Lunch Wagons Chase Job Sites

It’s easy to figure out where to find business if you’re a lunch wagon owner. Among the obvious places like industrial areas (Campbell Industrial Park and Mapunapuna are “Lunch Wagon Heaven”), simply go where there’s a big construction project  under way. One of which now in its beginning phase is Lowe’s, who just started construction of their second store on Oahu in the Iwilei area, where they’ll be setting up shop next to, yup, you guessed it, Home Depot. Both of which will be/are also just a stone’s throw away from City Mill.

If not already, I suppose now we can officially call Iwilei “Big Box Alley”, as along with those three major retailers in this area of Honolulu, you’ll also find Costco, Best Buy, and coming soon, Party City, Ba-Le Bakery (a.k.a. Latour Bakehouse and Cafe) and a bunch of other smaller businesses that will share the former Wayerhaeuser building on the corner of Alakawa Street and Nimitz Highway.

So with all this construction now under way in Iwilei, of course there’s lots of hungry workers – mostly men with big appetites – who’ll be need to be fed. Where here we have this lunch wagon who recently set-up shop right in front of the Lowe’s Iwilei job site on Pacific Street…

Check out angle 2 and 3 of Sandy’s “Tsukenjo look-alike” Lunchwagon II at those links

Wait, wait, wait  a minute! That’s Tsukenjo’s! Tsukenjo’s Lunch Wagon! Tsukenjo’s is back! No, no, no, sorry to say, but the classic red (originally orange) Tsukenjo’s Lunch Wagon from Ward Avenue isn’t back.

This is actually another one of them “no name” lunch wagons, who I’m informally naming it “Sandy’s Lunch Wagon II” by the grace of the owner and operator, Milton Gainy, who told me his wife Sandy is the cook, and actually runs another lunch wagon at a different location under that name. He said they’ve been in business over 24 years running their lunchwagons, so I was certainly confident that the grub here would be good.

As for “chasing job sites”, Milton notes that before this chosen location, he was at the site of the Craigside retirement home complex, while past stints before that included the retirement home construction project near the grounds of St. Patrick’s School on the East side of Oahu.

Here’s their menu for the day…

Prices are right, that’s for sure. Most of the usual lunch wagon plate lunch suspects are there, while I might note, for you health-conscious folks (like me), this particular wagon doesn’t offer brown rice or tossed salad. Yet, willing to sacrifice and take in some empty calories of white rice and mac for a day, I went ahead and ordered a Meat Loaf and Roast Pork Mix Plate, cuz you know, gotta’ sample…

Sandy’s Lunch Wagon II – Roast Pork and Meat Loaf Mix Plate. $6.50

All that for just $6.50? I can feed myself TWICE with this! This will definitely be a “second-wind’er” for me to finish all of it.

Notice I’m a “pepper freak”, especially when an entree involves lots of gravy as it does here.

Here’s a closer, torn-apart view of the fork-tender, super-flavorful roasted pork and also the flavor-packed meat loaf…

The gravy itself, to be honest, tasted like store-bought just-add-water packaged Turkey Gravy, so that didn’t initially “wow” me. But once I took a bite of that roast pork and meat loaf I was like, “Yum!!!” Equally “yummers” was the Mac’ Sal’…

Super-duper simple, cool and creamy, with no odd tangy flavors. This tasted pretty much like our favorite Waianae Drive Inn Mac’ Salad.

Overall it was an “as good as mama’s home cookin’ can get”, really ono plate lunch that I easily give a solid 3 SPAM Musubi.

