Every week day, chef Renee Eder would go to school with her grandma who worked in the cafeteria. When her grandma took her home in the afternoon, Eder would climb onto a stool alongside her to help cook the family meal.
Eder doesn’t need the stool anymore, but she’s still cooking. Her new venture — with her husband of 23 years, Justin — is Island Plate Lunch, which held its grand opening Saturday.
The casual eatery, at the intersection of River and Craycroft roads near Whole Foods, serves up Hawaiian and Pan-Asian specialties, the kind the Eders ate as kids.
Both grew up in Hawaii — Renee in downtown Honolulu and Justin on Kauai — and Renee studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas, going on to work in different restaurants as well as Michel Richard’s Central.
The French-born chef took Renee under his wing, but when the Eders decided to open their own place it wasn’t classical French cuisine they felt drawn to, but that taste of home, the quintessential Hawaiian plate lunch.
The Eders — who relocated to Tucson two years ago to be near their kids studying at the University of Arizona’s medical school — have created a small, casual, well-lit space that serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner. Diners can start off the day with taro pancakes or Spam with eggs and rice.
Many of the products — check out the sweet Maui onion-flavored Hawaiian kettle-style potato chips by the register — are imported from the islands, Renee said.
Of course you’ll find Kalua pork and loco moco on the lunch and dinner menus, but the island plate lunch also offers a poke bowl, which — Renee said — is not to be missed, along with Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, all built around pork belly.
“I love pork belly,” Renee said.
She’s even got a PB and J pork belly banh mi on the menu.
“It’s kind of unusual,” she said, “but I’m not normal.”
One thing you must know if you’re headed to Island Plate Lunch:
Be ready to eat. The portions are mighty.
“We’re from Hawaii,” Justin said, smiling. “We like to eat.”