Ambitious Hawaiian ‘plate lunch’ restaurant opens ghost kitchen in Garland

Hawaiian Bros Island Grill, an Oregon-born restaurant company, just opened a new location in Garland. The founders and brothers Cameron and Tyler McNie own and operate nine different locations all across the Midwest.

They were first introduced to Hawaiian food when their family bought a Hawaiian restaurant in Oregon in 2003. After working at the restaurant for over a decade, the duo decided to start their own concept in the Midwest and they opened their first location in Belton, Mo., in 2018.

“We didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know if we were going to see 20 customers or if we were going to see 500 customers,” Cameron says. “The first day we opened we saw more customers than we could’ve possibly imagined. I think we served around 600-700 plates that first day.”

The brothers said there was more of a presence of Hawaiian-style food back in Oregon. So, when they decided to open a restaurant in completely new territory, they weren’t sure that their new customer base would be as receptive.

“Belton, Missouri, is kind of a small, rural town in the Midwest,” Tyler said. “And bringing a Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant there, we had responses from people thinking we were crazy opening it out there.”

Cameron says Hawaiian Bros is a unique option.

“We serve a specific niche of Hawaiian food in the plate lunch,” he says. “Poke places are really popular and there is a lot of competition among those. But while that’s definitely another niche of Hawaiian food, it’s significantly different from what we’re doing.”

A standard Hawaiian plate lunch consists of a portion of white rice, macaroni salad, and an entrée/protein. Hawaiian Bros works within this framework, offering different variations of entrées and proteins, from teriyaki chicken (Huli Huli Chicken) to pulled pork (Luau Pig).

The restaurant’s dessert, Dole Whip, is one of its most popular items on the menu.

“People think of Dole Whip and think of Disneyland or Disney World,” Cameron says. “But we’re also selling it and it seems to be a perfect top-off dessert to our plates.”

With a strong set of menu offerings, Hawaiian Bros have successfully opened nine locations in Kansas City, Chicago, Austin, and now Garland. Five of these are brick and mortar restaurants in the Kansas City metroplex, and the Garland location is one of the other four ghost kitchens, which is delivery and takeout only.

The idea of a ghost kitchen appealed to the McNie brothers because of the low cost of entry and lower level of commitment compared to a dine-in restaurant.

“We’re just trying to get some people used to the food and see how the reception in Dallas is,” Cameron says. “But it’s kind of level 1 to what we’re really trying to do in Dallas, which is open 15-20 brick and mortars in the next 18 months.”

Although they haven’t signed any leases for future brick and mortar spots in Dallas yet, they have been touring dozens of sites across

Read more