Bygone Bites Are BackOno, You Know
April 29, 2018
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo
I’ve always been a vintage kind of girl. I love me some classic rock n’ roll, as is evident in the stack of old vinyl records in my room, and I’ve always enjoyed scouring thrift and antique shops for dusty treasures.
The same is true when it comes to the food I eat: There’s something about biting into a dish that has some roots attached to it that gives me genuine satisfaction.
Perhaps it’s that sense of history and culture that draws me to old-fashioned favorites, or simply the charm of daydreaming about yesteryear. Either way, I felt the urge to go back in time this week and seek out some age-old desserts that everyone knows and loves, but are hard to find on modern-day menus. Thankfully, they can be found at a few of Honolulu’s veteran eateries.
JUST LIKE THE GOOD OLD DAYS
One place you can still find that old-Hawaii feel is at the legendary Wailana Coffee House, perhaps Waikiki’s most iconic eatery. The retro local diner was founded by the late Francis Tom in 1969, and throughout the decades it has hosted celebrities, it was one of Don Ho’s regular hangouts, and it was even featured on both the original Hawaii Five-O TV series and the current remake.
Wailana’s glitz and glamour was — and still is — centered on a down-home menu of both island-style and American comfort foods, which continue to please customers to this day. One of the most delicious forms of nostalgia comes via the Banana Split ($8.35) — a dessert stemming back to early-1900s Pennsylvania, according to A Month of Sundaes and The Banana Split Book author Michael Turback. Wailana’s recipe is very traditional, with a scoop each of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream accompanying the split banana, pineapple chunks — an ingredient in the original recipe, according to Turback, believe it or not — as well as whipped cream, chocolate syrup, macadamia nuts and, of course, a cherry on top.
This sizable split is perfect for sharing, and while your sweet tooth is at it, give in to other popular desserts, including Carrot Cake ($6.50), Fried Ice Cream ($7.25) and Banana Lumpia ($7.25; note: prices subject to change). Wailana purchasing agent Danielle Crawford adds that when guests order the current Summer Sizzling Steak Special, they’ll receive a complimentary slice of locally made Ted’s Bakery cream pie.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
With our island landscape changing all the time, and our fact-paced lives always seeming to pick up speed, it’s comforting to walk into Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen and feel as though the clocks have turned back time. Now in its eighth decade of serving classic Japanese and local-style fare, Sekiya’s offers a taste of Hawaii’s past, with many recipes from the original menu still dished out today.
Sure to spark some reminiscing, Sekiya’s “fountain service” hearkens to the days when the restaurant had a jukebox in the corner and a 1950’s diner-style counter. One of its popular beverages then and now is the Orange Freeze ($4.99), which refreshes patrons on a hot Hawaiian day with Meadow Gold orange sherbet mixed with crushed ice and orange syrup.
In the same vein, customers can get their old-school fix of floats, malt and milk shakes, and sundaes, among other classics. Seeing as Sekiya’s specializes in Japanese cuisine, patrons also love to order Abekawa Mochi ($7.45), according to general manager Faye Hara. The melted mochi stretches to gooey perfection and is covered with kinako, a sweet soybean powder. For a real treat, Hara recommends pairing the mochi with a cool scoop of locally made Dave’s Green Tea Ice Cream ($3.99; also distributed by Meadow Gold).
And with that, our escape to old-time delights is complete, and we’re all the richer for having eaten them.