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By Rachel Toyer, staff writer
 
For more than 50 years, the Like Like Drive Inn has served quality food and provided friendly service to its customers. Opened in May, 1953 by James Nako, of Japan, and his wife Alice, of the Big Island, the Like Like Drive Inn is still a family business, owned and operated by their grand-children.

The family is proud of the restaurant’s quality and tradition and of the fact that the menu has been the same since 1953. The drive-in is well known for local favorites as well as traditional entrees including Loco Moco, Portuguese bean soup, hamburger steak, butter fish, and “the best saimin around,” according to some customers.

The restaurant itself has had two renovations since its opening in ’53. Today it is where it has been since 1994, tucked neatly in the back of the shopping center at the corner of Keeaumoku and Kananu streets, directly across from Wal-Mart.

Originally it was truly a drive-in with carhop service using waitress on skates to take orders and serve food directly to people in their vehicles. The indoor dining area had only a counter and a few small tables.

The Nako’s daughter Dora was living in California with her husband Ray Hayashi when she received a call from her parents that they were needed to help work at the restaurant. The Hayashis immediately returned to Hawai‘i to help run the business.

Today, the Nako’s granddaughters, Julie Tateyama and her sister, Karen Akiyoshi, oversee the business. Tateyama graduated in 1985 from HPU, when it was Hawai‘i Pacific College, with a degree in business management. Now she and her husband and her sister’s family manage and operate the restaurant.

“ It’s sad to see local businesses close up,” Tateyama said, referring to all the local restaurants that have closed in recent years as the families operating them have retired. “We are trying to keep [the Like Like Drive Inn] the same.”

So far they have been successful so far, retaining a loyal staff, some of whom have been working at the restaurant for more than 20 years, and a loyal cliental such as Kane‘ohe residents Harold Miyamoto and Janice Goo, who have visited the Like Like twice a day, for breakfast and dinner, for the past 25 years.

“ We like the [staff] and the family,” Goo admitted. “We travel a lot and sometimes see our fellow travelers here and other friends that we have made over the years.

“ This is a good local place, and everyone works hard,” Goo added. “We even know the cooks.”
“ We are very appreciative of our loyal customers,” Tateyama said as she told of a young couple who became engaged in the Like Like Drive Inn more than 50 years ago, and who come to eat on each and every anniversary. On their 50th wedding anniversary, they brought their whole family to celebrate at the diner.

The Like Like Drive Inn continues to be a local favorite, and the sisters are proud that it has persisted in the same traditions of their grandparents.

All photos by Rachel Toyer


The Like Like Drive Inn sign is a Ke'eaumoku Street landmark.


Counter service is always quick and friendly at the Like Like Drive Inn, customers say.


A satisfied customer checks out.


Like Like Drive Inn location courtesy Map Quest.


The menu at Like Like has been the same since its opening in 1953.

 



 

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