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Aiea Eats: Forty Niner Restaurant


Forty Niner’s Juicy Teri Burger, $2.55

As you may have heard, second-to-the-top in the nation (behind Best Buy) electronics big box Circuit City recently announced that, due to insurmountable debt and unsuccessfully finding a new owner, they’re closing their doors for good after being in business for 60 years. Sad. Very sad, and frightening at the same time, reminding us all of the reality of this current economic crisis.

Fortunately Forty Niner Restaurant in Aiea, which ironically is just a few blocks up the street from Oahu’s Circuit City location, continues to thrive to this day after new owner Will Cordes took over the place back in 2006, carrying on the legacy of Richard Chagami and family who, also ironically, owned and operated it for almost 60 years.

While taking over a single-location mom ‘n pop operation doesn’t seem as grand in scale and cost in comparison to reviving a publicly-traded corporate mega-giant national retail chain in the red and ready to flatline, it requires the same attention to detail and focus on remaining true to the original in order to keep both its established customer base and new ones satisfied.

And that focus in restaurant form would be, next to service, ultimately the recipes and preparation methods that go into the signature items on the menu in order to maintain the brand.

One of which at Forty Niner is their Saimin…


Forty Niner Restaurant – Large Saimin $4.85

What better choice to go along with a hot bowl of Saimin than a juicy (as you seen in the first photo) Teri Burger…


Forty Niner Restaurant – Teri Burger, $2.55

In sticking with my storyboard, I’d love to continue telling you what other original Chagami items carry on under the new ownership, but to be honest, the gal working the front was so busy serving the dine-in restaurant on the other side as well as the take-out side I was at, that she barely had time to answer any questions I had besides just taking my order. I also forgot to ask Will over the phone what they were.

After reading a few articles online, I believe it’s safe to say that burgers and saimin are at the top of the list. Other favorites listed on the menu include the Forty Niner Bento (Garlic Chicken, Teribeef, Fish, Kamaboko, SPAM and rice), Fried Saimin, Oxtail Soup and Oriental Chicken Salad. I would have loved to try their Oxtail Soup, but refuse to order something like that for take-out. That’s something you need to eat piping hot right there in the dining room or front counter.

So those first two items shown was Diner A’s grindz. Here’s Diner E’s order…


Forty Niner Restaurant – Teri Beef Sandwich, $3.25

LOL! Reason I’m laughing out loud is that I’m recalling the reaction Diner E had when he first opened the package and seen this. In a slightly bitter, yet more funny way he was kinda’ really upset about this.

See, sometimes when you ask for something, you literally get what you ask for. In this case, notice this is called a “Teri Beef Sandwich”; the operative term here being it’s called a SANDWICH. And when you make a SANDWICH, you use bread, not buns, right?

Well, he got his Teri Beef alright, just not in a hamburger bun like it normally is served (and how he prefers), but in two slices of (plain ole) white BREAD like all sandwiches should be.

I gotta’ tell you, watching him rant on about that was a riot! Imagine taking candy from a kid, then convert that same angry energy into a grown man verbally venting. That’s kinda’ how it was. LOL! A little more on that later.

Also with his order he got a regular hamburger (no teriyaki, no deluxe, just bare bones basic)…


Forty Niner Restaurant – Hamburger, $2.45

Whew, the burger has a bun! lol

Rounding it all out, Diner E also got an order of fries…


Forty Niner Restaurant – French Fries, $2.65

Finally, since Diner E didn’t get this, and I was feeling kinda’ “saimined” and “burgered out”, I decided to take one for the team and ordered the Hamburger Steak plate…


Forty Niner Restaurant – Hamburger Steak Plate, $7.75

According to the menu, this plate is described as having 2 homemade burgers smothered with grilled onions and gravy. Indeed it is, as advertised.

How was it? Ono. While I wouldn’t quite say it’s “Drive from Waianae to Waimanalo to get some” ono, it’s at least “Drive from town to Aiea to get some” ono. The burger patties were well- seared and had a dense, yet tender consistency to it. Here’s a cross-cut so you can see inside…


Forty Niner Hamburger Steak – cross-cut view (click on image for alternative angle)

The abundant onions were also nicely-caramelized, punching out its savory-sweet character, which also helped to punch out the flavor of the acccompanying beef patties. The gravy wasn’t as deep as I’d have liked and also was a little too gelatinous in a “choke da’ cornstarch thickener” kinda’ way, but still acceptably delici0us.

