University Ave. Eats: Spot's Inn

This past Wednesday Diner A, E and yours truly decided to sample da’ grinds from Spot’s Inn’ new location at Puck’s Alley on University avenue.

As in three months new, after being on hiatus since August 2008 when owners John and Seiko closed their former location on Dillingham boulevard near HCC where they’ve previously been for over 13 years. That place is now home to the Vietnamese-meets-local plate lunch joint called Mix Plate Cafe, a slightly reinvented version of the place that took over Spot’s Inn to begin with named Pho Dillingham Grill.

Without further ado, let’s check out Spot’s Inn’ new Puck’s Alley-on-University avenue digs out, starting from the front and working our way in and around, ehem, “Da’ Spot”…

“Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”…

Spot’s Inn is named after owner Seiko’s Dalmation named “Spot”…

The menu…

Spot’s Inn’ weekly specials for the month of April 2010…

Spot’s Inn’ catering menu…

Breakfast on Saturdays…

Spot’s Inn’ daily specials for the day of Wednesday, April 28, 2010…

Along with their cooked-to-order menu items are prepared Japanese favorites ready for takeout, such as Inari (cone) sushi …

Spot’s Inn – Cone Sushi. $1.75

Maki Sushi…

Spot’s Inn – Futomaki. $1.75


Spot’s Inn – Omusubi. $1.25 each

Spam Musubi (yay!)…

Spot’s Inn – Spam Musubi. $1.25 each

Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin)…

Spot’s Inn – Kabocha. $3.50


Spot’s Inn – Nishime. $3.25

Kimpira Gobo…

Spot’s Inn – Kimpira Gobo. $3.50

Everything sounds and looks good, except I was hoping there’d be more seafood selections on the menu, if not the daily specials. Looks like my only choices today are going to be either the deep-fried Mahi or the Crab & Bacon on Grilled Bread Sandwich. So I chose the latter…

Spot’s Inn – Crab & Bacon on Grilled Bread Sandwich with Fries. $8.25

The menu says the sandwiches come with either macaroni or toss salad, but apparently they’ve added fries as an option, which came with it by default. Cool with that.

Diner E chose his usual “gauge plate”, the one, the only, Hamburger Steak; this time “lightening up” with the mini version…

Spot’s Inn – Hamburger Steak with Sauteed Onions and Brown Gravy. $4.75 (mini plate)

All entrees except Spaghetti include toss or mac’ salad…

Spot’s Inn – Macaroni Salad

Diner A decided to try the Spot’s Inn Bento…

Spot’s Inn Bento – Teri Hamburger Steak, Chicken Katsu, Mahi, Spam, Takuwon & Rice. $8.25

I couldn’t resist the Nishime and Kabocha, so I picked up one each of those two for dinner later…

Kabocha. $3.50

Nishime. $3.25

So how is it? Let’s start with Diner E’s mini Hamburger Steak plate…

He said the house-made patty was pretty good, being moist inside with the desirable “old school style” bread filler that he prefers his hamburger steak to have. While of course those seared grill marks added plenty of flavor to the hamburger patty party.

As for the gravy, it had too much cornstarch thickener, giving it an undesirable gelatinous consistency, lacking that silkiness of a properly-thickened flour-based gravy. Flavorwise, it lacked depth and “beefyness”, which you can already tell by the color. It wasn’t a bad gravy, but just not as great as the greats.

He thought the Mac’ Salad was rather plain like just straight-up mayo’, and lacking that “cool and creamy” note we look for. Seiko-san, hint: add “sukoshi” milk.

Summing it up, Diner E gives Spot’s Inn Hamburger Steak 2 SPAM Musubi.

Now let’s see what Diner A thinks of the Spot’s Inn Bento…

Like the Hamburger Steak plate, looks like them Food Rules got left in the car out in the parking lot with this one. Oh, OK, one piece of Takuwon (how they spell it), so we’ll count that as a “veggie” I guess. But Diner A didn’t even eat that and gave it to me! lol Shoots, you know me and Tsukemono are best friends.

The only thing I got to sample from his plate was the Chicken Katsu, and I must say, if there’s one thing I’d definitely order when returning here is their Chicken Katsu. It’s excellent!…

Notice how moist and tender the chicken is, while the panko crust is deep-fried to “GBD” (golden-brown-delicious) perfection. It tastes like they marinade the chicken in something. Perhaps a light teriyaki or maybe mirin and/or sake. Not sure, but it definitely isn’t just plain chicken. Best of all, they serve with authentic Japanese style Tonkatsu sauce! Hooooooraaaaay! Finally someone’s on the same page I’m on when it comes to good Katsu. All that’s missing is the bed of cabbage underneath it.

Speaking of bed of cabbage, being Seiko-san is from Japan, I’m surprised she doesn’t put Furikake on this bento. Really surprised. It really could use it if you ask me.

