By Anni Caporuscio

The Oriental Plate, among the most popular menu item, has a bit of everything: generous butterflied tempura shrimp and veggies, fried chicken with homemade gravy, BBQ beef, a scoop of rice and famous housemade noodles.

Quite possibly the coziest eatery I’d yet to discover, Waipouli Deli & Restaurant is nestled in the Waipouli Shopping Center on the Foodland side and has been so for a whopping 37 years. Sachiko Ikehara and her sister opened a restaurant in 1977 in the space that now houses JO2. After five years, Sachiko moved down the road to her current location and has been operating Waipouli Deli & Restaurant ever since. If you really want to know about women in business, make friends with ladies like Sachiko, who made it happen in the 1970s!

Like many of the more established restaurants on Kaua‘i, it is truly a family business with multiple generations growing up in the booths and taking up various hats to run the business and continue a legacy of decades. I spoke with Sachiko and her daughter, Mina, while they comfortably corrected each other and finished each other’s sentences, all the while with one eye on the door and one eye on the kitchen greeting customers by name, with enthusiastic waves.

Also like the older restaurants, Waipouli is a keeper of history and tradition, a trend I have noticed as I eat my way around the island: places to eat are places to tell stories and preserve stories, be their words, wall art, or menus. Sachiko has packed her menu with American and Oriental comfort food. When I think “comfort food” I think huge plate of pasta, hot-buttered bread, lasagna, my grandmother’s regional Italian chicken soup, or in another context it’s BBQ ribs and mac and cheese, corn bread, etc. But if you grew up on Kaua‘i, comfort food is saimin, chicken cutlet, tonkatsu, stir fry, chop suey and the like. Comfort food is the combination of all the cultures together in one setting. The Ikeharas call their cooking American-Oriental, which equals local food.

Mina and Sachiko Ikehara, the mother-and-daughter team behind Waipouli Deli & Restaurant.

The best thing about comfort food is that all the recipes are from scratch; it’s grandma’s home cooking. All the sauces, dips and combo ideas are made in house, like the corned beef hash and the spice combinations on the grilled fish. The stir fry is made to order, and the saimin, too. But what Grandma Sachiko is really famous for is her homemade noodles. She makes them every day, except Sunday. You can only have them at her restaurant, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Order a batch ahead of time. Her noodles are light, airy, clean and almost buttery. I didn’t ask how she does it; I didn’t want to trample the aire of mystery involved in noodle-making.

Waipouli Restaurant is open every day (Thanksgiving) from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays – Saturdays they reopen for dinner service from 4-8 p.m. It is a family-operated family restaurant that spans generations. In the midst of writing, I spoke with a friend whose husband was raised on family dinners at Waipouli, and now takes his family there. He likes the cutlets, his wife loves the tempura veggies.

Call ahead for takeout for a family meal at home, 822-9311. They now accept credit cards. Located in the Waipouli Town Center on the Eastside.

  • Anni Caporuscio is a food lover and can be found daily at her Kapa‘a business, Small Town Coffee.

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