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Hawaii: At Super J's, it was the cuisine and a side of compassion

April 21, 2012|By Russ Parsons | Los Angeles Times Food editor
  • John Kaaloa, Russ Parsons, Kathy Parsons and Janice Kaaloa at Super J's on the Big Island.
John Kaaloa, Russ Parsons, Kathy Parsons and Janice Kaaloa at Super J's… (Kathy Parsons / Special…)

Sometimes it’s not the places you travel that you remember most, but the people you meet. That’s certainly true of Kaaloa's Super J's Authentic Hawaiian restaurant on the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was on a mission to try as many plate-lunch places as I could. Surely I must be missing something, I thought, after yet another meal of mushy rice, overcooked meat and bland macaroni salad.

Then, our last night on the island, our hosts at Pomakai “Lucky” Farms bed and breakfast insisted we try local favorite Super J’s. We’d driven past it several times and it didn’t look like much, basically a convenience store with some chairs out front. But it was right around the corner so we gave it a shot. The menu is limited — there were only a couple things on sale that evening: laulau and kalua pork with cabbage — but the smells were fantastic and there was just something about the care with which owner Janice Kaaloa was dishing up the food that promised great things.

Then, walking outside to one of the chairs, her arms burdened with plates full of laulau, poi and a couple of cans of Coke, my wife stumbled and fell, badly scraping her knee. Almost instantly Janice was outside, with her husband, John, right beside her. They gently bathed the wounds and administered sips of warm salty water, which they insisted was an old Hawaiian remedy. Whatever, but it worked. Then Janice and John sat outside with us while we watched the sun go down and ate our dinners, talking about family and growing up on the islands and life in general.

And by the way, the laulau and the pork with cabbage were among the best dishes we ate at any restaurant of any kind on the whole trip. Even the macaroni salad was terrific.

Super J's,  83-5409 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, Hawaii 96704, (808) 328-9566.

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