The Lanai

Lanai signReview #88

It’s a miracle!  After three failed attempts at trying to eat at The Lanai, it was finally open and still had food!  I’m a born and raised LA girl.  When I check out a restaurant’s website, I expect it to be accurate, updated and I will hold them accountable for information given.  So I was really taken aback by The Lanai’s “Hawaiian Way” of just being open when it was convenient for them, regardless of what their website or sign out front said.  But after seeing this sign they have inside, on their truck, I realized I couldn’t get mad.  Shame on me for expecting Southern California customs when clearly we were on The Big Island.  They should post this sign out front so people like me would have a better understanding of The Hawaiian Way.

Lanai funny

The Lanai itself is a parked kitchen on wheels.  It is planted on a beautiful piece of property with picnic benches and a koi pond.  Shade comes from humongous passion fruit trees making natural canopies over the tables.  This place has superb ambiance.  The Hawaiian music playing rounds off this delightful spot.

Lanai benches
Don’t pick the passion fruit, they aren’t ripe yet!
Lanai poi
Koi pond and tasty waves
Lanai bar
You order here

We were offered a POG (passion/guava) drink while we waited.  Maybe a perk for writing the blog or an apology for our three failed attempts?  I never look a gift horse in the mouth so took I it and said “thank you”.  I knew it would be sweet, but I wasn’t prepared for the lip curling syrup that came out of that can!  One sip and I had my allotted sugar intake for the month of August.  I looked around and saw other people drinking these cans of liquid candy like it was water.  How??

Lanai drinks

Most Hawaiian food ain’t my jam.  I don’t like poi.  Won’t try Spam.  Hate macaroni salad.  And I don’t usually enjoy pork (except for bacon because OMG!).  I can now add “Hawaiian Sun” drinks to this list.  But I love fish, especially poke, so seeing it on this menu got me excited.  I ordered mine “House” and Hubby got “Teriyaki” styles, both topped with furikake (Japanese seasoning with seeds, seaweed and other crunchy stuff).

Lanai menu

I wanted to use the bathroom so I followed the sign.  They need a sign because it ain’t easy to find.

Lanai bathroom

You have to actually leave The Lanai area, go through this gate, into the adjacent flower shop next door, then go inside there and make a left.

Lanai gate

But the open window in the bathroom is RIGHT by a place where people are standing outside.  I’m sure they could see through this sheer cloth, but more importantly, I didn’t want anyone listening to me pee!  So I had to wait.  And wait.  And wait until they walked away.   Then I peed really fast before any more customers walked over to the window.  It was quite stressful and not at all The Hawaiian Way!


By the time I got back, our food was ready.  The plates were beautifully presented, and boy does Lanai like their flowers!  They are on every dish.  I don’t know if it was the furikake, but my poke was really really salty.  Hubby’s wasn’t but I could barely tolerate mine.  What a disappointment!   With the day and age of competitive poke bowl establishments being the new Starbucks on every corner in town, I was hoping for more deliciousness.  So far Poki Poki in Encinitas is my place for poke.  I shouldn’t have strayed. The “Veggie Chips” were actually quite delicious.  What veggie?  It’s a mystery.

Lanai poki

Tracy ordered a salad with poke on top, and if I were smart enough to see this on the menu, I would have ordered this winning dish as well.  It was missing said “strawberry and papaya” but one can’t get mad.  They just didn’t feel like adding that in and that is part of The Hawaiian Way.  I’m not sure it was worth the hefty $18.50 price tag, but it was certainly a nice plate of food, flower and all.

Lanai poke salad

With a nice size group, we were able to order most things on the menu.  Here they are:

Lanai pork
Broke Da Mouth (without da egg)
Lanai tacos
Fish Taco


Lanai fish sandwich
Hanapaa (Mahi-Mahi sandwich)

Breakfast is served here all day.  Probably.  If they feel like it.  I appreciate that they don’t even try to offer an exact time when they stop serving breakfast.  It’s just “Breakfast” until it’s not.

Lanai breakfast menu

Andrew ordered the Loco Moco because, “It’s everything you want to eat on one plate.” and he’s been to The Lanai multiple times.  He also competes in 100 mile running races so can eat these.  Often.  His next ultra marathon is in Colorado in two weeks.  To warm up he’s competing in a 100 mile bike race there the weekend before.  I asked him when he would acclimate to the 8,000 ft elevation he will be competing in.  “That’s what the 100 mile bike race the weekend before is for!” Have another Loco Moco Andrew, you crazy bastard!

Lanai breakfast
Loco Moco- What?  No flower?
Lanai chicken
Katsu Chicken

Madeleine ordered a Hawaiian Style Philly but they made a major boo-boo here.

Lanai food

The bread was cut in half.  It should have been left connected in the middle.  With the veggies so finely cut, most of the innards fell out before she could get her first bite.

Lanai Madeline
Mostly bread with innards on the plate

The Lanai has a very laid back vibe with locals coming in straight from the beach.  It’s hard not to meet people here.  We met Wally, Emily and rescue pooch, George.  I asked what brought them to The Lanai today.

“Wally got a hankering for fried rice and it’s great here.” I asked George his thoughts and he tried to explain to me the importance of pork, enjoying life and living more The Hawaiian Way.

Lanai George
Wise George

As we were leaving I felt the little tiki man laughing at us for our three failed attempts to eat here.  That or he found a really ticklish spot with those chopsticks.

Lanai laughing

Bottom line:

Not only do you have to want to come to The Lanai, The Lanai has to want you to come there.  They might be open when you go, but don’t count on it.  Although my poke bowl wasn’t the best, Hubby liked his and everyone else’s food was very good.  This is a great spot to gather with friends, meet new ones, or to celebrate a birthday.

I have learned some good life lessons with my experience at The Lanai.   First of all, loosen the hell up.  S–t happens.  Life happens.  Be happy for what is and let the small stuff go with the ocean tides.  When something is meant to be, it will happen.  It’s all about timing.  Thank you Lanai.  And thank you George, you wise dog, for helping me with The Hawaiian Way.

Please join us this Sunday, August 11th, for breakfast at 8:30am at

A Little Moore Cafe

1030 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

Author: foodkibbitzer

I love to cook, especially soup, and bake challah. I ride horses, enjoy sarcastic people and am a food snob. I'm busy being mom to my two boys and I play mahj jong.

3 thoughts on “The Lanai”

  1. I’m so glad your persistence paid off! We stopped in in July for my husbands birthday…I guess we were lucky they were open! I too am not a fan of Spam, but the rest of our entrees were delish!


  2. I have gone with my husband and several groups of friends. Each time we LOVED the food. I actually liked the poke bowl and didn’t notice that it was too salty. But I love your blog so much, I’m gonna try Poki Poki.

    P.S. My favorite dish is the vegetarian Bahn Mi sandwich. Super recommended!


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