A Home Away from Home for Hawaiian Comfort FoodDigest On the Menu
November 9, 2014
Story By: Lindsey Appleton | Photos by: Nathalie Walker
Tucked away in the heart of Kakaako is an eatery serving up traditional local grinds. Deeply rooted in its community, Cooke Street Diner has a menu packed with dishes that take your palate back to childhood in Hawaii. The second you step into the eatery, you’ll immediately feel right at home, as CSD’s menu offers local comfort foods, such as Ono Beef Stew ($8.25, only served Fridays) and “Ono” Shoyu Chicken ($8.25).
“There’s not a lot of places still serving Hawaiian classics anymore,” Ken Akazawa, owner of the 12-year-old establishment, says. “I wanted Cooke Street Diner to be consistent and familiar. The recipes are ones I grew up with, and my own creations, too.”
Akazawa got his start in Kapiolani Community College’s Culinary Arts Program, and later worked at a restaurant in San Francisco. He then returned to Oahu, transforming the empty space on Cooke Street into a lunchtime hot spot. Try the popular Korean Chicken ($8.75), dredged in light and crisp batter, fried and coated in a perfectly balanced sweet-and-spicy sauce that’s not too garlicky. Patrons also can enjoy CSD Min ($6.25), saimin bursting with tender teri beef and local-style kimchee.
The eatery is bustling with customers by noon, and Akazawa recommends coming in for breakfast or an early lunch, so he can talk story with each customer. CSD opens at 5:30 a.m., allowing customers to choose from a variety of breakfast options.
Chow down on Ono Fried Rice with one egg ($6.25): The salty morsels of rice pair perfectly with the creamy egg yolk and crunchy slices of green onion. Or, try Kimchee Portuguese Sausage with two extra-large eggs ($6.50), a combo of zesty and vinegary flavors sure to spice up your morning.
But it’s not only the food that’s popular with the locals; CSD’s atmosphere is warm and welcoming, with customers ranging from the straight-off-the-beach surfer to the neighboring Kakaako business worker. Akazawa hops back and forth from helping in the kitchen to working the register, to sitting at the surf-poster-themed tables, where he talks and laughs with new and repeat patrons.
“I’ve never liked that overly fancy type of restaurant — that’s not how I grew up,” he says. “I wanted to keep that momand-pop feel — a place where people come in three to four times a week for home-cooked local food. People often come once, just to try us out, and then become regulars.”
Don’t miss out on this Hot Deal for Dining Out readers: a $10 voucher valued at $20 at Cooke Street Diner. Vouchers can be purchased now through Nov. 12, and are valid for six months. The deal is limited to one voucher per party, and the voucher is not applicable to the Cooke Street Diner Lunch Truck, or for use with other specials, discounts and coupons.
Cooke Street Diner
605 Cooke St., Honolulu
Monday-Friday, 5:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.