First Impressions of Bobby’s Hawaiian Restaurant
Bobby’s Hawaiian Restaurant is a culinary oasis off Highway 99 in Lynnwood, Washington. Walking through the doors hushes the background hums of traffic as you’re greeted with relaxing Hawaiian music and a friendly “Aloha!” from the staff.
The breezy tunes combine with the sizzle of Kalbi Ribs from the kitchen. The interior is painted with tropical colors, and there’s island decor everywhere you look. And while the building is slightly older, the dining area is immaculately clean.
Going to Bobby’s is probably the closest anyone in Lynnwood can get to feeling like they’re actually in the Aloha State.
Bobby Jr. honors his father’s legacy
Tragically, the shop’s original owner Bobby Nakihei passed away last month. Now his son, Bobby Jr., is overseeing operations, taking up the mantle his father left behind.
“What’s funny is I don’t even cook at my own house, so everything I learned I learned here,” Bobby Jr. said when asked if his father taught him how to cook. “It’s a great thing because I didn’t have any bad habits coming in — I didn’t have my own way of doing things. So everything I was taught is just mimicking exactly what he was trying to get through to me.”
Bobby Jr. says his dad ran a tight ship and that his attention to detail wasn’t just from his experience in the Navy but also the lessons life taught him. “In the islands, we didn’t have a lot of money, you know? We weren’t one of the rich people. So you just learn to take care of what you have,” says Bobby Jr.
Bobby’s Hawaiian Restaurant has long been a family business. Bobby Jr. gets to work with his mother, Diana, and sister, Psalms, by his side. Diana is the genius behind the humongous slices of cake sold at the shop, while Psalms leads the grill in the kitchen.
When asked what it’s like to get to work with them every day, Bobby Jr. said, “It’s the greatest gift I have.”
“I’m blessed to get to see my mom every single morning — to see my sister every afternoon. And that’s such a blessing, especially after what happened,” he said. Explaining that a lot of people have to make time for their loved ones, and he is fortunate enough to already have them near on a daily basis, he said, “So it’s now just about caring for that and taking care of that blessing.”
The Spirit of Aloha
One of the pillars of Mr. Nakihei’s philosophy was sharing the Aloha Spirit. His son explained to the Lynnwood Times that the Aloha Spirit “is love in an action form. It’s not just speaking it. It’s not just knowing it. It’s how to use that to communicate. So the first thing you should hear coming into my restaurant is ‘Aloha!’ The last thing you should hear is ‘Mahalo!’”
“And those aren’t just words,” Bobby Jr. continues. “It’s a way to connect.”
Mr. Nakihei also spoke of the Aloha Spirit during an interview with The Times this past May. “Whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time when you walk into our restaurant, we want to make sure you feel the aloha spirit – the love, and the food backs it up,” he said.
According to Bobby Jr., the Mochiko Chicken is a must-try. The chicken is basted in garlic sauce and then fried to crispy perfection, with rice and a sweet teriyaki dip on the side. Bobby Jr. says that this dish pleases everyone from 8-year-olds to 88-year-olds. He also explained that this item represents the iconic fusion of cultures that defines Hawaiian Cuisine since their Mochiko Chicken is derived from Japan but has a Hawaiian spin.
The chicken was perfectly executed. Sometimes fried chicken can be excessively oily and greasy, but not this Mochiko. The nuggets were perfectly crisp with light garlicky shells. The chicken itself was quality, and combining it with some rice and sauce on the fork makes for a serious crowd-pleaser.
The Kalbi ribs are sensational. The cuts are thin but wide, and with all that surface area, each bite carries a lot of flavor. I didn’t get the name of the exact sauce they grill them with, but it was a sweet, teriyaki-esque flavor — and mixed with the flames on the grill, they come out with a subtle smokiness too. They’re chewy, juicy, and tasty. The balanced flavor profile of sweet and smokey makes the Kalbi Ribs my personal favorite (so far).
After the chicken and ribs, I barely had room for dessert. But seeing how massive these slices were, I had to give it a try. Now I’m not the biggest fan of cake solely because it can often be too sweet or dry, but this Guava Cake was neither of those. Each bite was so moist it reminded me of a tres leches cake, and the Guava flavor was fruit-forward which made for a really refreshing dessert. If you’re looking to make someone say “WOW” on their birthday or any occasion, I recommend picking up one of these slices.
Rating Bobby’s Hawaiian Restaurant is interesting for me because this was my first experience with authentic Hawaiian food. But without a doubt, I am converted. Every item I tried was light and flavorful, and I will definitely be ordering them again. The atmosphere was charming because of the decor and cleanliness and how incredibly cooperative and friendly the staff was.
Ultimately, I’m going to give Bobby’s Hawaiian Restaurant a huge “ALOHA!” Bobby’s food captures the aloha spirit, and I felt the love when I tried it.
What’s next for Bobby’s Hawaiian Restaurant
With the holidays coming up, Bobby Jr. is looking to help families out with their catering services. “This Thanksgiving and Christmas we will be doing our version of Thanksgiving and Christmas by allowing people to order from us for those events,” he said.
“Usually we shut down and kind of do our own thing, but we realized that a lot of people would like to use our food as one of their Thanksgiving spreads. So call us up or come by and we can take care of one of your dinners for you. We can take only a limited amount, but we would love to be able to share that with you guys.”
Bobby Jr. said that the restaurant will only be open till noon for pick-ups on those holidays. Readers interested can call the shop at (425) 259-1338, order online at bobbyshawaiian.com, or swing by in person. They’re located at 14626 Highway 99 STE 101 Lynnwood, WA 98087. Click here for business hours.
Look for the video review on Wednesday, November 17, on The Lynnwood Times’ website.