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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: McCully Buffet

Restaurant Insider

June 21, 2020

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: McCully Buffet

Anne Lee

ANNE LEE speaks with owner of McCully Buffet SAM SEO

I recently had the chance to sit with Sam Seo, the owner of McCully Buffet, which opened June 19, just in time for Father’s Day! After being closed since March, we discussed the impact that COVID-19 had and what he is doing to implement safe and efficient changes at the very popular buffet destination.

AL: How long have you been in the restaurant industry and how did you get your start?

SS: Over 25 years. I moved here about 27 years ago from Korea to go to school in Hawaii, and I worked at a Korean barbecue restaurant and Japanese restaurant, where I learned a lot about the restaurant industry here in Hawaii. In 1998, I opened up Sam’s Delicatessen — that was my first restaurant.

Sam Seo (right) and his son Paul are ready to welcome diners to McCully Buffet.

AL: McCully Buffet just reopened. What measures have you implemented for the safety of your patrons?

SS: We have a full option of buffet options that we offered before, but now we have servers at the buffet line serving choices that you pick and placing it on your plate. There is also a different way that we have set up the buffet, with shields in front of the food items, with the name of the stations stated on top. We also had to reduce the size of the seating to accommodate the safety measures. We have had to modify our hours to 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. for lunch, and 4:30-9:30 p.m. for dinner, seven days a week.

AL: You are also known for your fresh fish and affordable price points. Can you tell me how you are able to offer such quality at a reduced price?

SS: The only reason that I can offer those prices (is that) I cut down the middle, so I can offer the price savings to our customers. I go right to the fish auctions and buy the fish directly. I also operate and own Ahi & Vegetable — locations in Kalihi, Ala Moana and downtown — which brings me the opportunity to buy in bulk and bring the savings direct to our customers that dine at our restaurants.

McCully Buffet owner Sam Seo knows his stuff when it comes to fresh fish, which is in abundance on any given day.

AL: Can you tell us what changes we can expect for the buffet options?

SS: Even with the modifications that we need to meet to reopen, we are still able to offer the same high-quality items that guests enjoyed when we were first opened. Our menu mostly has the consistent staples of our high-quality meats, sushi, sashimi, yakiniku, and an array of Korean and Japanese dishes. We are an all-you-can-eat buffet with high-quality options. We also update our offerings at times based on what’s available.

AL: What are your most popular items?

SS: Our meats and fresh fish — it’s the best quality around!

Expect myriad side dishes to accompany your meal. Anne Lee photo

AL: What are the price points for lunch and dinner?

SS: We offer our low prices specifically for our local families. That is why we have already priced it so low to begin with. We have a tremendous local following because we offer the highest quality, and the price points were made with that in mind, for locals to come frequently.

AL: Do you have a chef that prepares the food?

SS: We have a series of chefs that prepare the items. There are about four to five people per cuisine that prepare the Korean options, the Japanese sushi/fish options and the additional items you see on the buffet.

AL: Do you have takeout options available?

SS: At this time, there is no takeout at McCully Buffet, but Ahi & Vegetable still has takeout available, as well as dine-in. Please check out ahiandvegetable.com.

AL: With three successful restaurants already existing, why did you want to open a buffet restaurant?

SS: From my business experience in working in fish auctions, and at Korean barbecue and Japanese restaurants, I thought I could create something where I can enjoy fresh fish, sushi, sashimi and BBQ kine. I wanted a concept where I could put all of my experiences into one — and basically where I want to eat.

AL: Anything else you want to share?

SS: I want to invite the locals to come and try our restaurant and experience the high-quality items that we designed specifically for kamaaina. You need to feed your family and want to make sure that they have good food. This is what I had in mind when I decided to open up McCully Buffet. You want to give your family high quality at a price that you can afford — and eat plenty.

Buffet Breakdown

Lunch $27.95 adults; $18.95 children

Dinner $37.95 adults, $29.95 children There is a 10 percent discount for seniors and military Mondays-Thursdays (excluding holidays).

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