30 Years of Hale Aina Awards: By the Numbers

The First Year (1985)

Honolulu’s dining scene was a lot smaller 30 years ago. Here are the winners of the first-ever Hale Aina Awards.

The Third Floor.  Restaurant of the year. Dinner began with naan and duck liver pate and ended with ice cream bonbons served over dry ice. In between: Duck l’orange perhaps, or beef Wellington.

Benihana.  Japanese. Teppan style, with all Japanese chefs.

Chez Michel.  French. Opened by Michel Martin, the same Michel that opened Michel’s at the Colony Surf. In 1985, though, it was run by another Michel (Fernez).

Compadres.  Mexican. In Honolulu, we love complaining about the city’s Mexican food as much as we loved Compadres. Compadres at Ward Center won a Hale Aina Award 20 out of the 24 years that it was in business, since the Hale Aina Awards started. (Compadres closed in 2008.)

Greek Island Taverna.  Other Ethnic. In the beginning, Hale ‘Aina categories included French, Chinese, Hawaiian, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Mexican. In the “Other Ethnic” category voters consistently picked a Greek restaurant as their favorite.

Hy’s Steak House.  American Food. Continental menu specializing in steaks. It was and still is known for being a beautiful restaurant.

John Dominis.  Seafood. Fresh seafood from all over the world. 53 by the Sea now stands in its place.

Keo’s Thai Cuisine.  Thai. Owner Keo Sananikone claimed his restaurants were the first to make Thai food popular in Hawaii.

Kim Chee II.  Korean. Korean barbecue, local style, lots of food.

King Tsin.  Chinese. Szechuan cuisine, written up in Los Angeles and New York. Comparable to Chinese restaurants in China.

Matteo’s.  Italian. Large portions. We’re still waiting for the Matteo’s space to reopen.

McDonald’s.  Fast Food. Yup, this was a category.

Michel’s at the Colony Surf. Sunday Brunch. Champagne cocktails, opakapaka, omelets. Some things never change, and we don’t want them to.

Ono Hawaiian Food.  Hawaiian Food. “We’re so small, we don’t have any place for people to park,” Sylvia Shimabukuro, daughter of the owner, told us. Thirty years later, it’s still there for tourists and locals alike.

Hale Aina Longevity Award: Hy’s Steak House and Ono Hawaiian Food: Of the first Hale Aina winners in 1985, these two continue to win awards in 2014, for Best Steak and Best Hawaiian Food, respectively.

Photo: Desert Island Restaurants

Going Strong:
Randy Schoch

You may remember Schoch from the ’80s when he partnered with Tom Selleck at The Black Orchid. But just because he hasn’t been making headlines doesn’t mean he’s out of the restaurant business. Far from it: With 49 Hale Aina Awards, just a few shy of Alan Wong’s tally, he continues to rack up wins. The first was with Nick’s Fishmarket, which won an award almost every year from 1989 to 2001. The Black Orchid garnered him Best Restaurant titles for multiple years (1990, 1991, 1993). Now, he wins with his Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Macaroni Grill franchises. He’s also partly responsible for Roy’s national fame—he partnered with Yamaguchi to expand Roy’s to the Mainland.