The New Breakfast Club
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At Million Restaurant, customers are welcomed as if they are coming home to enjoy a freshly prepared meal with family. The eatery is adept at treating its guests like kin because, as it turns out, the restaurant is run by extended family.
While Million has been serving up popular Korean dishes along with its yakiniku menu since its inception in 1989, the restaurant recently expanded its kitchen area and, as of June 7, now features a new breakfast menu chock full of classic items infused with Korean tastes and accents. The breakfast operation is led by the husband-and-wife team of Paula and Erik Gray, while Paula’s mother, Diana Park (one of the original family members who got Million up and running), lends her assistance and knowledge of the business to the next generation of restaurateurs.
“We want all our customers to leave with a smile on their face,” says Erik Gray, who runs the back of the house while Paula manages the operation on the floor. “I was a traveling musician for 15 years in New York and often cooked at night. I thought I’d try (some of what I learned) here. It’s a working man’s breakfast food; affordable, but still classy.”
While Paula and Erik both currently study psychology at the University of Hawaii, they’ve taken on the vast challenge of launching the new menu from scratch. Dining Out stopped by Million soon after its breakfast items hit the plate to see what’s cooking.
DO: What was behind the decision to offer breakfast items at Million?
Paula: My uncle, Chang Hyun Park, had the restaurant since it opened, and after renovating the kitchen, he offered the breakfast side to my husband and I — and we took it.
Erik: I didn’t want to cook anymore after coming to Hawaii, but this opportunity was presented to us. We want to develop a following, and it’s been getting busier every day.
DO: Which dishes have proven most popular among guests?
Paula: The Korean Chadol Begi Omelet ($7.50) is very popular. It’s a three-egg omelet with Korean beef brisket, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers and American cheese. Lots of customers have ordered it, as well as the Million Breakfast Special ($2.99), which includes one scoop of fried rice, one egg prepared just how you like it and two slices of bacon.
Erik: Breakfast hoagies were really big in New York, so I thought I’d try them here. The Korean Chadol Begi Hoagie ($7) contains the same ingredients as the omelet only it’s served as a sandwich in a warm hoagie bun.
DO: What keeps Million’s loyal customers coming back for more?
Paula: We already have regulars that really like the food, and we hope more come to enjoy it. Million Restaurant itself has a lot of regulars, so we’re trying to build on that. A lot of people think we’re just a Korean restaurant. But the breakfast menu is very diverse, and gets better every day. We try to give big portions at reasonable prices. We also offer a 20 percent discount for seniors.
DO: How important is the concept of family when it comes to running the restaurant?
Paula: It’s all about family. Even though the breakfast operation is separate from the Korean side, we always get together with my uncle and have meetings to stay on the same page. My husband and I planned everything, but my mother is always there to help us.
Erik: Our family is right here at work — my wife and my mom.
DO: Is it difficult to work together as husband and wife in such a demanding and stressful job?
Paula: Right before we opened, things got very stressful. There were some arguments, but once we opened, the pressure was relieved quite a bit. He controls the back while I run the front, so we’re able to stay out of each other’s way.
DO: While the operation is still in its infancy, do you foresee the menu expanding in the future?
Paula: Right now, we only have three people to run the operation, but as we grow, we’re going to add specials and eventually expand the menu. We already have some ideas, but we’re sticking to the basics for now.
- 626 Sheridan Street
- Honolulu, HI 96814
- (808) 596-0799
- Breakfast served
- Tuesday – Sunday (Closed Mondays)
- 6 a.m. – 11 a.m.
- Restaurant open daily
- 11 a.m. – Midnight
- Closes 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays
- Free parking behind the restaurant with metered stalls in front. Seniors receive a 20 percent discount on breakfast items.