The late Seiju Ifuku, founder of Rainbow Drive-In was born 1915. He was raised in Okinawa and moved to Hawaii where he joined the army where he learned to cook while serving with the famous 100th Battalion during WWII. He participated in campaigns in Italy and France. After the war, he worked at the famous Kapiolani Drive-In, now, the Wailana Coffee Shop. After leaving Kapiolani Drive-In, he and his wife, the late Ayako Ifuku, opened a smaller version of the restaurant called Kalakaua Drive-In, currently the site of Cheeseburgers in Paradise, at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue.
In 1961, in the midst of major economic changes in Hawaii, they took a chance and opened Rainbow Drive-In in Kapahulu, a small, local community at the entrance to Waikiki. They opened serving 50-cent chili and rice plates, $1 BBQ beef plates, 25-cent hamburgers and 14-cent fries. The menu and food were geared towards the working person and the Waikiki beach crowd. With that, they not only served hearty portions of food at a reasonable price, but they also insisted on quick, attentive service because they knew the working person only had a limited lunch period. The Ifuku’s kept their prices low and counted on the volume of sales to keep their venture going.
Seiju and Ayako’s philosophy was to serve plates with generous portions of hearty, simple food with two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad at a reasonable price. This continues to be the restaurant philosophy today.
Rainbow Drive-In was fortunate to be featured on shows such as The Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, CBS’ Hawaii 5-0 and more recently, on Netflix’s Terrace House and CBS’ Magnum PI. They have also received accolades such as the Star Advertiser’s Best Diner and Honolulu Magazine’s Best of the Best Loco Moco and Cheap Eats.
After receiving national and international recognition, they saw an increase in both local and visiting diners and during their 56th year in business, they opened their second Rainbow Drive-In location in Kalihi. Rainbow Drive-In continues to expand, with their recent openings in Pearlridge Centers and in Ewa Beach.
The original Rainbow Drive-In is still a family owned and operated business, now with not one, but four locations. Every day, locals and visitors from around the world dine at the restaurant for big, hearty meals… the classic, Hawaii-style plate lunch.