Old School Restaurants Slowly Disappearing
Times are changing in the Hawaii dining scene
and a lot of it is for the better. Celebrity chefs like Roy Yamaguchi, Sam Choy and Alan Wong have the world's culinary spotlight shining on the new Hawaii cuisine and even modest local eateries have responded with an array of tasty, fusion influenced foods using fresh local ingredients.
However, not all change is good and longtime residents are lamenting some recent trends. Wisteria. Columbia Inn. KC Drive Inn. Forty Niner. Washington Saimin Stand. All old school Honolulu restaurants. All long time local favorites. Comfortable joints with friendly faces, good food and reasonable prices. Nothing trendy of fancy, just somewhere you would stop by at least once a week and have your favorite meal, maybe a drink or two. You would bring your family or stroll in alone and meet up with your 'other' family, the regulars. All closed after the start of the new millennium, no matter how picky you are with your calendar counting. This is by no means an exhaustive list and no doubt you may be quietly bemoaning the loss of your longtime favorite joint (Kaimuki Inn, Hong Sing, Tahitian Lanai……).
The forces behind the closures of these mostly mom-and-pop establishments are varied,
but the reason most often cited is the high cost of labor in a relatively low margin business. Mom and pop are working hard, yet profits being squeezed by higher salaries for employees, if you can hire them in the tight labor market, and the inability to significantly raise prices charged to loyal regulars. The changing tastes of younger potential patrons, who lean towards the previously mentioned new Hawaii cuisine or yummy trans fats laden fast food, also contribute to diminished profits.
Wait, you say, all these places closing down must be replaced with great new places, right? Not really, not always, not yet. A car lot, a 7-11, whatever, these are some of the replacment businesses. Maybe the Waikiki Beach Walk will produce some soon to be old school favorites, only time will tell. In the meantime, enjoy the fine old Hawaii establishments still open like Palace Saimin and Like Like Drive Inn or some of the newer places that I think will become the old school like Big City Diner
and Side Street Inn.
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