Hawaii: Food Truck Frenzy

Gabriel Luck, owner of Papa Luck’s, has been serving coff ee to university students for the past fi ve years. NIK SEU KA LEO O HAWAI‘I

By Isabella Hastings | Kaleo.org

Gabriel Luck, owner of Papa Luck’s, has been serving coff ee to university students for the past fi ve years. NIK SEU KA LEO O HAWAI‘I

There are six independent food vendors located on the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa campus, and each vendor brings something different. Whether it’s Da Spot’s 27 smoothie options or India Café’s buy-10-get-1-free meal card, these vendors provide students with tasty meal options.

The Sustainability Courtyard, home to two of the campus’ independent vendors, is strictly vegetarian. Govinda’s Vegetarian Cuisine and Da Spot have other outlets around the island. At all locations, Govinda’s offers vegetarian dishes, including their temple and restaurant in Chinatown. However, Da Spot’s other locations, such as its new restaurant on South King Street, serve meat.

Govinda’s provides an escape from the crowded campus cafeterias. Located at the front of the Sustainability Courtyard by Kuykendall Hall, Govinda’s offers more than 11 vegetarian food choices paired with homemade iced teas and fruit drinks, such as Lemon-Mint-Ginger Rush and Blackberry-Raspberry Iced Herbal Tea.

“We offer a lot of curries, like the Kafta Ball mixed vegetable curry,” said Rebecca Vinson, a member of the temple and a student at UH. “So it’s a lot of Indian food.”

For students who are less enthusiastic about Indian food, Govinda’s has other vegetarian choices such as garden veggie burgers and banana bread. “Most of the produce is local,” said Vinson.

“It’s great that we can promote our Krishna beliefs and provide a healthy food choice for UH students,” she added.

Da Spot also serves curries in the Sustainability Courtyard, but its smoothies are popular with students. With 27 options, on top of a “make your own” choice, Da Spot allows customers to mix any of eight fruits, six homemade sorbets, and six juices into their smoothies.

“We make all of our own sorbet without any preservatives … unlike most smoothie makers. We don’t use any ice which dilutes the smoothie, and we use as many local products as possible,” said Ahmad Ramadan, co-owner of Da Spot.

The tropical fruits used in the smoothies are kept fresh by flash freezing, a process that quickly freezes the fruit so that ice crystals do not form in the fruit.

“We give them [the students] a better quality smoothie. … Whatever appeases our palate is what we make,” said Ramadan.

India Café is the third vendor that regularly serves curries. Located at the center of campus on McCarthy Mall, India Café sells a range of curries. Whether students are looking for lamb, seafood, vegetarian, or spicy meals, India Café has a bit of everything available.

“During the regular semester, we offer three to four meat [and] seafood entrees and four to five vegetarian side entrees, totaling in seven to nine different curries,” said Jiva Segaran, chef and a member of the family-run business.

Spices including cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cumin, star anise, and mixes called masalas are brought in from India. These seasonings are paired with recipes passed down through the Segaran family.

“Because our food is so unique and the menu changes every day, we have to do a lot of talking to let customers figure out what they will enjoy the most. It is very personable because our goal is to provide not just great tasting food, but an enjoyable experience that will hopefully share some of our unique culture,” said Ramadan.

Two on-campus vendors, Simply Ono and Golden River Catering, specialize in local food.

Simply Ono has two locations at UH Mānoa: one by Krauss Hall, and one in the Biomedical Sciences building.

“One of our more popular dishes is our Hawaiian plate with homemade kalua pig, lomilomi salmon, laulau, fresh poke, and a starch,” said Harris Sukita, co-owner of Simply Ono.

Local produce is selected from a variety of shops in Chinatown owned by friends of Sukita. Sukita also goes to the United Fishing Agency where he hand-picks island fish.

“It is a lot of work, but we can have the freshest fish, as well as a cost savings that I can pass on to our customers,” said Sukita.

Of the six food vendors around campus, three specialize in curries and ethnic food and two focus on local foods, but only one, Papa Luck’s, serves European-style food and drinks. Papa Lucks, also the only vendor that offers breakfast food, has a selection of freshly baked goods and 16 different breakfast drinks ranging from “OJ on Ice” to Americanos.

“We have a full-on espresso bar, double shots on ice, and fresh-brewed iced tea. … We make an effort to accommodate students who have to be up early and don’t want to eat at one of the Sodexo cafés,” said Gabriel Luck, also known as “Papa Luck.”

Luck said he searched for the right bakery to get his baked goods. Although he hopes to bake his own products at some point, Luck is happy with the shop that he has found. “It’s a local bakery that makes great New York style bagels. I use the bagels that I get from them for my “Build a Bagel Bar,” where students choose what goes inside,” Luck said.

Although Luck only has one vending location, he is working on starting a second. For now, he said he is happy knowing that college students are coming to his café for what he calls “comfort food.”

Luck is not the only vendor who enjoys selling food on campus.

“I love working at UH because of the high-paced flow and the unique opportunity to interact with so many different people,” said Segaran.



Sustainability Courtyard

$0.50 Hallava- $7.50 Full Plate including 2 entrees, brown rice,

salad, desert, and soup.

Strictly Vegetarian, food never includes: Fish, eggs, garlic, onions, MSG, Iodized Salt, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, and any artificial colors or flavors.

Da Spot


Sustainability Courtyard

$1.00 Baklava- $7 Combo meal including 2 entrée, brown rice,

salad, baklava.

Strictly Vegetarian vendor

27 smoothie choices or make your own

Simply Ono


Krauss Hall and Biomedical Sciences Building

$1.25 soda-meal between $5-$7.50

Daily menu change

Each menu includes array of fresh fish, 2 daily specials, pasta,

sandwich, chicken, salad, soup and desert

Papa Luck’s

7 a.m – 2 p.m.

Outside Art Building

$1.00 fruit- $5.95 Quiche and Salad

Gabriel Luck (Papa Luck): “Some people call it Bistro Fair, but I like to think of it as comfort food.”

India Café

10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. (or until out of food)

Varney Circle @ McCarthy Mall

$1.00 soda- $8.25 meal

Some Vegetarian choices

Students get discount if they bring their own plates Daily Menu Change

Golden River Catering

10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Holmes Hall

$0.60 hard-boiled egg-$7.50 Combo Plate including 2 entrée choices, 2 scoops of rice, choice of Mac Salad or Garden Salad

Weekly menu change

Need to know facts:

Vendors in the sustainability courtyard are strictly vegetarian.

Student meal cards cannot be used with vendors.