Ron (with teriyaki steak sandwich) and Melanie (with Tiki Tenders)
  • Ron (with teriyaki steak sandwich) and Melanie (with Tiki Tenders)
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Big Kahuna's

600 Palm Avenue, Suite 117, Imperial Beach

This time I really was in a hurry. Had a limousine departing Imperial Beach in ten minutes, and a three-minute run up to the bus stop.

So I'm on Rainbow Drive, heading up from Palm Avenue, looking desperately across to the shopping center for some eatery that's open. Promised the lovely Carla I'd bring something back.

Oh yes! Looming large in the rear lot, Big Kahuna, the Hawaiian place.

Looks open. This is around 5:15 p.m. See people inside, heads down, attacking burgers.

I fwop through the doors, past some pictures that show Samuel L. Jackson devouring a Big Kahuna Burger in the movie "Pulp Fiction," and up to a bar with a bamboo reed wall and hanging wooden signs like "Luau," and "Tiki Bar."

And alongside, draft beer pump handles. "Longboard," "Big Wave," "Fire Rock." These are all Hawaiian brewskis from Kona Brewing. Hmm. That Fire Rock looks interesting. Pale ale.

"You should stop and have one," says this guy Ron. He's sitting up to the bar with Melanie, his daughter.


"I would, except got a bus due in ten minutes."

This is when Lauren, the manager, comes out from the kitchen.

She's bringing dishes for Melanie (chicken tenders) and Ron (teriyaki steak). Hers is kid size. I see the full size is $8.99, so maybe $5. His is a sandwich with a slab of steak in the middle, $7.85). Those Big Kahuna burgers the guys are demolishing over in the nearest booth really do look big. "Biggest and best burger in town," says the menu. "Featured in Pulp Fiction."

Cost $7.85.

It's what I want. But one problem: time.

"It'll take ten minutes at least," says Lauren.

"What's the quickest dish you've got?"

She points straight at the top sandwich. "Killer Kalua Pork, the menu reads, "a generous portion of succulent roasted pork piled high on our jumbo roll and smothered in BBQ sauce." Costs $7.85

My kalua pork sandwich

Huh. I always like Kalua anything. Traditionally means it's cooked in an imu oven in the ground.

"We can make this sandwich quick because we cook the pork slow, ahead of time," says Lauren. "We steam it for 21 hours. So we can put it straight, hot, into the sandwich. Two minutes."

"Two minutes? For sure?"

"For sure. So yes?"

I nod.


I nod. She disappears.

Alright, I know, breaking all my salad vows. But sometimes you gotta bust out. Besides, no time to second-guess now.

Melanie, Lauren, and the Big Kahuna surfboard

"You should try this," says Ron, pointing to his teriyaki steak sandwich. "Tender isn't the word. I have it every time I come, and we come a lot, right?"

"Practically lives here," says Lauren.

Wow. She's back from the kitchen with my stuff all packed and ready to go.

Can't believe the speed. I pay up and I'm outta here and back on Rainbow before you can say Haleakala.

Three minutes' speed-jogging like a Tarahumara scout, and I'm up at the bus stop, one block ahead of da bus.

Bottom line: Carla and I split the Kalua pork sandwich.

The meat's hidden in a big bun. But once you get to it, ooh. Beautiful. That porky taste overlaid with a sweet BBQ flavoring. And you can tell by the tenderness how long they have been cooking it.

One complaint: it's not the cheapest. Fries are separate. I ended up paying $10.63.

But I ain't complaining. Hey, world record here. Two minutes for a hot meal? Even Mickey D's would be hard pressed to beat that. Besides, if it's good enough for Samuel L. Jackson...

Tomorrow, of course, back on the salad wagon.

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