Page 11 - Dining Out - March 13, 2022
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Kauai Restaurant of the Week with Anne Lee
  Please tell me about the restaurant and how it got the name Unko’s.
Many of our customers would attend the events that we catered, and they would always call me ‘“unko,” a local slang term for uncle, out of respect, especially by the younger couples. When we decided to open the restaurant, it was an appropriate name to use.
This building has been here for over 72 years and is considered a historic landmark. Tell me about the different restaurants that were here previously?
The building’s original name was the Green Garden Restaurant, owned by the Arashrio/Hamabatafamily,anddatesback to 1948. This family has always been in the restaurant business and owned three restaurants across the island that the broth- ers and one sister owned/managed. My wife Sharon and I are only the second owners after all those years.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I have a passion for cooking. I would always help my family and friends by doing all their cooking at their parties and get to- gethers. In 2010, I left my job at PMRF (Pacific
Missile Range Facility); I was there for 28 years. Gwen Hamabata, the previous owner of this location, helped me with recipes and brought this opportunity to me. Also, the team at Gather Federal Credit Union helped me every step of the way with loans to my commercial accounts and anything else I needed to get to where I am today.
Why is Unko’s only open for dinner on Friday nights and brunch Saturdays and Sundays?
All of the workers at the restaurant are my family and close friends. They all have full-time jobs and come on the weekends to help me operate the restaurant to ser- vice our community. We enjoy visiting with our customers and offer them a great meal at an affordable price.
Unko’s Kitchen
1-3749 Kaumualii Hwy., Hanapepe 808-335-5235
6-9 p.m. Fridays and 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Tell me about the three dishes you prepared for me to try.
Hunter special has two large scoops of rice, three Portuguese sausages, two pieces of Spam, in-house smoke pork and four eggs. The meat is all pork — this was made for the pig hunter in mind, who wants to have a full belly so they can focus on hunting and not their grumbling bellies.
Kalua taco salad features a freshly made flour tortilla shell filled with romaine let- tuce and spring greens, topped with in- house kalua pork, cheese, diced tomatoes
salsa and sour cream. For the fried saimin combo, there’s saimin noodles, fishcake, Spam, and it’s topped with green onions, and Unko’s local seasoned crispy fried chicken — putting these two items togeth- er on a plate was a hit from the start.
What is the most unique thing that has happened at your restaurant or ca- tering event?
Helping a nonprofit E Ola Mau Na Leo O Kekaha provide hundreds of hot meals to our communities for the kupuna and the less fortunate families on the west side during the tough times of the pandemic.
The island of Kauai is unique, what makes Hanapepe unique to you and your ohana?
Hanapepe town is unique because it’s the only town on the island that was not owned by the plantation. It was owned by individual owners and shareholders. Shop- keepers were either locals or immigrant families. During the boom of sugar planta- tions, Hanapepe had everything you want- ed and needed from banks, restaurants, bars, saimin stands, dry goods stores, barber shops, and fish and meat markets with locally grown beef, pork, poultry and locally caught fish. Hanapepe has a motto called Kauai’s biggest little town.
1. Fried saimin combo ($11)
2. Hunter special ($15)
3. Kalua taco salad ($11)
4. Unko’s Kitchen offers a variety of local favorites.
 Dining Out / March 13-19, 2022 / 11

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