What really surprised me in how good it was is the “Macaroni” Salad; quotes around “Macaroni”, because if you look carefully, you can see it’s not macaroni at all, but Spaghetti noodles. Yet by golly, it was fantastic! Simple, cool and creamy, just like every good Mac’ Sal’ should be. I imagine them using Spaghetti instead of Macaroni is yet another tradition passed on from the Chagami legacy. In Forty Niner’s kitchen some time back in the 1950’s: “But grampa, that’s not Macaroni”. “Ahh, nevah mind, da’ customah not going mind. Tastes da’ same, and besides, dis’ buggah mo cheap at da’ commissary.” “Oh, OK grampa”.

Forty Niner’s Hamburger Steak plate gets 3 SPAM Musubi from me.

Because (as usual) we ordered take-out, Diner A requested his saimin be packed with the broth separate (so the noodles don’t get soggy), like this…

The Saimin and Teriyaki Burger Combo is very popular in Hawaii. Take a bite of the burger, then wash it down with some of that hot saimin broth, while the noodles provide the starch you’d otherwise get from the fries. Das’ a winnah right deah! In fact, this combo is so popular, Zippy’s added it to their regular menu. Forty Niner doesn’t though, so you simply order it ala carte.

Hey, we could eat this Sam Sato’s Dry Mein style! But nah, Diner A combined it with the broth and ate it as it was designed…

Ironically with this being a signature item, Diner A wasn’t very impressed by it, saying it tasted no better than Saimin from McDonald’s. Ack! He gave me a sample cup of the broth to try, which I assumed first without tasting that it was going to be simply dashi and water. But you know what? I couldn’t taste dashi at all. It tasted more like a soup stock made with shellfish. Like say, shrimp shells (and heads) and/or clams. Soemething like that. If there is dashi in it, there’s very little. It wasn’t that “shoyu-ee” either. It almost reminded me of a tamed version of Chinese Abalone Soup. Aside of that non-descript shellfish base, it was fairly mild and subtle. I didn’t get to try the noodles, so can’t give a personal opinion, but that also didn’t “WOW!” Diner A.

Well, I spoke with Will myself over the phone and he said Mr. Chagami still makes the broth himself, so Will doesn’t even know how it’s made (yet, or didn’t wanna’ say), but did confirm there’s shrimp in it. As for the noodles, they get it from a third-party vendor, so that’s also an outsourced critical ingredient.

You know, I really think saimin stands – just like most other old single location, old school mom ‘n pop restaurants – gain their high praises by their loyal patrons mainly due to, at one time in history, they were the only game in town.

Rewind back to 1940 when McDonald’s was first established by brothers Dick and Mac, that was probably the best burgers, fries and shakes in the world!!! if you lived in San Bernardino, California. Yet today, McDonald’s almost has to reinvent itself in order to stay on top of BURGER WARS.

Hey, they should make a movie titled that! A spoof on working and patronizing burger joints. lol In theaters soon… BURGER WARS

Extremely-hyped Hamura’s on Kauai is another perfect example of that. I tried their Saimin once and, at least on that visit, also was rather unimpressed, thinking it tasted not much better or different than store-bought S&S. Seriously. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if that’s really what it’s supposed to taste like, I’m wondering what tourists from the mainland and Japan think when they wait in line for hours just to get a table there end up thinking when they finally taste it. “Is this it?” Either that, or they’ll end up really liking it not only because they’re so hungry by then (after waiting to get in), or because they simply don’t know what to compare it with. But who do you compare them with on Kauai? Try Google “Kauai Saimin” and see what comes up.

Then again, you’re talking to a guy who – as I’ve said before and will say it again – am an authentic Japanese Ramen connoiseur, so I’m prorobably more critical than I should be when it comes to its mixed-breed offspring, the saimin. Not that I think it should taste like ramen, but I expect a REALLY GOOD SAIMIN served in a Hawaii restaurant – especially one that specializes in it – to have the same level of simple-yet complex character and depth that authentic ramen has if you were to get it from the millions of specialty shops scattered all over the land of the rising sun.

