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Exotic Tastes

Look no further for that island flavor--the food's right here.

Mention L&Laround lunchtime, and you just might create tidal waves of hunger in Hawaii. Serving delicious and affordable plate lunches with rice, macaroni salad and various entrees, L&L combines Asian and American starches and is a favorite among the locals. And now, L&L's reputation has spread far and wide.

Tito Leon, 44, first heard about the fast-food restaurant from a friend and went for a taste during a visit to Hawaii. That initial experience was so positive, he decided to help expand the franchise to the mainland, opening one in Daly City, California, in 2003 and another in Hayward, California, in 2004. "It was unique. The menu [reflected] a blend of cultures. And it was really good," says Leon.

Both of Leon's locations quickly drew loyal groups of customers who had first sampled the food in Hawaii--some traveled from as far as four hours away to appease their taste buds. Meanwhile, menu items ranging from curries to barbequed meat to hamburgers are mainstream enough not to scare away first-timers.

Leon has since sold his first store, concentrating all his energy on his Hayward store, for which he projects $700,000 in 2005 sales. One day, he might fulfill his young daughter's wish and move to Hawaii, but for now, the opportunities are on the mainland.

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This article was originally published in the June 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Exotic Tastes.

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