Plate-lunch kahuna L&L Hawaiian Barbecue has opened its first South Sound location: 32225 Pacific Highway South, Suite 105 Federal Way, 253-946-0788.
A Lakewood location is expected to open in a few months (somewhere in Town Center), joining locations in Renton and Lynwood.
A 30-year-old chain based in Honolulu, L&L opened on Pacific Highway (near 320th Street, in front of Trader Joe's) about six weeks ago.
L&L's 54-item menu features all the usual island suspects: Loco Moco, Spam musubi, kalua pork, lau lau, katsu, and, of course, plate lunches featuring heaping helpings of barbecued meat and fried fish, with scoops of rice and macaroni salad. Prices: $2.95 (burgers) $11.20 (low-carb plate: four barbecued meats with two eggs).
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Whether you're dining in or taking out, orders are served in foam to-go containers. That's handy because portions run large.
I checked out the barbecue mix plate ($7.95) for lunch today. Meat – thinly sliced beef, short ribs and chicken – was ample, slathered in thick, sweet teriyaki. Macaroni salad had so much mayonnaise it practically slid off my fork and down my gullet. I barely tasted anything but mayo.
(For my money, I'd visit Pac Island Grill. It's serves a lot of the same dishes, but it's more mom and pop than the uber-chainy L&L, although L&L earns points for having copies of the Honolulu Advertiser on hand.)
Another chain is about to enter Washington. California-based Carl's Jr. (or Hardee's for you East-Coasters) will open in Tacoma in September (5925 Sixth Ave.). Carl's Jr. said it plans to open about a dozen stores in the Tacoma-Seattle area over the next three years. Being from California, I grew up eating at Carl's Jr., but I stopped visiting Carl's when its burger outlets sprouted Green Burrito – a Mexican fast-food operation, not a super hero.
I haven't mentioned Panda Express until now, the Chinese fast-food operation moved into the South Sound last year. (They're located at 10417 Gravelly Lake Drive SW, Lakewood; 6101 6th Ave, Tacoma; 31827 Pacific Highway S, Federal Way).
I used to enjoy Panda Express for lunch when I worked near the mall in downtown San Francisco. I've eaten at a couple of Panda Express outlets in the past few months. Orange chicken just doesn't taste like it used to.