Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Julie’z RestaurantRestaurant Insider
August 30, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: MARK GALACGAC
ANNE LEE speaks with Julie’z Restaurant owner/manager JULIE OASAY and owner ZENAIDA PAGDILAO
I remember meeting Julie Oasay and Zenaida Pagdilao, co-owners of Julie’z Restaurant in Kapolei back in 2004, when we did a “Where to Eat Now” segment in MidWeek‘s West Oahu Islander — talk about flashbacks. In fact, they still have the photo of the feature hanging up on their wall. Now, Julie’z Restaurant will be celebrating 18 years in business on Dec. 8.
Their love and dedication to the restaurant and willingness to give back to the community are just a couple of reasons why these two local Filipino women were able to build a strong, loyal following. I was so happy to reconnect and share their story — and take a new photo!
AL: How did you get into the culinary industry?
JO & ZP: We both used to work at a popular Filipino restaurant. The Kapolei area was booming at the time, so we took the opportunity to invest in this area, as there were no other Filipino restaurants open. Our families both live on this side of the island (Julie in Kapolei and Zenaida in Waianae), which made it convenient for us to operate the restaurant. Our husbands are cousins, so this is really a family business. We opened our doors Dec. 8, 2002. We knew that we could open up our own restaurant, trust and work together, and bring our recipes from our home to our customers.
AL: Who is head chef at the restaurant?
JO & ZP:We have cooks that do the cooking, but we both cook, too. It takes a village, as we are open seven days a week, 364 days a year (we only close New Year’s Day).
AL: What type of cuisine does the restaurant specialize in?
JO & ZP: Homestyle Filipino cuisine.
AL: What sets the restaurant apart from others like it?
JO & ZP: Our staff is treated like family, and our customers are treated like family. We have a lot of loyal and repeat customers, all the way from Kaneohe and Waimanalo. There is a family that comes from Kaimuki, and they are here every Sunday. We have the best Filipino food on the island, and we want to deliver that to our customers. When our customers come all the way from the other side of the island, and they pass by other Filipino restaurants to get to us, we want to make sure that we provide the best cuisine and make it worth their trip.
AL: What are the top sellers?
JO & ZP: Our lunch and dinner plates are popular, including the Lechon Kawali ($10.25), which is chopped crisp pork with onions and tomatoes. There is also a special Lechon Kawali with Fried Rice Adobo lunch plate combo that you can order for $10. There is also Sari Sari ($10.25) made with pork, squash, ong choy, onions and tomatoes; Shrimp Sarciado ($12.95) with shells on and eggs; Kare-Kare ($17) featuring tenderly broiled oxtail with veggies thickened with peanut butter; and Dinuguan ($10.25). Our Hot Cakes ($7 two-piece short stack; $8 three-piece full stack) are very popular, too. We also have Red Velvet Pancakes ($7 short stack).
AL: How has COVID-19 impacted your restaurant?
JO & ZP: This is the hardest thing we have had to face, not only as a business but personally, too. We worry about our employees and customers, and their safety and livelihood. With this new stay-at-home order, we are open for takeout. Quick Cuisine is a delivery service that we use. They deliver within a 5-mile radius.
AL: What is your favorite thing on the menu?
JO: Lechon Kawali and Kare-Kare.
ZP: My specialty is the Shanghai Lumpia. I am the only one that can make that.
AL: How about outside of your menu?
JO: I love to eat Japanese food.
ZP: I am very simple and am happy with a bowl of saimin from Zippy’s.
AL: What is your favorite part of the job?
JO & ZP: We like to keep busy and see the customers and employees. We also serve as an outreach for the Filipino community. This is a first job for a lot of our employees, and we want to help them get a head start in life. We also like to give back to the community. We feed the homeless and give scholarships to deserving Filipino students.
AL: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JO & ZP: We have won and been recognized with many awards for our cuisine. We have won the Fil-Am Courier award for Favorite Filipino Restaurant in Hawaii for 2017. And, if you don’t see a particular Filipino dish on the menu, you can request it. If we are not too busy and have the ingredients, we can certainly do our best to make it for you.