Maybe it was the swagger in the step of an old Japanese Grandma as she walked away from a line of people, holding a tray of treasures. Or the gummy grin she wore that led me to believe these die-hards had been waiting for their chance to retrieve a pot of gold. But at the end of this rainbow, more specifically the historic Rainbow Drive-In, the pot of gold came in the form of a steamy cup of saimin.

The hungry patrons stood along Kapahulu Avenue, under the late afternoon sun, looking forward to a meal that was both delicious and cheap. In celebration of their 50th anniversary, the drive-in went back to its original menu for the day and sold saimin for 25 cents.

Rainbow Drive-In serves as a pit-stop for locals and visitors, most of whom just spent the day in Waikiki, and need refueling. A plate of shoyu chicken and a cheeseburger is sure to get one going…to sleep/siesta time/kanak attack. Wash it down with a slush float – one scoop vanilla ice cream, please! – and you’ll feel like you just went back to the 60’s. The cook wearing a uniform of a white paper apron and hat really does add to the experience.

From its huge sign, complete with a rainbow, of course, to the faded exterior painted in the same theme, Rainbow Drive-In humbly welcomes all regulars and first-timers. To get here from Waikiki, drive on Kalakaua Avenue toward Diamond Head and turn left on to Kapahulu Avenue. Continue for a couple blocks, and the drive-in will be at your right. The parking lot is small, but with so many people coming and going, finding parking is never a problem.

Food Network’s “Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives” featured this iconic eatery, as well as several magazines. The story behind Rainbow Drive-In’s origin began with a risk one young couple took. Seiju and Ayako Ifuku simply wanted to sell on-the-go food that tastes good. From the 50-cent chili and rice plates to the 14-cent french fries, the menu appealed to most everyone’s tastebuds and budgets. Even today, the prices are pretty cheap and the food is true to the authentic Hawaiian plate lunch style.

Be sure to stop by Rainbow Drive-In on your next Hawaii Vacation. Next month’s pot of gold will be $1 chili plates on October 16, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

*grindz means food in Hawaii


  1. Me too! The plate lunches at Rainbow Drive-In are amazing and prices are good!  Wish I could've gotten the quarter saimin! 🙂

  2. So nice to see family-run businesses still doing well in Hawaii. I guess there will always be a place in our bellies and hearts for good, home-cooked style meals!

  3. When i first moved here I ate at Rainbow Drive In everyday ! Saved me lots of money and got me familiar with da local grinz !

  4. And the prices are still super cheap. It just goes to show how loyal their customers are…there's no need for inflation here! (Maybe in your gut though! Haha!)

  5. I used to go to their drive-inn which was located at the corner of Kalakaua & Ala Moana Blvd. in Waikiki in the 50’s. I think it was called Kalakaua Drive-Inn. They also had car hops to service you. I am still a die hard customer.

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