Ray’s Corner Store on 8th Avenue used to be the home of Ray’s Corner Store Burgers. While I never ate there, I remember it as a bunch of molded plastic benches and tables where you could sit and eat the hamburgers and hot dogs that the store kept under heat lamps. The place now serves as the second location of Aloha Chicken and Shrimp (the first is in a gas station in Watauga), a similarly no-frills eatery with a Hawaiian theme. If the food probably won’t have the finer restaurants or even the workers at Kona Grill running scared, given its location inside a convenience store, it’s far better than it has any right to be.
Unlike its predecessor, the current establishment has carpeting and wood veneers on the walls, which sport some spurious Hawaiian decor. That’s pretty much it as far as atmosphere goes. There are three tables with four folding chairs apiece at them. You could probably fit six at a table if you wanted to, but would you want to? The convenience store part of the building is easily visible from the restaurant. You could view that as a negative, or you could look at it this way: The restaurant sells no beverages, but you can choose from a huge variety of options at the store. It’s against the law to consume alcohol in the store itself, but what’s stopping you from buying a bottle of Yellow Tail wine or a case of mass-market beer and carrying it into the restaurant? The same goes for dessert, where you can purchase candy, muffins, or cookies for your after-dinner sweet.
All entrees can be ordered separately or as part of a plate, which comes with an egg roll that’s appropriately crispy (because it’s fried to order), white rice, and macaroni salad, which is an odd choice if you aren’t familiar with Hawaiians’ love of carbs covered in mayo. Either way, it was decent stuff as this goes.
My bulgogi beef plate featured tender steak with red peppers and sesame seeds. Korean purists will likely balk at the lack of Asian pear, but I found it acceptable fare. My beef with the beef was the $14.99 price tag for the plate. I reflected that I could probably order more food of comparable quality and at half the price if I went to China Express down the street.
Then again, if you’re concerned about value, order a side of the musubi fried rice, and you’ll have more than one meal’s worth for only $5.99. Even if you’re not a big fan of Spam, the way the kitchen diced the canned meat into small cubes and then browned them on the grill made for a nice protein-filled counterpoint to the rice. I also had a reasonably priced $8.99 bowl that was half garlic shrimp, which came out properly done and not rubbery or overcooked, and chicken katsu, which came with an applesauce-based dipping sauce. The katsu wore its crispy breading well, and it was comparable to what you would find at a proper Japanese restaurant.
Still, the next time I go back, I’m ordering the coconut shrimp. I’m all about the comforting richness and crunch of coconut against the sweet tender meat, and the kitchen fried this up beautifully, with curlicues of the golden-brown coco on the surface. I had it as an appetizer, but it can be part of a full dinner or a combo as well. If you crave fried shrimp on occasion, you’d do well to consider Aloha Chicken and Shrimp instead of a fried chicken place or other fast-food outlet. This convenience store will satisfy you better.