It’s always heartbreaking to hear about an old, old school, very beloved Hawaii restaurant closing their doors. Yet seemingly it’s inevitable. No exception is the announcement that Ono Hawaiian Foods (also spelled in singular form) — exactly as advertised — will close shop at their iconic Kapahulu Avenue hole-in-the-wall restaurant this coming August, after having been in business since 1960. That would be a milestone 57 years in business.
I asked one of their younger staff upon my visit this past week exactly why they’re closing, and he said, “the lease is up, and everyone’s getting old, pau already”. I then asked, “Doesn’t anyone in the family want to continue it?” He somewhat dreadfully replied, “Nope.”
K’ den! Be laddat’! Whatevahz! **bummed out face**
That said, Diner K and myself decided to hit up “Ono’s” for lunch the other day to catch up on their “Supah Kanaka out ‘kine grindz”, and it did not disappoint! Total Whinnahz! Check it out…
While “Ono’s” always packed a line, now more than ever since the word is out that they’ll be closing in August, chances are lines will be extra long to get into this tiny restaurant space. If you decide to try and get in, simply stand in line to the right of the door. They don’t take reservations, nor do you need to go in and register before waiting in line. Simply stand in line, wait and be polite. As the sign says, “No get mad”. Aloha spirit applies!
Kalua Pig: 5 SPAM Musubi; “just like da’ Imu” smokey accent, supah moist and salted perfectly by default, no need add “Samoa”. I would give it an even higher SPAM Musubi rating if it had more skin fat in it, but how it was, was “perps”!
Laulau: 7 SPAM Musubi; OFF THE CHARTS AWESOME LAULAU! WOW LAULAU! Laddat! The Luau (taro) leaves were seasoned and steamed to perfection, while the pork and big chunk of pork fat within were super infused with the essence of the encased luau leaves’ flavor. Only nevah stay get was Butterfish, however that melty-ooey-goodness of pork belly fat more than made up for it. This was by far the best Laulau I’ve had in recent memory. And da’ buggah was HUGE! We’re talking Softball size!
“Come we go to Ono’s for one hell of a kaukau. It’s a full-on luau. Bettah ‘den poi, bettah pig. Ono’s Laulau’s frick’n BIG!” Seriously dude, this Laulau is MASSIVE! We’re talkin’ ’bout the size of a softball!
Now THIS is how I like my Pipikaua: where it’s like cured meat, not pan-fried, like how Helena’s and Highway Inn does it. Think soft beef jerky without any extra flavorings, and that’s pretty much what Ono’s Pipikaula tastes like. Whack ’em wit’ da’ poi and she go! 5 SPAM Musubi! Oh, their Haupia was solid too. Perfect sweetened gelatinous coconut-flavored ending to a massive “Kanak Attack” Hawaiian ‘kine grindz lunch!
Diner K is Filipino, Russian (shhhh, dont’ tell James Comey lol) and Hawaiian, yet her Filipino side always comes out at the dinner table, as she ALWAYS has to have rice her meal, including with Hawaiian Food. That’s so wrong! Rice with Hawaiian food? No can! Gotta’ stay get poi! No ack!
Supah “tick” “1-fingah” 3-day old “sowah poi”. Upgraded to large for just 50 cents more. I had a hard time finishing this whole bowl by myself. That’s a GREAT THING! Whack da’ poi with everthing above? Mean, cuz, mean!
Poi POLISHED. Everything on the table was polished!
Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816
Tel. (808) 737-2275
Open 11am to 8pm daily (closing doors in August 2017, so hurry!)
The Tasty Island rating:
(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits. (Broke Da’ Mout’ winnahz!)
• Ono Hawaiian Foods – Yelp user reviews
Breaking news about the upcoming closing of Ono Hawaiian Food from HawaiiNewsNow.com:
KAPAHULU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) –
For nearly 60 years, if you were talking about one of the most popular places on Oahu to get Hawaiian food, you didn’t have to look any further than the Ono Hawaiian Food restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue.
In a manner of weeks, that conversation will cease to be held. After more than a half-century, the company’s owners say it’s time to retire – and shut down the popular restaurant.
“This is kalua pig, roasted pulled pork. In the chili, in the poi… This is pork with taro top steam.”
It’s a speech Cynthia Oh Young has given thousands of times, recited each time she brought her popular menu items to a table of first timers. The restaurant opened in August of 1960, but will close this August after 57 years in business.
“A majority of us work long time, I’d say about 30, 40, even 50 years, so I guess it’s time to retire,” Oh Young said. “It comes to a time when we have to let go.”
Cynthia and her camera-shy husband Clayton now run the family business, which was started by her mother-in-law, Sueko Oh Young, back in 1960. Because of it’s location, it’s not just popular with Hawaii residents, but also diners from far and wide.
“We very fortunate,” Oh Young says. “We have a lot of customers and clientele from all over the world. From Russia, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, we so very lucky.”
Jane Woolridge and her entire family ate at the restaurant several days ago for the very first time.
“It’s is a very special place,” Woolridge said. “It’s family oriented.”
Woolridge said she especially appreciated how each dish was explained to her, saying that it was “very kind to tell us all about the menu and the tastes we would experience, so we could choose from a menu we didn’t know anything about.”
Inside the small, cramped shop, above the red booths and nondescript tables and chairs, hundreds of photos of smiling diners cover nearly every inch of the walls. Kaleo Pascua, his wife and his daughter were among those who recently stopped by for lunch.
“I had the fried ahi with watercress,” he said. “I going miss my salt meat – ho, my salt meat luau, that’s my favorite. If you like taste the best Hawaiian food on the island, its right here, you know what I mean.”
The prices have had to change over the years, but the menu has pretty much stayed the same – all family recipes.
“To me, it’s the way aunty and uncle serve us li dat,” Pascua said.
Cynthia says the closing date in August hasn’t been decided yet, so there’s still time for one last meal. And as for retiring?
“We all looking forward, and I’m so sorry folks, but that’s the way it has to be,” she says. “I’m so sorry.”
More key dishes from Ono Hawaiian Foods, sourced from the great folks at Yelp:
Beef Stew and Rice
“No worry, Beef Curry”, only available on Tuesdays
Chicken Long Rice
Salt Meat Watercress Soup