In light of that, Diner A chimed in saying he feels Shiro’s tastes better than Forty Niner’s. I can’t say, as I haven’t had a bowl of Shiro’s Saimin for a long time now. Nor have I had a bowl of Saimin from McDonald’s in recent times, God forbid. That said, Diner A gave Forty Niner’s saimin 1 SPAM Musubi, meaning it’s just average. Not great, not terrible, but average.

Diner A, you better watch out now. Forty Niner old timers and regulars will be knocking down your door yelling at you for saying the saimin is “average”. You know they all think it’s the most awesome-mest best-est-est!

Actually what they’ll probably quickly point out is – like everything else there – you have to eat the saimin dining in at their place, where it’s served piping hot in a porcelain bowl. Not in that God-forsaken, flavor-robbing styrofoam take-out tub. He did nuke the broth, though, to make it hot again.

Thankfully Diner A found redemption in his lunch with his Forty Niner favorite, the Teri Burger. Scroll back up to that first photo and tell me that wouldn’t save the day, even if your mom just made you finish your peas? Man, I just wanna’ virtually stick my face through my monitor and take a bite! Just look at that thick ‘n caramelized Teriyaki glaze oozing all over it. **Drools on space bar key** For this, he gives it a solid 4 SPAM Musubi rating, only missing a 5 because it’s not flame-grilled, but griddled. Something I doubt they’ll ever change in order to keep the same cooking methods as well as recipes inherited from the Chagami dynasty.

Finally we go back to a salty Diner E and his stuff…


Forty Niner Teri Beef —–> SANDWICH <—— , Hamburger and French Fries

What redeemed what Diner E perceived as two dreadfully-plain, don’t-quite-cut-it slices of bread, was the fantastic and generous helpings of Teriyaki Beef. He notes the fantastic Teriyaki sauce (which must be the same one on the burger) was well marinaded into the meat, while thin slices of beef were very tender.

So, still sulking, you know what he ended up doing? Giving the bread to the birds and stacking the Teriyaki beef inside his plain burger. For real! Then he was happy. Actually that’s nothing new, as you may recall W&M Burgers in Kaimuki has that on their menu if your order “Hal’s Special”…


W&M Bar-B-Q Burgers (Kaimuki) – Hal’s Special: Teri Cheese Burger & Teri Beef

He shared the fries with us, which were OK. Nothing house-made. Like probably everything else we had, our opinions would likely be much higher had it been piping hot and crispy, eaten right there in the restaurant. By the time I arrived back at the office, the fries had kinda’ cooled down and steamed themselves a bit soggy. Still, was a’aight.

Summing up his entire meal, Diner E gave everything an overall 2 SPAM Musubi rating.

Diner E actually was the one who made that important point that Forty Niner is the kind of place that’s better if you eat there. This is comfort food more than it is take-out and should be served to you that way. Not all wrapped up in paper and styrofoam, but served piping hot on real dishware just like if you were home.

When, not if, I go back again, I plan to dine-in and try Forty Niner’s Oxtail Soup. I also need to return to the Board of Water Supply Cafeteria and try THEIR Oxtail Soup. After trying the one at Asahi Grill, a.k.a. Kapiolani Coffee Shop, I’m a fan of the dish. I also wanna’ try Forty Niner’s Smoked Meat with Eggs Breakfast. I was actually going to order that, but was too late on this visit, as they don’t serve breakfast items after 10:30am. What is this? McDonald’s?! lol

Here’s the front counter on the take-out side of the restaurant…

That doorway to the right of the ice maker leads to the dine-in restaurant side of the estrablishment. On my visit, it looked like the restaurant was at about 75% capacity, so this place certainly has a good clientele established. If that side fills up, you can grab a stool here on the take-out side and enjoy your meal, which several gentlemen were doing during while I was there.

Behold the menu…


Click on image to enlarge

There’s also daily specials written on this dry-erase board to the right…

Dig that super-retro Coca Cola sign.

This is the kind of shirt you need to wear when you’re in the Vegas Casinos…

I wanted to ask Carolyn (the lovely waitress/cashier/do everything except cook worker) to hold it up for the shot, but she was just too busy. They’re $15 each.

Here’s the front…

The take-out counter section is to the left through the screen door where that “We’re Open” sign is, and the dine-in restaurant section is through the brown trim door on the right.

