Pleasing for All People’s Palates

Columns Foodie Fare

March 24, 2013

Story By: Christina O Connor | Photos by: Rachel Breit

When People’s Cafe temporarily closed its doors last year, some customers were reeling, unsure where they would go for their fix of Hawaiian food. Luckily, it reopened last September, after taking a few months to complete a number of renovations. Customers can find new decor, which includes a brightly painted dining room and new lights. Another change since reopening is the addition of breakfast to the menu. People’s Cafe now serves breakfast daily until 10 a.m.

“We serve Filipino and Hawaiian food. And it is really homemade style,” explains co-owner and chef Tomas Ventura, adding that all the food is made in-house.

If it is Filipino favorites that you’re after, Ventura says that Crispy Pata ($14.60) and Pork Guisantes ($9.50, $6.50 for a mini) are top sellers.

Crispy Pata is a giant pork leg that has been boiled for up to four hours to create tenderness and then deep-fried. Customers like the dish so much that, despite its impressive size, some can eat the whole thing on their own, according to Ventura.

Pork Guisantes is a colorful dish with green and red bell peppers, onions and beets. “It is a popular Filipino dish,” Ventura explains.

Other menu options include Garlic Shrimp ($9.50), a dish that features large, flavorful local shrimp complemented with garlic.

Local favorites include dishes such as Oxtail Soup ($10.50), which is swimming with cabbage and parsley.

More changes are on the way for People’s Cafe. “We are planning to change the menu again in May,” Ventura says. “We are going to put new items like Garlic Chicken and Pipikauloa Short Ribs Style.”

He estimates that the menu expansion will include six to eight new items. And with the renovations that recently took place, People’s Cafe now has a fryer — so customers can expect the addition of more fried goods to the menu.

Ventura derives culinary inspiration from a variety of sources — from sampling other fare to discussing food with friends and customers.

“I go out to eat with my family, and I look to see what is popular,” he explains.

On the Side

People’s Cafe on Pali Highway has been serving up local food for more than 70 years. Current co-owner Tomas Ventura says that many of the older customers remember coming to the restaurant during their youth. Ventura himself has a long history with the eatery — he has been working at People’s Cafe since he was 17.

“The owner before us, he hired me as a part-time cook,” Ventura explains. “And from here, I learned everything from the original owner.”

Working under the previous owner, Ventura learned to cook and has been honing his culinary skills ever since. Many of the recipes have remained the same throughout the years. There is, however, one significant change across the board; Ventura does not use any MSG.

“All the food we serve here has no MSG,” he confirms. Another big change over the years has been the addition of Filipino food to the menu.

After reopening its doors last September since completing renovations, People’s Cafe welcomes a new co-owner, Conrad Valdriz. He has been involved in the food industry for years, previously running a chocolate macadamia nut factory, a sausage factory and various restaurants.

“I have known (Tomas) for a long time,” Valdriz explains. “And I used to come and eat here.

“The customers who come here, we know almost everybody,” he says.

New customers need not be intimidated by such a cohesive group.

The staff at People’s Cafe is so friendly and inviting that you’ll feel right at home the minute you step in the door.

People’s Cafe

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

Honolulu, HI 96813

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best