Mai Island Grill

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705 S. Forest Avenue, Tempe

Nobody has ever accused college students of having discerning palates, but over at ASU, they seem to be on to something. And that something is tiny Mai Island Grill, a quick-serve operation specializing in Hawaiian specialties. Decorated with Hawaiian travel posters and pix of ASU athletic teams, the place isn't much bigger than a dorm room, so it's not always easy to find a table right away. Give it five minutes. Turnover is speedy, and sooner or later, you'll find a two-top inside or a table out on the sidewalk. Hawaiian food is a yummy amalgamation of dishes such as lumpia and adobo from the Philippines, beef kalbi from Korea and pork katsu from Japan. Hawaii employs all these dishes to make its famous mixed plate lunch, which consists of an entree with steamed white rice and a mound of sweet macaroni salad. Grilled marinated chicken strips are among the best of the lot, fork tender and full of smoky flavor. You'll probably want a double order of Kalbi -- beef short ribs, cut in thin slices across the bone. Marinated in soy, garlic and sugar and quickly grilled, they're first rate. Pork katsu (panko-breaded and fried pork tenderloin) is another winner, as is the teriyaki burger, which drips with mayonnaise. Of course, if you're Hawaii-savvy, you'll order the musubi (a giant nigiri of rice, spam and seaweed) or the Moco Loco, a hamburger patty over rice with fried egg and beef gravy. Skip the usual soft drinks and try something lusciously fruity from Hawaiian Sun. Lunch M-F. $