Down-home cookin' from Oahu delivers familiar, yet distinct, comfort food dishes
Posted: March 16, 2014 at 7 a.m.
By Amber Stanley-Kruth/NWA Media
The niche Hawaiian Brian's filled with their Hawaiian-style comfort food gained immediate attention from the people of Northwest Arkansas. So much so that within two years, the locally owned and operated restaurant has grown from a food truck to two permanent locations.
Owned and operated by Michael and Shanea Holmbeck, Hawaiian Brian's has introduced food from the islands that, to a native, would be as homespun as fried chicken or pulled pork barbecue is here. The flavors are predominately familiar, yet curiously distinct.
The diner-style dishes offer Hawaiian-style preparation of chicken, hamburger, pork, Portuguese sausage and Spam. The full menu is served during all hours of operation.
The menu offers entrees, such as Shoyu Chicken, chicken Katsu, Kalua pig and the Loco Moco. Island-style breakfast is served all day and includes Spam-N-Eggs, King's Hawaiian French Toast and a Knuckle Sandwich, which is Spam or Portuguese sausage dipped in pancake batter and pan-fried golden brown.
Shave ice and gelato allow for a sweet end to a meal or a quick drop-by treat.
The Shoyu Chicken is the most popular item at the Fayetteville location, situated in the southeast corner of Evelyn Hills Shopping Center beside Arkadia Retrocade. That dish is ultimately the foundation for the restaurant concept.
Growing up on the island of Oahu, Shoyu Chicken was a regular meal for Michael. Years later, when he and Shanea first started dating, he prepared the chicken for her and she enjoyed it so much she had him make it every week for months to come. As their courtship continued, Shanea learned how to make it and would bring Shoyu Chicken to work potlucks and other gatherings. Much as she did, the people who tried it would fanatically crave it.
The response from her co-workers is very similar to the reaction of the community at large, and the customers of Hawaiian Brian's are passionate and loyal.
People would come from all over the area because they can't get this food anywhere else, and it was through customer requests that a second location in Springdale was opened, Shanea Holmbeck said.
Michael is primarily operating the Fayetteville location, while Shanea runs the Springdale location at 701 N. Thompson Street, in the shopping plaza across from Walnut Avenue.
"We are both very involved in every single aspect of it," Shanea Holmbeck said. "It's so important that the food is consistent and everything is absolutely the same."
It has been a quiet opening at the Springdale location, although the place has been packed for lunch on several occasions. The Holmbeck's wanted to allow a little time to adjust to the new locations and work out the kinks that inevitably arise when opening a new restaurant.
"We are still adjusting the hours [at the Springdale location]," Shanea Holmbeck said.
Currently, the Springdale location opens at 11 a.m. daily, except on Saturday they open at 9 a.m. Fayetteville opens at 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
Both locations have moved to table-side service with waitstaff. Additionally, each location hosts live entertainment, including music, hula dancers and karaoke.
With a beer and wine permit waiting approval, Hawaiian Brian's is getting ready to grow again.
"We want to keep it family friendly, the Aloha atmosphere, but will also be offering beer and wine," Shanea Holmbeck said.
Eventually, there will also be a patio alongside the Springdale location.
Samples, including the Shoyu Chicken, are offered to newcomers. The staff at Hawaiian Brian's goes the extra step to make customers feel welcome. Loyalty programs are also offered, along with specials and updates posted on Hawaiian Brian's Facebook page.
"Just come see us. Come try us," Shanea Holmbeck said.
More information is also available online at hawaiianbrianshappiness.com or by phone at the Fayetteville store at (479) 799-7979 or the Springdale store at (479) 419-4929.
NAN Dining Guide Cover on 03/16/2014