But yeah, definitely consider the Chicken Katsu if you hit Spot’s. This alone is a winner. And make sure to ask for extra ‘Katsu sauce, because the teeny-weeny container they provided with this bento was barely enough for the three pieces on this plate.

He also enjoyed the panko-crusted deep-fried Mahi…

Moist, flakey and reasonably flavored, even if it had been from frozen. This came with the usual deep-fried fish accompanyment, tartar sauce.

He also gave a thumbs-up to the grilled Teriyaki burger patty, noting the nicely-thickened glazed flavor it provided, and of course the added punch from the cross-hatch seared grill markings. Gotta’ love that. While it was cooked to a perfect medium doneness and not dried out.

The regular SPAM was a bit salty for him, as he’s used to the lower Sodium Lite SPAM he uses at home, but never-the-less a welcome addition to this “meatfest” of a plate.

Summing it up, Diner A gives the Spot’s Inn Bento a very solid 3 SPAM Musubi.

Now let’s check out my Crab & Bacon on Grilled Bread Sandwich…

Let’s have a peek under the hood…

A bit skimpy there on the bacon. The menu says they use “real crab”, but I dunno’, this looks like the imitation stuff to me…

To describe the taste, this reminds of Subway’s Seafood and Crab Sub. When it said “Real Crab”, I was expecting the crab part to have a complex, more gourmet flare to it, but this turns out being your ordinary seafood “salad” mixture of mayonnaise, celery and crab; which I suppose in this case is a combination of both real and imitation  crab.

The smokey porkyness of the bacon helped a bit, I’ll give it that. While the lettuce and tomato are always welcome guests in my “house of bread”. Speaking of which, the nicely toasted and buttery Japanese style white bread alone elevated this sandwich from being just 1 SPAM Musubi to 2. The fries were pretty good actually for store-bought frozen stuff, which I don’t have a problem with. Nice and crispy outside, perfectly salted and steamy tender inside.

Later that evening I had the Kabocha and Nishime for dinner, and I must say, they both were excellent. The Kabocha were simmered in a mildly sweet dashi-like broth and were cooked perfectly al dente, while the skin retained some “bite” to it. The Nishime had all the right stuff in it, including my favorite, Konnyaku, Hasu and Daikon. While everything was deeply permeated with the flavor from the savory, and again slightly sweet Nishime broth. I give those both a solid 4 SPAM Musubi.

On a return visit, I’d probably order the Chicken Katsu mini plate, along with a side of either the Kabocha or Nishime. Those are all winners at Spot’s Inn.

Spot’s Inn
1035 University Avenue #104
Honolulu, Hawaii  96826

Tel. (808) 941-4554

Business hours:
Monday: Friday 10:30am to 8pm
Saturday: 8am to 8pm
Sunday: Closed

Spot’s Inn menu PDF download (2 pages; current as of 4/10)

The Tasty Island rating:

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it.


9 thoughts on “University Ave. Eats: Spot's Inn

  1. My girlfriend and I have been to Spot’s Inn several times since I live behind Puck’s Alley. We like the spaghetti plate and the butter mochi. I also believe their mac salad could stand a lot of improvement.

  2. Those tomato slices really looked… vine ripened… Would like to try a teri hamburger/mochiko chicken mix (how come mochiko chicken on the catering menu but not the regular) but I see the “NO Substitutions Please!” prominently on the menu. BTW Metromix had your fave laulau only #4 rated…

  3. Ryan, I read that Metromix “Laulau Shootout”. My coworker was very upset Helena’s didn’t even “qualify”! And Highway Inn at #4? The nerve! lol
    Marvo, since you live right there, I’m expecting more Japanese product reviews from Nijiya Market!

  4. I’ve been to Spot’s many times when it was in Kalihi, since my tattoo artist was right in the same square. Everytime I went to get inked I absolutely HAD to have their mahi with caper sauce. It’s an absolute winner. I was so sad to hear of them closing down, but am now ecstatic they are back! Gonna head down there ASAP!

  5. Poor excuse for the “Crab & Bacon on Grilled Bread Sandwich”. Looks so manini and junk! And cost $7.75? Auwe! Understand the 2 spam musubi rating.

  6. Nate, that sandwich certainly needs work on. I’d recommend they make it a crab patty instead of a spread. I really think the Japanese foods are Spot’s Inn’s strength. They should focus on that more. Their Nishime was awesome!
    Marvo, thanks for the tip on the Japanese market Kit Kats. I heard about those! Some radical flavors!
    Calvin, I don’t what it is, but something about buying Spaghetti from a plate lunch joint (such as Zippy’s) seems just wrong to me. Kinda’ like ordering a burger at a sushi joint. Seems out of place if you know what I mean.
    geishagirl, the mahimahi with caper sauce must be one of their specials, as that wasn’t on the menu on my visit. The deep fried mahi comes with tartar sauce.

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