Five parking stalls are available on the right side of the building…

“Marshall” commented on the last (abreviated) write-up I did on Forty Niner that owners Will and Karla have an agreement with neighboring KFC to use their parking lot. I’m not sure if this is still the deal though, so you should call first to confirm before doing that, lest you get towed.

Forty Niner Restaurant
98-110 Honomanu St. (just a few blocks Diamond Head (east) of Pearlridge Shopping Center off Kamehameha highway)
Aiea, HI 96701
484-1940

Big Shaka to: The Teri Burger. The Teri beef inside the SANDWICH. Hamburger Steak. Spaghetti Mac Sal. Well-packaged for takeout. Finding a new owner to carry on a 60 year family legacy. Carrying on the original owners’ recipes, including Spaghetti instead of Macaroni pasta for the Mac’ Sal’ and bread instead of bun for the Teri Beef Sandwich. Smoked Meat and Oxtail Soup on the menu. Quick and friendly service. Local style comfort food at affordable prices. Dine-in accommodations. Busy. Wearing local-style T-shirts in Vegas casinos. Winning a million bucks. Retiring so you can go Ulua fishing all day.

No shaka to: Bread instead of bun for the Teri Beef SANDWICH. Hamburger Steak gravy a bit too gelatinous. Saimin not as great as expected. Steamed-soggy fries. Too much expectation by us from takeout, when we think its probably much, much, much better dining in. Diner E sulking about getting bread instead of bun. Diner A getting on the bad side of Forty Niner Saimin fans. Diner P’s lofty expectations of Saimin to be as great as authentic Japanese Ramen. McDonald’s-like breakfast hours. Circuit City closing and the current state of the economy.

The Tasty Island Rating:


(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

25 thoughts on “Aiea Eats: Forty Niner Restaurant

  • January 17, 2009 at 7:51 pm
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    I’ve only been to Forty Niner once and have wanted to go back since! I loved the “eating-at-your-grandparent’s-house-after-school” feeling I got when I went there which must have been when the previous owners were still working it. I don’t even think they had french fries that time I went, just small bags of chips you could buy like the kind that come in a big pack together. :) While the saimin wasn’t AWESOME, it wasn’t bad either. Like I said, it tasted like something your grandparents would make for you. Kind of simple, but delicious because it’s from the heart.

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  • January 17, 2009 at 8:27 pm
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    I’ve seen that place many times growing up, didn’t realize it was still there.

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  • January 17, 2009 at 10:53 pm
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    I started going here 40+ years ago, it was sooo much better then. nuff said

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  • January 18, 2009 at 5:46 am
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    Growing up on that side, I used to pass this place all the time… always wanted to go, but still never been! Yah the burger prices look good… and the saimin–i bet I would still like it. I like any kind saimin… even McDonald’s saimin. I rather eat McDonald’s saimin than McDonald’s hamburgers at least!

    And yeah… I heard Hamura’s on Kaua’i used to be better, but I still like to go there since it was what we did every time we went to Kaua’i. You gotta go and stand in line and sit at that counter and get saimin and teri beef stick.

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  • January 18, 2009 at 8:31 am
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    Pomai,
    Which place make the best macaroni salad? You try so many but so far which do you perfer? Since there not many place in San Francisco and bay area make teri burger I just make it at home. I get my ramen at Japantown in San Francisco market.

    Yes Crucuit City is also be closing here in Daly City also many business will come with new name and down size learning it better.

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  • January 18, 2009 at 12:53 pm
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    Betty, in recent memory, I’m very fond of the Mac Sal’ from Queen Street Cafe, yet this Spaghetti version of it from Forty Niner gives many a run for the money. Winnah! I also think, as cliche as it may be, Zippy’s Mac Sal is darned decent. It’s not hard making a good mac sal’. The problem is, too many places try to jazz it up, only making it worst.

    RobynT, I’m with you on that. I’ll take a Saimin over McDonald’s hamburger at McDonald’s (ironically) any day! A “McMin™” (do they call it that?) and a large order of fries and I’m good!

    Yoro, wow that’s quite a history. Imagine, they were around right after World War II. It must have been difficult back then as Japanese-Americans to run a business here with all the resentment over the war and stuff. Especially in that area right around Pearl. Plenty of interesting stories must have been told within Forty Niner’s doors back in the day.

