Monday, February 20, 2023

Aina Grill

Aina Grill is located on Farrington Hwy in Waipahu, Hawaii.

I don't get out to Waipahu much, but when two friends from the mainland fly into town to attempt a food challenge, I'll get out of the house and cheer them on.

Aina Grill opened around October 2019, a spot to get local favorites. Everything is made from scratch here, including all their dressings and sauces. It's a small spot, with maybe 4-5 tables in a tiny area.

For plates, there are generally two sizes, mini and regular. For an additional $4, you can get a mixed plate with two main proteins. Popular menu items include their Ahi Katsu ($12.99 mini, $15.95 regular) and their Braised Short Rib Loco Moco ($14.99 mini, $18.9 regular). Minis come with two sides, while regular plates and mixed plates get three sides.

To test the spicy science here, I ordered their mini Spicy Garlic Shrimp ($11.99), with brown rice and garden salad for my sides. A side of papaya dressing accompanied the salad.

I loved the dish. Excellent shrimp, maybe 6-7 small ones perfectly cooked in a creamy spicy sauce. Flavorful and frankly, very acceptable heat for most people. I loved the papaya dressing, fruity with some tang.

For the people who can eat a lot, Aina Grill offers a 6-pound Loco Moco Burrito challenge, first offered around early 2020. It's 3 pounds of fried rice (that has diced char siu pork) and five quarter-pound hamburger patties inside two large flour tortillas. After the burrito is wrapped, it's topped with runny fried eggs, brown gravy, homemade cheese sauce, fried onions, and scallions. Three scoops of macaroni salad on the side. The entire challenge is served on a metal tray.

Challengers have 30 minutes to complete the challenge. Winners get their photo on the Wall of Fame, a free lucha libre T-shirt, and the $45 meal free. If unsuccessful, you'll get your picture on the Wall of Shame and pay the $45.

Through January 2023, there were roughly 20 attempts and just two winners. One winner was professional eater "Raina is Crazy", and the other was a local CrossFit enthusiast named Ben. Raina had the quickest time at around 9:20 (yes, less than nine and a half minutes).

Professional eaters Randy Santel and Katina Eats Kilos then attempted the challenge on February 1. To avoid spoilers, I'll just provide links to their YouTube pages (here's Katina's page and here's Randy's page) and you can search for the challenge there. Katina usually gets her videos up quickly, while it might take a bit longer for Randy to upload his.

I wish Aina Grill offered a regular-sized version of their loco moco burrito. It would be a nice meal on the go, and while a ton of Hawaii spots have the traditional dish, I don't know many who serve it in burrito form.

This is an awesome small business to check out, almost a hole-in-the-wall location that's away from the touristy areas. Awesome owners/staff. Highly recommended. 9/10

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