The Hawaiian plate lunch can trace its humble roots back to the late 1800s, when plantation workers would take along a carb- and protein-rich combination of rice, macaroni salad, and grilled meat to make it through an intense day.
The meat, marinated in a variety of sauces and spices, reflected the islands’ rich cultural mixture, with Korean, Japanese, and Filipino influences.
In the 40s and 50s, entrepreneurs started offering inexpensive plate lunches on job sites, which eventually expanded to restaurants adding the popular item on menus across the islands.
While today’s workers may not have as much hard labor on their to-do lists, feeding the masses a hearty, affordable meal is a tradition that Q & Q Hawaiian BBQ in Valencia feels compelled to carry on.
It’s a small, family-owned chain that started in Ventura 10 years, adding a Northridge location a few years ago, and opening their new restaurant in Valencia this January.
“There’s not a lot of Hawaiian food options in Santa Clarita. Some of our customers used to drive to Ventura so they’re happy we’re here,” said Ray Chen, owner and general manager. “We offer a lot of food, which helps give people who work or work out the energy they need to get through the day.”
There are several Hawaiian combos ranging from $9.99 to $10.99, all served with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad.
The Hawaiian BBQ mix ($10.99) includes a generous mound of beef, chicken, and kalbi short ribs served over steamed cabbage. The meat is marinated for hours in a savory blend of soy sauce, garlic, and green onion, then grilled to tender, juicy perfection.
Whether it’s beef or chicken, each bite is flavorful and satisfying. The silky cabbage makes a nice foil for the meat, soaking up the extra sauce, while the creamy macaroni salad adds a bit of richness and the fluffy rice ties it all together.
This is a lot of food, possible enough to share, so if you’re not that hungry or don’t want leftovers, try the mini meal with a bit less meat and one scoop of rice for $7.69.
Another popular option is the Loco Moco, a behemoth dish of two hamburger patties with fried eggs and a delectable brown gravy served alongside more of that rice and salad. It’s great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, anytime you want some comfort food in Hawaiian form. (To liven things up, add some of the homemade katsu or teriyaki sauces).
On the seafood side, Q & Q has Island White Fish, Crispy Shrimp or Curry Shrimp, and Grilled Salmon ($9.29 to $12.99). Craving noodles? There are BBQ, veggie and seafood versions of that, too ($4.99 to $7.25)
If you’re having a party and want some fun, easy fare guests, Q & Q can put together medium (serves 20 to 25) and large (serves 40 to 45) trays of BBQ, Kalua Pork, Spam musubi (think big pieces of sushi made with Spam, which Hawaiians have an odd fondness for), and other items with 24-hour notice.
There are also family meals for $35.99, with your choice of three meats plus rice, macaroni salad, and cabbage.
Whatever you order, know that it will be made fresh that day and with that extra ingredient that makes all the difference.
“You can taste how much care we put into the food,” Chen said. “When people say our food is good, it makes me happy. It makes the long hours we work worth it.”
Q & Q Hawaiian BBQ, 27530 Newhall Ranch Road, #101, Valencia. Open Sunday to Thursday, 10:30 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday, 10:30 am – 10 pm. For more information, visit www.qqhawaiianbbq.com.