    John Book, yeah, when you see it even today, it still kinda’ puts you into a time warp. Especially since they kept the same color and paint scheme. Very “old school”. I love that kinda’ stuff.

    Kasey, I’d say that’s a good way to explain the Saimin. Especially that it comes from the heart. I think with Forty Niner’s Saimin, it’s something you need to have grown up with. If that were the case for me, I wouldn’t want any other Saimin but theirs. The subtle and mild shrimp-based broth is certainly unique, gotta’ say that.

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  • January 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm
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    ho dat teri burger looks ono. i never tried 49er yet cause never have parking. from the looks of your photo, it looks like it could be one of the best teri burgers. i always looking for a good teri burger. i like shiro’s and bob’s bbq for teri burgers. where else you go for ono teri burgers? i going try 49er this week i think. mahalos.

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  • January 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm
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    What I wouldn’t give for just a McDonald’s Hawaiian-style saimin. Perfect for the cold weather we’re getting.

    That teri beef sandwich looks great. I can even smell the white bread! I would’ve swapped the beef and the burger patty, and put some ketchup on the sandwich. Why waste all that good sauce-soaked bread on the birds?

    The hamburger steak looks okay, but the onions are calling to me.

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  • January 20, 2009 at 2:04 pm
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    mmmmmmmmm i haven’t eaten @ this place since i was a kid! and that saimin/hamburger combo looks soooooooooo ONO!

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  • February 1, 2009 at 5:06 pm
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    pomai –

    I’m knocked out at Forty-Niners reasonable prices. It’s like stateside – only you can’t get saimin and you can’t get teriaki burgers here in belton, texas! ;-)

    as i shared with you in a previosu email on your old blog, i had my first cheeseburger at forty niner in 1951 when i was six years old. i remember the place so vivdly and other than new paint and an updated window treatment out front it looks the same to me.

    i got so jazzed up over your reviews that i went to the store and got some marukin teriaki sauce and mixed it with a liberal dose of kikkoman soy sauce and bubbled it down in a sauce pan. then ladled it over sirloin burgers off the grill. served it up on a fresh, soft sesami seed bun with iceberg lettuce. tried another batch with crunchy fresh bean sprouts.

    that was cheaper than a round trip ticket to hono, but it was only a consolation prize. i know it was better there in aieia. the ambiance is 100 percent better on Oahu.

    your photos are great. i’m guessing your using a cannon 40d with a 17-35 mm lens. great color. great resolution. i’m a photo journalist here for a mid-size daily.

    the chagami family — are these the children or grand children that recently sold it to the new owners? or is this the chagami couple that ran it back in the 1950s?

    sure enjoy your restaurant review blog.

    aloha all my kindred spirits on the island. it does my heart good to see your comments on the internet.

    harper

    p.s. can anyone send me a recipe for saimin?

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  • February 5, 2009 at 10:54 am
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    Looks like I’ll be stopping by soon. Prices look great and the food looks tasty, but more so, just like the idea of supporting local places like this.

    Aloha, B

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  • February 12, 2009 at 8:34 pm
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    oooooooooooohhhhhh…

    You just made my stupid hideous stuck-at-work-finishing-a-massive-report if-it-kills-me night!

    :D

    Seriously…just come read over here to see why!

    Mahalo mucho from NYC!

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  • February 12, 2009 at 11:11 pm
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    Hello & mahalo mucho from NYC!

    Your review & photos absolutely made my night (which was otherwise an awful one stuck at work running reports until a rather nasty hour – I was looking at blogs while I waited for each one to finish).

    Why’s this made me so happy? Come see!

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  • June 8, 2009 at 9:44 am
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    My wife and I went to Forty Niner Restaurant last saturday for breakfast:

    Here’s the breakdown.

    Parking lot was full so we parked at KFC (it was early so KFC wasn’t open).

    The Good:

    The decor is nice and homey, gives it a small diner feel.

    The saimin was excellent, the broth was good, the noodles were al dente.

    The Bad:

    There were two waitresses but I think the second one (taller one) was new as she took a while to take our orders and even though she wrote it down, she still got our orders wrong. The order system needs to be improved. She kept coming out with food and asking all the tables whether someone ordered this or that. It’s not difficult to write down the table number when you write down the order.

    The Ugly:

    We ordered the following, small saimin, teri-beef sandwich (not burger), and short stack of banana pancakes.

