Born in Egypt, Paul Wahba came to America as a child and became a late-blooming admirer of the Hawaiian plate lunch. He discovered Hawaiian food by chance when he bought the Los Angeles restaurant Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe with plans to turn it into a pizza shop. But once he tried the beloved island staples, his love of Hawaiian food grew so strong that he stuck with the concept. Over the years, Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe has attracted a circle of fiercely loyal admirers. “We’ve been around for such a long time. We’ve had locals who’ve been with us since they were children and now they have children,” Paul Wahba says.
His menu specializes in plate lunch classics like golden-fried chicken katsu and teriyaki-glazed barbecue chicken. The food is so good that Paul Wahba now has a restaurant and a separate catering operation that he opened to keep up with demand. Whether you dine in at his restaurant or order catering, you might just find Paul Wahba flashing the Hawaiian thumb-and-pinkie “shaka” greeting. This is the story behind Paul Wahba’s Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe.