Mark’s Place has been on our dining bucket list for a long, long time. Located in an industrial area just south of Lihue (and not all that easy to find), Mark’s is THE place to go on Kaua’i for authentic and delicious Hawaiian plate lunches. The owner of Mark’s Place is Mark Oyama, a local gourmet chef who owns and operates Contemporary Flavors Catering, specializing in Pacific Rim and cross-current Asian cuisine.
Plate lunch is a uniquely Hawaiian creation, an off-shoot of Japanese bentos. Rather than bringing a sandwich to work, plantation workers from Japan, China, Korea, Portugal and the Philippines brought rice and other leftovers to work each day. Their different foods eventually jumped cultures and were shared and eaten by others. Macaroni salad was the bridge that went with almost everything.
A plate lunch traditionally consists of a protein, one or two scoops of rice, salad, and sometimes fried noodles. Proteins include favorites like chicken or pork katsu (fried chicken or pork cutlet breaded in panko), teriyaki beef or chicken (‘teri beef’), Hawaiian favorites kalua pig or laulau (butterfish and chicken or pork steamed in ti leaves) or hamburger steak with gravy. There’ll always be a scoop of macaroni salad, but sometimes plate lunches also have green salad, kimchi or pickled cucumbers.
Lunches at Mark’s place start at $10.50, but they are HUGE, way more than enough for one meal. Brett and I shared a combination (‘mixed plate’) teri beef and chicken katsu lunch (granted, I only ate the teriyaki beef) and there was plenty for both of us plus lunch for Brett the next day. WenYu’s Korean chicken lunch gave her big meals for two days.
Each lunch at Mark’s is cooked to order – there is nothing sitting out under a heat lamp. You might have to wait a bit, but your meal will be hot and fresh. If you’re planning to eat there versus taking your lunch to go, picnic tables with umbrellas are set up outside.
Fresh pastries are also available for sale at Mark’s place (Mark’s wife is a pastry chef), and every day Mark also prepares two ‘upscale’ daily specials. The day we visited a grilled salmon plate was one of the offerings on the specials’ menu. It sounded fabulous, but we were there for the plate lunches!
Mark’s Place is located at 1610 Haleukana Street, in Puhi, 808-245-2522. Mark’s is open most days from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., but can close for catering events, so it’s best to check ahead and make sure they’re open.