Bringing a taste of Hawai‘i to the Bay Area

A man and woman each hold a shave ice while inside their shop.

Diamond Head General Store Co-owners and Chefs Chad and Monica Kaneshiro hold their shave ice. photo by Greg Viloria

The “Nichi Bei Café” visits the Diamond Head General Store in San Bruno, Calif. to speak to co-owners Chad and Monica Kaneshiro for this video segment.

Diamond Head General Store, a mostly take-out restaurant with limited seating carrying Hawaiian plate lunches and Asian groceries and snacks, sits nestled in San Bruno, Calif. near the city’s park. Chefs Chad Kaneshiro and his wife, Monica, operate the market and restaurant, creating Hawaiian-inspired dishes.

The market and restaurant opened in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic hit everybody hard obviously, but we were lucky in the sense that we had a lot of experience in different types of operations, whether it’s fine dining or … quick service restaurants, so we were able to pivot right away from a sit-down restaurant to a to-go restaurant,” Chad Kaneshiro, who co-owns the business with Monica, told the Nichi Bei News in an interview.

Chad Kaneshiro said growing up in Hawai‘i exposed him to different cuisines, including Asian, European and Spanish. He added that the food and culture in Hawai‘i “kind of shaped me as a cook.” He trained at French, Italian and Japanese restaurants in Hawai‘i and Michigan, where he attended university.

Butter mochi. photo by Kenji G. Taguma/Nichi Bei News

He worked as an executive and corporate chef for seven years for the Straits Restaurant Group, and also participated in an international cooking competition in Taiwan with other Bay Area members of the Asian Chefs Association. He previously worked as a chef at Google and had stints at Tender Greens and True Food Kitchen.

Monica Kaneshiro, who was born and raised in San Francisco, worked at her parents’ businesses until she decided to go to culinary school. Her parents bought the current Diamond Head General Store location in the early 1990s, which used to be her family’s tofu restaurant. She added that she “literally grew up in this location.”

She worked at many restaurants around San Francisco until she got a job at True Food Kitchen in Palo Alto, Calif. as a line cook, where she met Chad and quickly became his sous chef in 2016. In October 2017, her mother asked her if she wanted to take over the tofu restaurant space and the couple quit their previous jobs before opening the preceding Morning Wood restaurant just prior to Christmas.

Chad Kaneshiro said the pandemic “spawned the idea” of the store because most of the meals they created could be converted into take-out dishes. The Kaneshiros said it can take anywhere from one day to up to six months to generate the idea for a dish. Chad Kaneshiro said he “finalize(s) a dish idea” while his wife “scale(s) it out for mass production.”

Their most popular dishes include their loco moco and mochiko fried chicken. He said their loco moco — which consists of white rice and a fried egg on a meatloaf-style hamburger and brown gravy infused with dashi — is “pretty damn good.” The chicken is “softer and chewier as opposed to a fried chicken” and is a “weird combination of Southern fried chicken and mochiko chicken,” he said. The mochiko fried chicken was previously on the menu for their San Mateo-based sit-down restaurant, Morning Wood, so they had to incorporate it into their menu.

Mochiko chicken and meatloaf loco moco. photo by Kenji G. Taguma/Nichi Bei News

Chad said his favorite dish is the musubi and Monica said her’s is the loco moco. He said they bring in a “proprietary mix” and fresh ground beef for the dish.

The store also sells an assortment of musubi, crab inari, California rolls and snacks. They personally make some of the snacks. They also serve shave ice with a variety of flavors.

The butter mochi and the guava chiffon cake that Monica makes sell out earlier in the day. However, she only bakes the cake when “she feels like it,” Chad stated.

The Kaneshiros are thinking of creating a Hawaiian-style chili. And Monica said people are “always looking for our ‘almost famous fried chicken,’” a salt-and-vinegar chicken. The couple said it is based on the salt-and-vinegar wings people eat in Hawai‘i. It takes them two to three days to make.
Diamond Head is known to post specials on its Instagram page (@diamondheadgeneralstore), bringing a taste of Hawai‘i to the Bay Area.

Ryan Yamamoto contributed to the article.

Diamond Head General Store is located at 260 El Camino Real, San Bruno, Calif. 94066. (650) 636-4007. The store is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

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