Bidding Goodbye to Some of Our Favorite Restaurants in 2017

Ryan’s Grill, ‘Ono Hawaiian Foods, The Pineapple Room—how our hearts and stomachs ache.


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Ryan’s Grill, a local favorite at Ward Centre, is closing this month after nearly 35 years.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox

 

There are a lot of positives in my job as food editor.

 

I get to eat at new restaurants before they open to the public, talk story with chefs and bartenders and really get to see what goes into all the food and drinks we love.

 

But then there’s the downside: reporting on restaurants—some of which are personal favorites—closing.

 

There are lots of reasons why restaurants close shop. Finances, changes to the neighborhood, disputes with landlords, health issues. But every closure comes with some kind of a heartache: disappointed owners, out-of-work employees, depressed patrons—like me—who will miss those sticky buns or li hing margaritas.

 

SEE ALSO: What’s the Real Reason Restaurants Fail?

 

It often feels like I’m writing a eulogy whenever I have to report on a restaurant closing, and this past year was probably the worst in years. Some of my all-time favorite, go-to spots—Ryan’s Grill, The Pineapple Room, Heights Drive Inn, Kincaid’s, ‘Ono Hawaiian Foods, Larry’s Bakery—have closed for good. (JJ’s Bistro & French Pastry in Kaimukī will close on Jan. 28, but chef-owner Luangkhot “JJ” Praseuth said he’s looking for a new location. Whew.) 

 

SEE ALSO: After 57 Years, ‘Ono Hawaiian Foods is Closing for Good

 

We’re already missing the manju, sticky buns, cinnamon bread and Spam musubi from Larry’s Bakery.

 

SEE ALSO: Larry’s Bakery Closing After 57 Years

 

Right now, the closing of Ryan’s Grill is hitting me particularly hard. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been there—for birthdays, baby showers, farewell parties, GNOs, pau hana, first dates, pre-concert pūpū, after-movie grinds—and the thought that this restaurant at Ward Centre will not be part of my life moving forward is unfathomable.

 

The restaurant and bar, which opened in 1983, will serve its last basket of Jamaican jerk fries and li hing margaritas on Jan. 21.

 

The beloved li hing margarita and Jamaican jerk fries from Ryan’s Grill.

 

What made Ryan’s so great was simple: It served tasty local foods—hot crab and artichoke dip, Kobe-style loco moco, three-spice roast duck in steamed buns, a crunchy pea salad that even this pea-hater would eat—at affordable prices in a never-stuffy atmosphere. You could come here with anyone—co-workers, high school friends, blind dates—and feel totally comfortable. The drinks were great, too; its li hing margarita earned an award in our Best of Honolulu in 2016.

 

There’s no The Pineapple Room for long lunches with girlfriends. There are no quick stops after a hike at Heights Drive Inn in ‘Aiea for fried noodles and boneless teri chicken. There’s no ‘Ono Hawaiian Foods for lunches with out-of-town guests.

 

Other popular restaurants have closed, too. Magnolia Bakery (oh, that banana pudding!), Palate Craft & Eatery, Restaurant Epic, The Edge by Tamura’s in Kaimukī, Serg’s Mexican Kitchen and Waikīkī Shore Bird (after 38 years).

 

Let’s hope 2018 is the Year of Restaurants and none of our favorites close.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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