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A food culture of its own

Columns Lite Bites

May 18, 2014

Story By: Yu Shing Ting |

People’s Cafe on Pali Highway (near Longs Drugs and Safeway) has always been known for its simple, tasty Hawaiian food. But when co-owner Tomas Ventura took over the restaurant in 2004, the restaurant also became popular for its Filipino fare, which he’s added to the menu along with other local favorites and a breakfast menu.

Of course, the No. 1 seller is still the delicious Hawaiian Plate ($12.50) featuring homemade pork lau lau, kalua pig, chicken long rice, lomi salmon, poi or rice and a slice of haupia.

Current specials include Fried Akule ($8.50) served with a choice of poi or rice; and BBQ Ribs with Salmon and Shrimp ($12.50) served with lomi salmon and a choice of rice or poi. The ribs are marinated in a homemade barbecue sauce and steamed to ensure tenderness of the meat before it’s placed on the grill.

Ventura, who co-owns the restaurant with Conrad Valdriz, moved to Hawaii from the Philippines in 1992 and immediately started working at People’s Cafe as a cook. He also has worked in the kitchens of Pagoda, Monterey Bay Canners in Pearlridge, Columbia Inn and Creations in Catering.

He doesn’t know when People’s Cafe first opened, but believes the restaurant has been around for 80 years, according to some of the original customers who still come in. He and Valdriz are the restaurant’s third owners, but they’ve tried to keep the place mostly the same, keeping true to its casual, family-friendly atmosphere. He also notes People’s Cafe has many repeat customers, who come in already knowing what they want to order. “They don’t need to see the menu, they just say, ‘OK, give me the same thing,'” Ventura says. “Mostly all of the customers know each other, and they know me.”

Other Hawaiian and local favorites here include Tripe Stew, Squid Luau, Kalua Pig with Cabbage, Beef Stew, Oxtail Soup, Salt Meat with Watercress, Corned Beef with Cabbage, Poke and more. The Filipino dishes Ventura added to the menu include some of the traditional foods he grew up eating. House specials are Crispy Pata, Pork Guisantes, Pork and Chicken Adobo, Fried Whole Tilapia and Banana Lumpia. A breakfast menu (available from 6:30 to 10 a.m.) also was added last year and features a variety of popular local breakfast items, such as Loco Moco, Adobo Omelette, Kalua Pig Omelette, Steak and Eggs, French Toast and more.

People’s Cafe meets catering needs as well. Free parking is available downstairs (entrance on South Kukui Street around the corner from the restaurant).

People’s Cafe

1310 Pali Hwy., Honolulu
521-5552
Monday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.–8 p.m.
Sunday, 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

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