On another day in a spot just yards up the street in front of Lowe’s Iwilei construction site we found Food Trip Lunch Wagon…

Filipino food? Shoots, I’m so there! This lunch wagon (err, van) is one of three that are owned and operated by Alex Daquito, who we have here…

Alex says his other wagons operate in the downtown Honolulu area, with one by the post office. What’s nice about this particular wagon is the food is on display to the customers “Okazuya style”, so you can see what you’re choosing before committing to it…

Here’s Food Trip’s menu for the day…

The prices…

Alex was proud to point out that his ‘Food Trip’ Lunch Wagon was chosen as one of 12 “Best Lunch Wagons on Oahu” by the Honolulu Advertiser (RIP)…

Following are all the Filipino delicacies he had for sale on this particular day…

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Pinakbet

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Pork Apritada Stew (Mechado style)

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Pork Pepper Steak

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Chicken Papaya (Tinola)

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Chicken Adobo

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Pancit (Bihon)

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Rice

Sometimes I wish I could walk into my kitchen and find a spread like this magically awaiting me. That’d be s’weet!

Well, maybe not that, but as the next best thing, Alex was kind enough to make me a Filipino grindz “Mega-Mix”, putting a little of EVERYTHING on one plate! Check it out…

Food Trip – “Mega-Mix” Plate: (clockwise from top left) Pork Apritada Stew, Chicken Adobo, Pancit Bihon, Tinola (Chicken Papaya soup), Pork Pepper Steak, Rice and Pinakbet. $8

Yes, a little of everything you seen in the previous food service pan photos is stuffed onto the plate here. Nice!

My favorite of all was the fork-tender Pork Apritada, which definitely had a Mechado-like flavor profile…

I give that alone a solid 4 SPAM Musubi, borderline 5. My second favorite was the Pinakbet…

You could taste the bitterness from the bitter melon, yet it wasn’t overwhelming, but just enough to separate it from the other entrees where you know you’re eating Pinakbet, and not, say, Pork Guisantes.

The Tinola (Chicken Papaya) was excellent as well…

Both the chicken and green papaya was fork tender and saturated  well with the chicken broth flavor, with my only gripe being that it wasn’t served separately in a bowl with all that glorious broth. I’d just as well bring my own Tupperware bowl and tell Alex to fill it up with Tinola. I LOVE this soup!

The Chicken Adobo had just the right blend of of shoyu and vinegar, with probably my only gripe on that one being it was the dry type, not the “soupy” adobo. Like Dinuguan, I like my adobo “soupy”. I also would prefer pork adobo over chicken adobo, as it has much better flavor in my opinion. Still, this is good.

The Pork Pepper Steak was a winner, being super soft and tender (it’s tenderized Chinese style), while the Pancit Bihon, along with just about everything else won a thumbs-up of approval from our resident Filipino food expert and Manila native, Diner C.

Here we have a few more plates from Food Trip Lunch Wagon that other folks in our office ordered…

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Chicken Adobo, Pancit Bihon, Pork Pepper Steak and Pinakbet

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Chicken Adobo, Pancit Bihon, Pork Pepper Steak, Pinakbet, Pork Apritada and Rice

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Pancit Bihon

Food Trip Lunch Wagon – Pancit Bihon, Garlic Fried Chicken and Rice

To find out what the daily specials are and where the Food Trip Lunch Wagons is currently located, give Alex Daquito a call at (808) 341-8282.

It must have unofficially been “Filipino Food Day”, because ironically the same day we had all this for lunch, Diner C brought a bowl of her Dinengdeng to share with us…


Diner C’s Dinengdeng is a Filipino soup made with Ocra, Alukon, Kalamungay, Cherry Tomatoes and Chicken Stock. It has an interesting and unusual, subtly “green” and “earthy” flavor, along with a gelatinous texture to the broth. All I can say other than that is it’s really delicious! Masarap-sarap! You gotta’ try it.

Last but DEFINITELY not least, while some lunch wagons may chase construction sites, it’s the other way around here, where men from construction sites end up chasing this, ehem, “lunch wagon” parked in front of Puuhale Market on the corner of Puuhale Road and Dillingham Boulevard…

Yes, you read right, this zebra-striped truck is named ‘Wild Bean Espresso‘. Where, no, you’re not going to find the likes of teriyaki beef, rice and mac’ salad plate lunches or garlic buttered shrimp. And no, the people that work in it aren’t the usual “mom ‘n pop” type of folks.

As the name implies (cough-cough, chuckle-chuckle), the gist of Wild Bean Espresso is fresh-made coffee lattes, mochas and smoothies served up by a crew of lingerie-clad Barista beauties. Once again, coffee lattes, mochas and smoothies served up by a crew of lingerie-clad Barista beauties. Got that? Well, apparently the rest of town has, as not surprisingly, a business like this is going to stir curiosity as well as controversy, as they’ve already made the local TV newstwice!

Part of the controversy, or should I say oddity of it, is that first of all it’s located right across the street from the Oahu Correctional Community Center prison…

Secondly, about a block up the street on Puuhale Road sits a church, while also nearby are a few schools.

Well, since I was in the area the other week running errands, upon a quick phone call of approval from my girlfriend, I decided to stop by and see for myself what all the fuss is about.

Sure enough, adorned in a pink and black two-piece g-string teddy, I was greeted by Roxy, a very friendly gal who was the only one working at the time of my visit….

Wild Bean Espresso Barista, Roxy

I can’t remember the last time I felt like I was blushing, but I definitely felt that way when I first walked up to the window here. It was just kinda’ like one of those, “Is that really what I’m looking at?” surreal kind of moments. Especially considering the aforementioned surrounding area.

Well it’s real alright, including the made-to-order lattes, mochas and smoothies they have to offer…

I should have asked what “Yummy Hot Links” are. Breakfast sausages perhaps? The only solid food items I noticed available for sale were fresh bananas.

I asked Roxy what the most popular drink was, which she quickly pointed me to the White Chocolate Mocha, so that’s what I got…

Wild Bean Espresso – White Chocolate Mocha. $4 (plus $1 tip)

I’m not a Starbucks regular (in fact, I hardly drink coffee anymore), so I can’t compare it with them, but for what it’s worth, this White Chocolate Mocha was great. It had good body and a robust-meets-creamy-sweet flavor (no pun intended). And since it’s been a while since I had a cup of coffee,  the caffeine really wound me up. Stress, the caffeine really wound me up. Ha ha!

Needless to say, there was a tip jar on the counter which was full of, you guessed it, dollar bills. lol

Apparently the “sex sells, and so does coffee too” business model is working for this operation, as Wild Bean Espresso will soon be expanding to a second location on Keawe Street in the Kaka’ako area.

What do you think of this business concept? Cast your vote!


25 thoughts on “Lunch Wagons Chase Job Sites

  1. I loved that you called your girlfriend first! “Bikini baristas” espresso stands were popular in Seattle and its surrounding areas for a while but the attention seems to have died down a little. Some folded after several communities starting requiring the owners to obtain strip club licenses. There were quite a few prostitution busts as well. Our whole family (kids included) had a good laugh while driving by one when the barista was clad in only pasties and was sticking her top half out the window to attract customers.

    Personally I thought they were pretty amusing and I don’t mind it at all. However, I would never want a drink served to me by a scantily clad (or non-clad) server, either a hot male or hot female. Clothing not only protects them from burns or cuts to their bodies, but it also protects me from any sweat that might be rolling off their chests into my drinks. So for me, it’s all about the hygiene. 🙂

    Back to the food: Looks ono! Love pancit.

  2. Dinengdeng is my ULTIMATE favorite motherland dish. I can do without the Alukon though and my mom knows that. I like mine super slimy so she uses saluyot leaves and okra for me and doesn’t use the tomatoes b/c it cuts the sliminess away. So weird. And I’m not used to chicken broth used in it but instead, bagoong (the brown kine not the pink kine) or patis. And then another bonus when my mom makes it, she puts supah sweet Kahuku shrimp in it. OH! BROKE! DA! MOUT! She tries to make it here on the mainland but it just doesn’t taste the same. So when we’re on our summer “hiatus” on Oahu, we hit up the Open Market in Ewa or the Festival Market in Waipahu for the freshest ingredients. I think while we were there this summer I had it 2x a week. YUM!

