Despite goofy name, Da Spot is the spot for a good meal in Honolulu
Spend any time in Honolulu and you get used to inflated restaurant prices, shelling out $12 to $15 for a humdrum lunch and twice that for a routine dinner. And if it’s a place that caters to tourists, well, why would a restaurant be concerned about quality if it’s not trying to turn you into a regular?
Thus, Da Spot Health Food and Juices is somewhat of a rarity, offering variety, great taste and modest prices all under one roof, with only a few downsides. More on those later.
I’d winced a bit when I first saw the name of this place, but after finally trying it, I found myself thinking over and over, “Yeah, this is the spot.”
You might be wincing a little yourself seeing “Health Food” in the restaurant’s name. Don’t worry. This is not a privation-style health-food eatery. There’s a mix of meats, seafood and vegetarian dishes, although pork appears to be absent from the menu — an oddity in a state where Kalua Pork is almost worshiped.
Da Spot was founded in 2004 by Ahmad Ramadan and Ako Kifuji with the goal of providing healthful and affordable food while promoting sustainability. The cuisine focuses on Mediterranean and North African dishes, and the food can be certified halal or kosher.
Food is served cafeteria style. There usually are about a dozen entrees spread out on heating trays behind a glass panel.
Deciding can be hard. For example, during a recent weekday lunch, the choices were Egyptian chicken, lamb shank, eggplant parmesan, Malaysian vegetarian curry, Thai vegetarian curry, chicken parmesan, sesame garlic chicken, Thai red chicken, Moroccan roasted chicken, lemon-coconut chicken, and sesame-garlic-roasted snapper.
Plates, offered for dining in or taking out, come in mini, regular and combo sizes. The regular is a choice of one entree, choice of rice and salad. Normally the rices are saffron and brown rice, although other starches are offered at times. For an additional $2.50, the salad can be substituted with another cold dish.
On a recent trip with friends, we substituted a cucumber-tomato salad for the regular one. It was prepared with chopped parsley and flavored like tabbouleh.
The entree portions are generous. We ordered Egyptian chicken and lemon-coconut chicken, and each came with what would be equivalent to three pieces of chicken. They tasted freshly prepared, and the sauces were tangy and complex.
Just to throw a wrench into Da Spot’s finely oiled operation, we ordered a chicken gyro sandwich ($8) at a time when virtually all patrons were ordering plates. We were told it would take 15 minutes to prepare. The server told us with an apologetic tone that made us think few people would deign to wait a quarter hour for anything to eat.
We did, and, yes, in about that amount of time we had a gyro, fairly bursting with roasted chicken, that took two hands to hold.
Da Spot is also a place to get your smoothie on, if you’re a fan of them. They’ve got 36 on the menu, but the last one invites you to make up your own combination, so multiply that by … whatever.
The 16-ounce small is plenty filling with a meal. You might want to nurse one of the larger sizes on Da Spot’s open mic night on Tuesdays, 7:30 to closing, or Thursday’s jazz night, 7:30 to closing.
About those shortcomings. Parking isn’t easy. If you’re staying on Waikiki Beach for vacation, it’s too far to walk, although you could bike to it. Street parking can be found on side streets, but not easily. You’ll probably be tempted to use the lots of several large chain stores down the street, but there’s always a chance you’ll be towed.
Even though this is mostly a self-serve restaurant, the service you do get can be hit or miss.
If the assistance is less than stellar, however, you’ll likely forget it the minute you sit down with food that really hits the spot.
DaSpot Health Food and Juices, Honolulu
Address: 2469 So. King St., Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
Parking: There is no parking lot and limited street parking. Be prepared to walk some blocks from parking on side streets.
Style: Casual and unhurried. Ample seating.
Prices: Cafeteria-style dishes come in mini ($6), regular ($8) and combo sizes ($6 to $10). Sandwiches cost $6 to $8. Smoothies $3 for 16 oz., $3.50 for 20 oz., $5 for 32 oz.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily.
Information: 808 941-1313; daspot.net