SILVERDALE, Wash. — It's a service station that serves more than gas. At a Shell station in Silverdale, you’ll also find Unko’s Kitchen where Mark Labalan and his family cook and serve island fare.
“Fresh food every day. It's served with aloha, decent prices, great food,” said Labalan, who quit his job with the Washington State Ferries to open this eatery just last March.
Unko is Hawaiian pidgin for Uncle. Labalan's the unko in this kitchen.
“Everybody said I was crazy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love it. I get to work with my family every day, and that's what it’s all about,” he said with a smile.
This place's real fuel is ohana – family. Labalan's son Dylan makes the musubi, his brother Carlos helps in the kitchen, and his wife Jessica – "aunty" – makes everything from manapua (buns filled with savory meat; usually pork) to cream puffs.
“I bake; he cooks,” she said with a laugh.
He calls his fare island barbecue: Japanese, Filipino, Hawaiian or a mix.
“Just like in Hawaii, all cultures, everything is a melting pot,” Labalan said.
They make a huge loco moco here: two hamburgers, three fried eggs and rice and gravy for all your carb cravings.
Most popular is the mochiko chicken, crisp fried in rice flour and served on King's Hawaiian rolls with a side of furikake fries.
Producer's pick? The saimin bowl with pork belly, housemade barbeque pork, fish cakes and a six-minute egg. Not easy to eat in a car, but so good you don’t care.
The bit of fuel you can pick up for less than a gallon of unleaded? Any of the musubis.
Folks from the nearby Navy base, like James Pittman, are regulars.
“It's good Hawaiian flavor,” Pittman said.
Next time you travel through Silverdale, fuel up at Unko's Kitchen. You'll leave well-fed and part of the family.
“Give us a chance," Labalan said. "Come try our aloha. See if it's worth it. That's all we ask.”
Unko's Kitchen 1195 NW Tahoe Lane. Silverdale, WA 98383. (360) 308-8031.