Cooked By the People for the PeopleChew On This Digest
March 16, 2014
Story By: Michelle Lee | Photos by: Nathalie Walker
Simply put, People’s Cafe is dedicated to its customers. “I can’t remember the last time I took a vacation or even had a day off,” says Thomas Ventura, co-owner and chef of People’s Cafe. Under normal circumstances, such a statement might evoke feelings of resentment or sympathy, but for Ventura, it warrants bragging rights. That is how much he loves his job.
Every day, Ventura strolls into work at 5 a.m. to help prep ingredients for the day. The eatery, which serves some of the island’s most authentic Hawaiian and Filipino cuisine, has been in operation for more than 80 years. The secret to the restaurant’s long-lasting success? “We make everything in-house instead of out-sourcing from outside vendors,” explains Ventura. “Sticking to this rule allows us to keep our prices low and quality high.”
By far, one of People’s Cafe’s most popular dishes is Hawaiian Plate ($12.50), which comes with kalua pig, lau lau, lomi salmon, poi or rice, and a slice of haupia. The kalua pig is slow-roasted for five hours each morning and seasoned with a little more than a pinch of Hawaiian salt.
Another crowd favorite is BBQ Ribs with Salmon and Shrimp ($12.50), whose fall-off-the-bone tender meat offers a delightful contrast to the char-grilled seafood, bought fresh each morning from the pier fish auction. “People enjoy the dish because it brings the best of both worlds,” says Ventura, referring to the meat and seafood combination dish. “All of our meals come with rice and lomi salmon, and we don’t use any MSG.”
People’s Cafe has become a gathering place for many diners, many of whom no longer require a menu. “Some people eat here so many times a week, eventually just telling me they will have the ‘usual’ is enough for me to know,” he adds. “Having that kind of relationship with my customers is what brings me to work each day.”
1310 Pali Hwy., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.–8 p.m.
Sunday, 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m.