The words "aloha" and "mahalo" floated through the air in a steady rhythm as the crowd filtered past the ordering station at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in the Carson Mall, picking from a plethora of menu choices.
It was the third full day the eatery was open to the public, and the stream of state workers walking across Stewart Street to sample the unique cuisine keeps growing by the day.
"I don't know if we've seen the full force of the crowd from across the street yet, or the catering and the take-out business," said Al Burgos, who opened the restaurant with partner Doug Lee.
It's the duo's fourth store in the region, with their first one in Sparks and two more in Reno.
"I had misgivings about the Reno area, because maybe there wasn't enough of a Hawaiian local concentration up there," Burgos said. But, "even if they aren't from Hawaii, they may know someone from Hawaii, or vacation there, or have some connection. It always evokes good feelings and the spirit of aloha."
Burgos has family who live on the Big Island of Hawaii, and his love for the food made this adventure in the restaurant business a good fit.
Burgos describes himself and Lee, a friend from college, as "a couple of California kids running Hawaiian barbecue in Northern Nevada."
That fits the restaurant's plate lunch concept, which is a fusion of cultures from the melting pot of Hawaii.
"It evolved from the plantation days in Hawaii," Burgos said. "You had a blend of cultures who were working the fields, a lot of Portuguese, native Hawaiians, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans. They would all bring their lunches to work, and as they looked over each other's shoulders to see what other people brought for lunch, they started sharing."
What you end up with is Portuguese sausage, Korean-influenced pork ribs and raw fish poke sharing space on the same menu.
"You want to talk Asian fusion, this is truly fusion food," Burgos said.
The plate lunches (which are suitable for dinner as well) consist of a meat course of chicken, beef, pork or seafood, two scoops of sticky white rice, and macaroni salad.
"A lot of the reward is seeing people enjoy the food. It's a fringe benefit of the job," Burgos said. "We are in business to make money, but we've made a lot of great friends along the way."
One of those friends is Tom Metcalf of Metcalf Builders, which has been doing the remodel of Carson Mall. Metcalf had a big hand in getting L&L to open an outlet here. Part of that may be out of personal taste, as he is from Hawaii, and, as he talked with diners during lunch last week, "This is the food I grew up with."
- Contact reporter Kirk Caraway at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-881-1261.