In Hawaii, Korean barbecue means something different than it does on the mainland. And that difference is price.
My good friend Layla, who we were staying with, grew up in Honolulu and then lived in New York for a number of years. The first time she had Korean barbecue outside of Hawaii was on another island: Manhattan.
She ordered what she always ordered, and when the bill came, she ordered a tranquilizer and a padded van to haul her to the nearest asylum, having gone completely insane at the difference in price. That asylum burned down to the ground, but they say you can still hear Layla's voice calling out over the ashes.... "Why!? Why was the panch'an fifteen dollars?!"
I may have exaggerated about Layla, but despite Honolulu's high cost of living, the city boasts a very low cost of Korean barbecue. The to-go container pictured at top was a massive amount of food, and though it was dominated by a huge hunk of kalbi, most of the weight was comprised of vegetable matter. These veggie sides included spicy, shredded daikon, steamed Chinese (Korean?) broccoli, bean sprouts in sesame oil, and... cuttlefish. Macaroni salad was another option. Each plate cost about eight bucks and felt like it weighed eight pounds.
The beef had that irresistible combination of sugar, soy and charcoal. Most of the sides had a twang of fermentation, and I really can't emphasize enough how much food this was. Four very hungry adults and one kind of hungry 3-year-old could barely polish off three containers. You do the math.
Apparently Korean BBQ is a popular food to pick up en route to the beach. When I was growing up in Florida, we often stopped at KFC (then Kentucky Fried Chicken) on the way to the beach.
That makes me wish that I grew up in Hawaii instead, and not just because of the beach snacks. Well actually, yes, exclusively because of the beach snacks.