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On the Menu

‘Cooke’ Up Great Grinds

By Kyle Galdeira Photos By Nathalie Walker
August 18, 2013

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For more than 11 years, Cooke Street Diner has provided throngs of Kakaako customers with local comfort food that turns first-time diners into “gotta-have-it” regulars.

Owner Ken Akazawa brings more than 25 years of culinary experience to the table, and has operated out of the current hole-inthe-wall locale at 605 Cooke St. for 11 years. For diners who have yet to enjoy the Cooke Street Diner experience, simply look for the brightly colored mural adorning the eatery’s exterior facade. The restaurateur explains that the majority of business stems from customers who work in the area and stop in for breakfast or lunch — there are so many longtime regulars from all walks of life who frequent the restaurant that a resulting warm, inviting family atmosphere makes the dining experience memorable.

“A lot of people don’t know about us,” says Akazawa. “They will pass by for a while before deciding to try it out. But they usually come back right away.”

Korean Chicken ($8.75 regular, $6.50 for a mini plate) serves as Cooke Street Diner’s flagship offering, and the plentiful plate lunch also includes white or brown (add 50 cents) rice, macaroni or tossed salad. Akazawa explains that the savory sauce sets his chicken apart, and includes green onion and garlic in addition to a few other key ingredients.

“Our Korean Chicken is boneless and crispy, and the sauce is different than other restaurants,” Akazawa says. “There’s more depth to our sauce, and I can alter the recipe to make it a little saltier or spicy depending on customers’ tastes.”

Diners also rave about Broiled Miso Salmon ($11.75) and CSD Loco Moco ($8.95 regular, $6.50 mini), which includes two hamburger patties and two extra-large eggs topped with onions and a savory gravy. As is the case with other menu items, the dish’s gravy is made fresh and encompasses the hamburger, eggs and rice.

“We make our own sauces. Our gravies are made individually depending on the dish and incorporate the stock from dishes we prepare,” Akazawa says. “We feature butter gravy, which is always a good seller. It’s lemony, buttery — simple flavors.”

Daily specials are also available, and include “old school” favorites such as Baked Spaghetti, Baked Garlic Chicken, Hamburger Curry, Roast Turkey with Stuffing and Hawaiian Plate (prices vary). Breakfast is also served from 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 6:30 a.m. Saturdays, and includes favorites such as “Bigg Omelet” ($6.95), which features three extra-large eggs, two scoops of rice or toast and a choice of two fillings: bacon, Spam, ham, Vienna sausage, Portuguese sausage, red onion, green onion, mushrooms or tomatoes.

“We’re going to be changing some of the specials up a bit and upgrading, so stay tuned,” Akazawa says. “We don’t want to mess it up, though, because people like to see the specials regularly.”

Cooke Street Diner is also well-versed when it comes to providing quality catering options, and features flexible menus that are designed to match any event, from a casual tailgate party to formal business function. Those interested are encouraged to email CS-Diner.hi@gmail.com, or call 295-2288 to work with Akazawa on crafting the ideal menu for any function.

“Pans of Korean Chicken are always the best-seller — when you go to a party, this platter is the first thing to run out,” Akazawa says.

The restaurant also features a lunch wagon that offers additional specials. The wagon usually is based on Makaloa Street, next to the HMSA Building, and Akazawa also has another vehicle that he may put into service in the future.

As a special scoop for Dining Out readers, Cooke Street Diner is offering a special Hot Deals Hawaii promotion that is available through Tuesday, Aug. 20. Customers may purchase $20 in certificates for just $10, which are valid for six months. Simply log on to HotDealsHawaii.com and take advantage of the unbeatable offer.

Cooke Street Diner

605 Cooke St., Honolulu
597-8080
Monday-Friday, 5:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday