A restaurant listing of “international” in another newspaper last week mentioned Polish, Latino, and Ethiopian restaurants in Tucson. Along with those was listed my favorite Hawaiian place, Lani’s Luau on the northwest corner of Harrison and Golf Links. But as I thought about it, I questioned whether Lani’s should be listed as “international”, being as Hawaii has been the 50th state since August, 1959.
I was born and raised there in Hawaii, and grew up in a rural village with a colonial atmosphere (white people in charge of ethnic sugar plantation working families, descendants from all over the world). Then most of the sugar and pineapple plantations closed due to cheaper overseas production, and Hawaii switched economic bases to tourism and alternate agriculture (coffee, macadamia nuts, flowers).
Because Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific, people from all over the world visit and emigrate there. Remember that President Obama’s father (from Kenya) and mother (from Kansas) met and married in Honolulu. My sister in law in Kona is from Australia, and my Honolulu niece has married a guy from Morocco, adding to the international flair of Hawaii.
Hawaiian cuisine is the result of these islands being the Crossroads of the Pacific and because of the mix of ethnicities living in Hawaii. Leilani (Lani) Dowling, the cook at her restaurant does serve authentic Hawaiian plate lunches, desserts, and juices. Taking a look at her menu you will notice that Hawaiian food incorporates recipes that are Japanese (teriyaki chicken), Korean (kim chee), Filipino (lumpia), Portuguese (sausage and malasadas), Chinese (char siu bao, called manapua in Hawaii).
Lani and her husband Zane also truly exhibit the friendly “aloha spirit” I’ve previously written about as a My Tucson columnist last year for the Tucson Citizen.
So, in answer to my title’s question, go and find out for yourself at Lani’s Luau (2532 S. Harrison Rd.) whether their cuisine is international or just typical Hawaiian.
Phone # there is 886-LUAU (5828), closed Sunday and Monday.