    And here’s a little funny that my dad would always point out: “A Marunggay tree/ plant is the Pilipino flag out in Hawai’i” So now everytime I’m driving out there and notice one, “Oh Pilipino house :)!”

  3. Dina, I think that slimy texture of the Dinengdeng is what makes it! So good. But wow, now you’re talking about adding Kahuku Shrimp to it? Get out of town! Sounds so awesome!

    Loubert, definitely a valid concern.

    Jenny, approval was a must! lol Sounds like the “Bikini Baristas” scene in Seattle went on the wayward side. Yikes. Great story. Mahalo for sharing!


  4. wow….hot ladies + coffee…..YES!!! 🙂 in the vietnamese communities….there are lots of such cafe’s…where yes….scantilly clad ladies…serve u coffee….they expect a large tip…i’m too cheap to do that myself (and besides i pull damn good espresso at work myself, thank you very much)

    hahaha 🙂 enjoy browsing the pics pomai! 🙂

    oh and roxy is super cute 😀

  5. Pomai, I something like that in LA at one time. Guys line up for not food but for cheap look at chicks. They do sell sandwiches and drinks, In Taipei they have drive inn typed operation offering other things for extras.

  6. Amy, “cheap look at chicks” is certainly one way to put it. Thankfully the menu is reasonably-priced, which I assume in turn, their unsaid policy is to tip big.

    Raph’, mahalos for the link. “Well qualified for the job” (see Roxy) is certainly key to making this concept work. It’d be a train wreck otherwise!

    Google “Lingerie Baristas”, and a bunch of news articles pop-up from around Washington state and Michigan. This is obviously nothing new, yet for Hawaii (Oahu) it is.

  7. Wonder how many handsome Island guys out there would like to a business like that lunch wagon? The women would finally get the same things as guys out there too.

  8. Pomai, what really needed now is a lunch wagon for women to enjoyed also. Guys got cheap looks at chicks so women get HOT LOOKS at GUYS.

  9. Pomai, my sisters pushing and also kidding me of having a Handsome Island Guy Lunch Wagon now. They saw the blog. and see me as the guy for job or business for it. Well I was voted Handsome Island Guy in high school some time ago.

  10. Pomai, well I could sing by One Republic STOP AND STARE for customers. My woman do not want other women looking at me. One and only for her.

  11. Midge, one particular kiosk name in P.I. comes to mind: BURGER MACHINE!

    Richard, what’s a good one? lol

    Aaron, I’m not familiar with that song. Perhaps the song “Apologize” by One Republic might be applicable AFTER you’re caught buying coffee at that wagon. lol

  12. So far as of this writing there’s 196 votes (wow!), where I’m surprised how many of you are highly favorable of that Lingerie Baristsa Coffee Truck business concept, with 33% (66 votes) saying it’s “Genius!”.

    Fair is fair, and being lots of women read this site (which made me apprehensive to even mention that wagon), where not surprisingly 26 of you (13%) thought a male version of this wagon would be great.

    While only 10 of you (5%) were on the other side of the field shouting foul and that this is “unsafe, immoral and/or should be illegal”, 32 of you (16%) didn’t go as far as that, but enough to demand that they “put more damned clothes on before serving me!”.

    34 of you (17%) said it didn’t matter how staff are dressed, as long as the product delivered is satisfactory.

    Well opinions aside, demand is apparently there, as upon checking WBE’s Facebook page, it looks like their second location at Ward Avenue and Halekauwila Street is up and running.

  13. Pomai, Stop and Stare can be heard on Youtube. And I will super kick him again if he does that! I got my best platform shoes waiting.

  14. enough about the woman! we got more important things to talk about like food! haha!
    speaking of which, has anybody been watching on the food network that lunchwagon race thing? i think a bahnmi type lunchwagon would do wonders! or has bale already set one up? If not, I get commision Bale for thinking up the idea!

  15. hiyn_boy, I agree, that went off on a tangent. As for the Banh Mi idea, I really think the Subway should jump in on it!

    Aaron, I feel your pain. Ouch! lol

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