    The waitress (taller one) brought the saimin first, I was too hungry so ate it. She came by and dropped off a burger, I told her I ordered the teri-beef sandwich but I was too hungry to argue. Couple minutes later she comes back with a teri-burger (apparently the burger was for someone else). Again I told her I ordered teri-beef sandwich but too hungry to argue. My wife gets her shortstack of banana pancakes and the pancakes look a little white, it doesn’t have that dark brown crust. Now, she is too hungry to argue, she eats some and notices that the pancakes are not cooked, there’s still raw batter around the bananas. She doesn’t want to send it back since she’s really hungry and doesn’t want to wait. The food has great potential but the execution and service kills it. We end up driving down to Zippy’s in Pearlridge for some pancakes for my wife.

    My recommendation, stick to the saimin and don’t order the teri-beef sandwich or pancakes. The service might be different at the counter but we sat in the tables next door.

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  • June 8, 2009 at 5:38 pm
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    Gnasape, big mahalo for that most thorough review of your experience at Forty Niner. As mentioned in my review, we ordered take-out, so obviously a completely different dining experience. The undercooked pancakes sounds like a real bummer. You’re too kind to not have argued (requested) to send them back to be cooked properly. I do remember the girl serving me at the take-out counter on the left side was also serving double-duty as the waitress in the dine-in section on the right. Not sure if you had the same server, but she seemed to know what she was doing on my visit. The server you had must have been a greenhorn.

    Kudos to you and your wife for giving them a try though. Hopefully they’ll read reviews like this and make the appropriate improvements in service.

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  • June 9, 2009 at 8:26 am
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    Pomai,

    The hard thing was that we really wanted to like it as I’ve read great reviews about this place and want to support the local economy. I’m just sorry I never got to try this place before it was sold.

    Yes, the server we had seemed really new. At first it was funny when they paraded around the food to each table to ask whether we ordered this or that but I’m not a big fan of people breathing on the food that I’m going to eat.

    The first hamburger they took to another table after it was sitting at our table for a few minutes, (good thing I was still eating the saimin or else I would have ate someone else’s burger.

    The teri hamburger was hamburger with thick teri sauce on top. I guess I’m used to W&M or even May’s teri burger where the sauce is incorporated into the burger. The good thing about a thick teri sauce is that it doesn’t wet the bun immediately like a thin teri sauce does but the thickening agent (flour, corn starch, etc) takes away from the teri flavor. You can achieve a great light teri flavor with shoyu, sugar and water! Sometimes less is more (I still remember this from my Art teacher at President William S. McKinley High School). I never understood it until I applied it to food.

    Pomai, keep up the good work! You are doing a terrific job. I love good food and trying out new places! I like to check out your site to see if the place sounds good but I’ll try a place regardless just to try it.

    We (my wife and I) have also tried Sweet Home Cafe last friday night. The place was good!

    Have you thought about doing a review on Kuru Kuru Sushi down at Pearl Kai? This place has great sushi at great prices. Doing a review on a conveyor belt sushi place is hard but I think Kuru Kuru deserves some recognition.

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  • November 2, 2009 at 11:16 pm
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    Hello, I just want to say thank you for all of the reviews, we appreciate them all, the good and the not so good! we do try to read all review from time to time to see how we are doing and we feel blessed and humbled by the many happy and returning customers and we feel grateful for the the ones that take the time to point out were we went wrong and what we can improve… Thank you! and if you ever find that you would like to give us another try please ask for Wil (owner) we take pride on our food and service, I can assure you that what happened on June 6th is not something that will happen again, I won’t go into detail, but let me say that yes you are right it was a very bad day, owners were on a family vacation and some bad decisions were made that day, we are just very sorry that customers had such a bad experience because of it… we sincerely apologize, and we thank you all for your support!

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  • November 3, 2009 at 10:35 am
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    Oh, just came back on a link on sitemeter. Hi, owner! — I can’t wait to come have some saimin there again — next year, July, IhopeIhopeIhope!

    We’ve got the L&L here in NYC, their plate lunches are good but they have something on their menu that they call “saimin” — only it isn’t.

    It’s a respectable ramen soup. Quite tasty, really. But NOT saimin & such a disappointment when I was SO excited to see it on the menu!

