History | Highway Inn

Over 75 Years of Serving ‘Ono Hawaiian Food

Three Generations of Tradition.

First established in Waipahu on Farrington Highway, where the business takes its name, our original location has been through three moves, expanded to three locations and is now helmed by the third generation of Toguchis.

Our story begins with our grandfather, Seiichi Toguchi (1914–1994). He was born in Hawai‘i, but was raised in Ginoza-son, Okinawa. He returned to Hawai‘i in 1928, and at the age of 14, he began working as a dishwasher at the old City Café, where he met our grandmother, Nancy Toguchi (1914–1975). Fueled by a strong desire to improve his life, our grandfather learned how to cook Hawaiian food and was quickly promoted to cook’s apprentice.

After the outbreak of World War II in 1941, Seiichi, Nancy, and their three children were taken from their home and interned in Jerome, Arkansas, and  at Tule Lake, California. Working in the mess halls of the War Relocation Authority incarceration camps, our grandfather mastered his culinary skills and began to perfect his American recipes. At the end of 1946, the Toguchi family returned to Hawai‘i and our grandfather worked hard to regain some financial stability. Despite several failed attempts to earn an income to support his growing family, he eventually settled on an idea that stemmed from a very simple and practical view: put food on the table to feed his seven children.

In September 1947, our grandparents opened the original Highway Inn on Farrington Highway. Soon after, they had a line of people standing outside of their modest store, waiting to eat lau lau and beef stew. In 1960, we moved to the heart of Waipahu on Depot Road, just below the old Waipahu Sugar Mill. Our Depot Road location continued to attract the appetites of west side families, and then under the ownership of our father, Bobby, the restaurant moved to Leoku Street in 1984. In 2000, Bobby added a poke counter and a catering operation so customers could enjoy the taste of Highway Inn at baby lū‘aus, graduation parties, and corporate functions.

In 2013, we opened our second location in Kaka‘ako, an area of downtown Honolulu which for decades was home to salt ponds and agriculture and is now a vibrant urban neighborhood. And in 2015, we began operating the Café at Bishop Museum.

On December 23, 2019, we closed our doors at Leoku and reopened one week later in a bigger location on Moloalo Street off Farrington Highway, not far from our original roots.

In 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we began our packaging some of our customer favorites and offering frozen food shipping inter-island and to the continental United States, as well as on O‘ahu.

From our humble beginnings in Waipahu with only Seiichi, Nancy, and a hired dishwasher to run the small restaurant, Highway Inn now employs 110 people over its three locations at SALT at Kaka‘ako, the Bishop Museum Café and Waipahu. Highway Inn is a two-time U.S. Small Business Administration Honolulu County “Family Business of the Year” winner, and Seiichi and Nancy Toguchi are inductees in the Hawai‘i Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame. In May 2019, in recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the restaurant was selected from more than 7,000 minority-owned businesses across to the country to be featured in a Google Small Business video as part of the platform’s #MoreThanABusiness series, celebrating the impact of small businesses around the globe. Under the leadership of third-generation owner Monica Toguchi Ryan, Highway Inn was named the 2023 Hawai‘i State Women-Owned Business of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

We are proud to carry on our grandparents’ tradition of serving “A Taste of Old Hawai‘i.” We look forward to your next visit. E komo mai.

— The Toguchi ‘Ohana

Seiichi Toguchi outside of our first restaurant on Farrington Highway.

Seiichi Toguchi & Nancy Toguchi being honored by Kuakini Hospital.

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