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The ‘Place’ to go if you’re craving gourmet comfort food

By Yu Shing Ting Photos By Missy Romero
June 14, 2015

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If you’re looking for A Place To Eat, well, go to 1035 University Ave. in Puck’s Alley. Yes, you’ll find food there, but it’s also the actual name of the restaurant.

A Place To Eat was opened in August 2012 by chef, owner and dishwasher Willu “Wil” Diaz, and serves a variety of plate lunches that are fresh, affordable and even gourmet. Given the chef’s background, it’s no surprise that the food is delicious. Diaz has worked with many of Hawaii’s top chefs, and credits the late chef Nicola Sayada as his mentor.

“He got me my first chef job at Ocean House and brought me to Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar when it first opened,” recalls Diaz, who has a degree in psychology from the University of Hawaii and worked in mental health before becoming a chef. “When I met chef Sayada, he was 64 years old and running around the kitchen and writing recipes. I thought at his age, I can only hope to have the same passion he has.

“A Place To Eat is what it is, a place to eat. It’s comfort food and it happens to be a plate lunch.”

The No. 1 best seller is Mac Nut Mahi Mahi ($11), featuring lightly pan-fried mahi mahi with a macadamia nut crust and ginger coconut cream sauce. The second most popular item is Kahlua Pig Quesadilla ($11), consisting of slow-cooked kalua pig that is shredded and marinated with a flavorful Kahlua liqueur barbecue sauce, and seven types of cheeses. The dish is served with two sauces: pineapple salsa and avocado sour cream.

Also popular is Li Hing Mui Kalbi ($14), which pops up occasionally as a weekly special and will be available through the end of June.

“It’s a 20-hour marinade process in a miso marinade with li hing,” explains Diaz, noting that the dish comes from his catering menu. “The kalbi is grilled, and it’s served with a side of mesclun mix salad.”

To complete your meal, Diaz suggests adding Sweet Potato Fries ($7) with tasty homemade Hawaiian chili ketchup.

The restaurant’s regular menu of 10 dishes, along with some add-on sides and desserts, is available for lunch and dinner. Weekly specials are available from 5 p.m. to midnight only, and typically, specials for the following week are decided by a fun tip-jar voting system, along with customer requests. Voting commences on Sunday, and winning dishes are introduced on Tuesday. There also is a Bento Menu available during lunch (11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily).

Diaz is starting a Chef’s Table every last Sunday of the month at 8 p.m. “For $23, you set a table with other customers who you’ve never met before and you taste 10 dishes that I’ve never made before,” he explains. “There are only 10 seats available, and it’s BYOB.”

A Place to Eat

Puck’s Alley
1035 University Ave., Suite 104
941-4554
Monday–Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5 p.m.-midnight
Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-midnight
*Closed sporadically for private events