LEILANI'S CAFE - Pacific Beach

Like every random conversation that happens between my roommates and I, it isn’t even a little weird when out of nowhere Jigger (Twitter: @SDJigger) says, “Ummmmm... Spam.” Silence. Our collective attention turns to that last amazingly delicious word: Spam. “I need Spam,” he says. I’m not sure, but I think I see a hint of drool in the corner of his mouth. “Spaaaam,” he repeats. Yeah, he’s drooling. I didn’t think that I was hungry at first, but mysteriously, as if the word Spam is the magical incantation for causing hunger, my stomach growls. “Spam...Musuu...Let’s GET SPAM MUSUBi AND PLATE LUNCH!” he says in a ridiculously girlish squeal that is just slightly quieter than a shout.  Five spastic minutes later and we’re in the car with Benjamin (Twitter: @sd_benjamin). We’ve managed to frantically packed two zipper-popping backpacks full of beach supplies, changed into board shorts all while locking up the house in, literally, one fluid motion; talent. Now, we’re heading to Spam and a plate lunch spot that we’ve heard great things about, but haven’t tried yet; Leilani’s Cafe.

If you know Pacific Beach then you’re aware of how difficult it is to find parking on the weekend. However, the plate lunch gods must be smiling down on us. A parking spot opens up right across the street from the cafe after circling the block only once. Sprinting across Cass Street like a line of chickens, we dodge a minivan and a guy on a moped carrying a surfboard before landing on the curb in front of the cafe. 

Seeing Leilani’s Cafe for the first time, I notice how Hawaiianly beachy it looks. Like many of the restaurants in this part of PB, it appears to have been an old house turned into a cafe. Running the entire length of the cafe front is huge raised wooden patio paralleling the street. The facade is covered in aged wooden shingles of deliberately randoms sizes and patterns which gives the cafe a “no worries” feel.


The three of us crowd in front of the cash register as we read the hand written menu. They have everything you would except from a Hawaiian Plate Lunch cafe: Teriyaki Chicken plate, Loco Moco, Hilo Style Loco Moco, Musubi and more. 

The girl behind the register stares at us wide-eyed. I know what she’s thinking: these boys are hungry. “What can I get you guys?” she says. @SDJigger, hungry as a wolf, steps forward slightly “Sam Spam,” he says which is an order of Spam, eggs and rice. It sounds so good, but I’m sticking to my original choice. She confirms his order before turning to me. Smiling I say, “One order Spam Musubi.” In that moment, the rest of my day plans itself which goes a little something like this - Buy delicious Spam Musubi. Walk three blocks to the beach where life is good. Eat delicious Spam Musubi on beach where life is good. The sun will grow brighter and the sky will become bluer. Angels will sing and the air will be filled with babies laughing. Puppies will become even fluffier, and one more insanely cute cat Meme will be born into existence on the internet. Then, after I’m stuffed on Spam Musubi, I will pass out on my beach towel like a sunbathing walrus. Life will be good!


“Spam Musubi,” she repeats in an annoyed voice before turning to Benjamin who is the last to order.

“Hawaiian Style Teriyaki Chicken,” he says excitedly.

“We’re out of Mac salad” she responds flatly.

@sd_benjamin looks bummed. Mac salad is a big part of plate lunch; the part I could tell he was really looking forward to the most. 

“You have to come earlier,” she adds in an annoyed voice. 

@sd_benjamin gives us a quick glance. We know what he’s thinking; it’s barely noon and they’re out of a plate lunch staple. He tries to play it off, making a quick joke about how much he likes mac salad.

“You have to come early,” she says again in an unfriendly matter-of-fact voice.


He asks if they can add more rice in place of mac salad. She gives him a “sure” and finishes ringing up the order. After paying, she tells us to sit on the patio and someone will bring out the food when its ready in about five minutes. 

We pick a table at the bottom of a short flight of wooden steps leading away from where we had just ordered. The cafe is relatively empty and quiet since most people must have already headed to the beach. My stomach growls as I think about eating the shortly arriving Spam Musubi.


 Ten minutes later, a guy from the back brings out our three orders in plastic bags, then thanks us for coming by. For a quick second, we contemplate eating at the table, but decide instead to stick with the original plan of eating on the beach.

A quick walk and short climb down the hill and we were on the crowded PB Beach. Our towels are spread out, sunblock is on, and we are ready to eat. Grabbing our respective styrofoam togo boxes, we open them on the towels in front of us. I open my small box, revealing an order of deliciously looking Spam Musubi. Next to me, Jigger opens his meal sized box. Steam escapes from order of two over-medium eggs, two pieces of Spam and rice. Benjamin opens his box. Looking up from his box and toward us, he shows us the contents. There is teriyaki chicken, rice, and where the extra rice should have been which was substituted for mac salad there is only an empty space. Bummer. 

We came here on a high recommendation from a local food blogger, @sandiegofoodnet. We’ve decided that we need to give Leilani’s one more try being we make a final decision, because the Spam Musubi and Sam Spam were delicious




@Danofrnandez (Twitter) 

Guest Blogger


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