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

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Buyer comes forward to keep Blue Plate Kitchen open in West Hartford

West Hartford’s Blue Plate Kitchen, originally slated to close at the end of August, will survive under new ownership. Miguel Proano and Carlina Fontaine have purchased the restaurant in the town’s Bishops Corner retail area, with plans to continue its “modern comfort fare” tradition with expanded options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Blue Plate Kitchen’s founder Jay DuMond and his wife Lisa Cole initially said in early August that they would close the North Main Street eatery because of the effects of COVID-19 and related restrictions on dining. When Proano heard the restaurant was for sale, he contacted DuMond, who also owns City Steam in Hartford.

The sale “happened very quickly,” he said, and they transitioned to new ownership swiftly.

This is the second time in two years that Proano has taken over as the owner of an established Hartford County restaurant. In January 2019, he and his wife, Nancy, reopened Pastrami on Wry in Manchester, buying the business from its founder Corey Wry and leaving most of its menu, recipes and decor intact. They added a few new menu offerings and touches, which Proano plans to do at Blue Plate.

“We are keeping the menu pretty much the same; there are a lot of favorites on here,” he said. “I’ve had people calling, emailing, Facebooking,” asking for certain items and dishes to stay.

He has plans to add more omelets to the breakfast menu, and more sandwiches and additional options for lunch. At dinner, they’ll be able to expand their creativity, he said, with more comfort foods and some bigger portions.

The bar is currently closed as Blue Plate waits for its liquor permit to come through, so guests can BYOB in the meantime. When the bar is up and running, Proano says he wants to offer more craft cocktails, and he’d like to bring in more Connecticut draft beers. He’s also looking to add to the mimosa menu, with potential new items that have been successful at Pastrami on Wry, like mimosa towers and “To-Go’sas,” with prosecco and four different flavors of juice.

Proano wants people to know that Blue Plate Kitchen is open for business and here to stay.

“We’re definitely here,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to being part of the community … and we’re ready to serve everybody.”

Blue Plate Kitchen is at 345 N. Main St. in West Hartford. 860-906-1873 and

Leeanne Griffin can be reached at [email protected]


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Rumi’s Kitchen restaurant review: You’ll find poetry on the plate and mannequins by your side

There’s a temperature check at the door, involving a fancy device that requires looking into a mirror. (Don’t worry, your image isn’t recorded.) Tables are set with hand sanitizer, and utensils aren’t doled out until you’re seated, and then in thick cloth bundles secured with twine and a verse from Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet and mystic. “When you lose all sense of self,” read my tag, “the bonds of a thousand chains will vanish.” When Georgia initially lifted restrictions on dining in April, Mesghali was among the 120 Georgia restaurateurs who pledged not to open right away.

Curious thing: More tables are occupied than you might expect, especially for early in the week and in Phase 2 in the District. As is made clear when you scan the dining room, however, most of the figures aren’t breathing. Mannequins — as trendy as drive-ins and pool rentals during the pandemic — give new meaning to the phrase plastic people. “Men” dressed in black shirts and fezzes and “women” draped in saris take up half the space, blending in enough with beating hearts that you eventually forget how few occupants are paying customers.

But first, the expected jokes. “If one of them moves,” whispers a companion, “you’re on your own.”

Little niceties follow. Your choice of still or sparkling water is free, and eyes light up when warm taftoun (flatbread) and a little garden of herbs and radishes land on the table. “Sabzi,” a server introduces the fillip, which includes feta cheese and walnuts (a combination that also shows up in takeout orders). The server suggests making little sandwiches, or eating the nibbles with your meal. Cocktails are swapped, affording those in the same bubble at home the chance to debate the merits of say, the Sharbat and the Black Rose. The former is made with gin, rose water and citrus. The latter features mezcal, lemon bitters and barberry, the fruit that gives the drink its dusty pink color and sweet-tart finish.

Born in Isfahan, Iran, Mesghali relocated to Los Angeles in 1977, where he left school after the 10th grade to work in restaurant kitchens. In 1995, the chef moved to Atlanta to recover from an addiction to alcohol and drugs, and to return to the craft he dreamed about pursuing since he was a teenager. His Washington restaurant, scheduled to open in March, eventually greeted customers in August. “Okay, this is the way the world is right now,” the chef says. “How can we make it work?”

Success springs from kashk badenjoon. It’s a fabulous mush of fried eggplant that’s bright with mint, sweet with fried onions and stippled with cream of whey. If there were a pantheon of comfort foods from around the world, kashk badenjoon would be a shoo-in. Many of the other appetizers will look familiar to aficionados of Middle Eastern restaurants. But few of them approach the finesse on display at Rumi’s Kitchen. It will be hard to go back to regular stuffed grape

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