    What IS it about saimin? You can get a hundred different varieties of Asian noodle soups in Manhattan alone. But saimin? No. Not here. Not even at the place that should be able to get it right.

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  • January 26, 2011 at 8:43 pm
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    The Japanese comedy team “Tunnels” visited Hawaii over the holiday period in 2010 and awarded their “Three Star” appraisal based on banana pancakes and French toast. I watched the TV show here in Japan locally and was quite impressed. Now to find an excuse to get back to Hawaii!

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  • February 9, 2011 at 6:57 am
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    I want you all to try the beef cutlet! And, the service was horrible as Gnasape noted. Friend of mine from Kamakura will be here in a few days and he did mention banana pancakes and French toast! I told him that I will NEVER go back to this place and if he insists on going, he can go by himself!

    49er’s used to be a great little restaurant prior to it being sold several years ago. Loved their saimin and hamburger!

    Try the Beef Cutlet…unless they’ve changed the recipe after my complaints, it looked like food from outer space. Never saw beef cutlet like this before!

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  • January 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm
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    Wow, I just finished reading your review of two years ago Pomai. I was in stitches, and enjoy the way you write, I feel like you’re sitting in front of me telling me this story about Diner E, Diner A, etc…..I had to share with hubby. The reason I was even searching Forty Niner is I live in Waianae and understand they are supposedly taking over the restaurant/bar located at the Pilila’au Army Recreation Center very soon. (Aka, restcamp) Although hubby and our family lived and raised our girls in Pearl City for 13 years, I drove by that place daily and sometimes twice a day and always thought, “One of these days, we’re gonna go”, but with our busy schedules, it wasn’t to be. Auwe! Now the kids are grown and we’ve moved to the beautiful westside and with gas prices so high, All my errands are built around time, hours of operations, etc…and I hardly have time to treat myself so far from home. (Kapolei has great eats too) But, i gotta say, after reading great reviews on Yelp, and not so great reviews on this site, idk? I think I’ll have to try them and decide on my own whether its worth it. I like saimin too, and I’m pretty picky about it, but saimin and a tery burger on the side is the bomb, seriously.

    I did like the fact that Will does come on and review the comments and actually took the time out to comment himself. I’m sure he has made the necessary changes and if it is true that they are going to be running the Sunset Cafe here in Waianae, I sure hope its gonna be great! Looking forward to a positive change, since as of 6 months ago, that place was closed. No food, No entertainment, sooooo boring. what a waste of a fantastic location. Will let you know it its true, then maybe you can come and try the menu, I hope its not gonna be the same as Forty Niners, we have plenty restaurants right here that serve up that same style food. We like something different, maybe a little comfort, mixed with some hoytie toytie foods, and great desserts, wonderful pupu’s…omg, i must be hungry…going on an on about nothing….anywhoo, mahalo Pomai, really enjoy reading your stuff. a hui hou! lownslow808

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    • January 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm
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      lowslow808, glad you enjoy the articles here, and certainly appreciate your wonderful, kind words. Mahalo!

      I must note, Diner A has been going to Forty Niner on a regular basis up to this day, and he always raves about them. That first review was for take-out, which really doesn’t do a place like this justice. His son LOVES their Teriyaki cheese burger, and he said the broth for the saimin is much better when eaten in the restaurant, possibly with some refinement after various reviews as well. I wonder of Mr. Chagami still makes it?

      The Waianae coast has SO MUCH POTENTIAL to be a major tourist destination, just like Lahaina and Kaanapali coast is on Maui, which I look at as equivalent, geographically speaking. IMO, the Waianae community should be in support of development there, as that will provide much needed jobs there, as well as beautifying and cleaning up the area, something it also needs badly. It really could be Hawaii’s next “gold coast”. Of course, the native Hawaiian community would need to be fostered as well, including Hawaiian Homes lands. Surely a tall order, but achievable!

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  • December 29, 2013 at 11:21 am
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    Your comments are interesting. I like the place. Mainly I want to say that there’s more parking now; the yard of the house in the back was taken for parking. Also they built an outdoor deck
    in that same direction out back. Eating lunch outdoors in Aiea – actually Aiea-kai/McGrew Point, must be really good even with Kam Hwy right there. Not like when the pineapple trucks, or was it sugar cane, went roaring back and forth and belching smoke. But I kinda miss the small shrine in the back yard where cars now park.

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