Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Down To EarthRestaurant Insider
August 4, 2019
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with community outreach team leader SISI KONG and Kailua deli manager SHARENE UIAGALELEI
As one of Hawaii’s leading organic and natural food source, Down To Earth Organic and Natural is a reliable partner for many when it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle or grabbing a hearty meal.
Its first stores opened in 1977 in Wailuku, Maui and South King Street on Oahu, and has since been pleasing vegetarians around the state. However, with clean eating and “buy local” movements picking up speed, DTE has garnered a wider range of followers, including those who are not vegetarian.
“People in Hawaii are more interested in organic and natural foods. DTE is broadening people’s horizons for eating healthy. Some people are surprised that they are not eating chicken when they eat our ‘chicken,’ which is actually a tofu-based dish,” shares Sisi Kong, DTE’s community outreach team leader. “People that are not used to this, get more familiar and enjoy the healthy alternative and the fact that it tastes very close to the actual thing. We are vegetarian in a way that it’s not intrusive or confronting, it’s a nice transition for customers.”
If you’re looking to up the ante in healthy meals, Kong and Sharene Uiagalelei, DTE’s Kailua deli manager share more on what customers can expect with a trip to any of its six locations.
AL: What type of cuisine does the store specialize in?
SK AND SU: We specialize in vegetarian cuisine and not vegan — vegan is 100 percent plant-based, and usually does not include honey. DTE is actually lacto-vegetarian, so we do not sell any eggs and we do sell honey.
Our vegetarian options offered are in different cultural cuisines. For Hawaiian, the most popular dish is Hawaiian Spinach Luau. Italian options that are favorites are the lasagna and stuffed pasta shells, eggplant Parmesan and pesto pasta — overall, pasta seems to be a favorite with our customers. For American food, we have great vegan burger options such as our Black Bean & Roasted Beets Burger and Earth Burger. For Japanese, our vegetarian sushi is the most popular, offering about 20 different options. We have an Okinawan vegetarian sushi, a mock shrimp tempura sushi and a California roll sushi. We are also rolling out a new sushi, called Ahimi Sushi, which is a mock ahi roll sushi that’s tomato based — it tastes and looks very similar.
AL: What is DTE’s goal to its customers?
SK AND SU: Our company slogan is, “Love life, eat healthy, be happy.” We do promote that healthy message in store and with community-based events that educate the public on health and well-being. We have cooking classes and health seminars that are taught by guest teachers in our Honolulu community room. Our website has a list of our classes and seminars on the events calendar.
AL: Anything else you’d like to share?
SK AND SU: A lot of our customers become our employees, and I am an example of that. Our Kakaako deli manager, Renato Cueco, was a customer of ours due to his health. He came to DTE to eat better and he ended up losing a lot of weight after starting work with us. Our assistant manager Armando in Kailua, lost 40 pounds from working at DTE and eating our food. Many of our employees have experienced transformations by working and eating at DTE — our team members actually benefit from working with us.
NEW KAILUA LOCATION
Down to Earth Organic & Natural will be opening its largest grocery store location at Kailua Town Center (at the former Macy’s on the corner of Kailua Road and Hahani Street) on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. (The original Kailua location will remain open until end of day on Friday, Aug. 9.) A special grand opening event will be held at the new location featuring vendor booths, live entertainment and more. This new Kailua store will provide customers with an expanded range of local, fresh, organic and natural products while also serving neighboring businesses and local residents. It will be open daily, 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. with the deli closing one hour before store closing.
New deli options to premier around the Kailua store opening include:
• New Superfood Lattes (also available as iced blended drinks): Beet Latte, Matcha Latte, Cacao Coconut Latte, Olena Latte (Turmeric Latte)
• New Smoothie Bowls
• New Sandwiches: Chik’n Parmesan Sub, Meatless Meatball Sub