes like that, too. The best part about this rockin’ and rollin’ lunch wagon revolution? It's relatively low cost for operations as compared to retail space meaning that these visionary vendors can keep their cuisine affordable for everyone. In fact, this woman is ready to hele on to her own ono grinds... by Andy Beth Miller

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