HRA: Third Annual Hall of Fame
Meet this year’s inductees into the Hawaii Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame.
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When Betsy Cardoza married into the Tokyo Tei restaurant business in 1944 she was just starting to learn the ropes of Japanese cooking from her in-laws. No one could imagine that 65 years and two location changes later, Cardoza’s daughter, Eunice Kitagawa, would be running Tokyo Tei, serving different generations of the same families.
“The moves never affected us at all,” says Kitagawa. “Our customers’ children grew up on our food, and their childrens’ children; it just continued that way.”
While this family restaurant is modest, it has nonetheless attracted attention from some of the most well-known food critics in our country. Tokyo Tei has been positively written about in both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Even John F. Kennedy visited the spot when he was a senator.
“It’s really nice because a lot of the tourists will come in with the articles in hand,” laughs Kitagawa. “They come because of the articles and we didn’t even know we were in [those publications].”
If Betsy Cardoza were giving advice to the restaurant’s future owners?
“She’d tell them to be hands-on and be there daily,” says Kitagawa. Cardoza is definitely a lady who stays true to her word—at age 85 she still goes to the restaurant every day to check the fish and cut the sashimi.
Patti's Chinese Kitchen
In 1967, when Patti’s Chinese Kitchen first opened, fast-food Chinese was a brand-new concept. Calvin Chun took good, home-cooked Chinese food and combined it with the convenience of a plate lunch. After a lifetime of hard work and dedication, Patti’s Chinese Kitchen now has nearly 50 different entrées to choose from, including the customers’ favorites: spare ribs, pot-roast pork and beef broccoli. Even the almond cookies have reached star status.
“My father has always been very strong on the local-type flavors, which make local Chinese food different from Hong Kong or San Francisco. There’s a fine line of difference,” says Patti Louie, Chun’s daughter. She is now in charge of running the restaurant. “We get a lot of customers who have moved away and they come back to visit and they say that Patti’s food tastes so much better than the Mainland’s.”
Despite the recent closure of the Ala Moana location, Patti’s Chinese Kitchen’s Aiea location is still attracting local families due to Chun’s low-cost, high-quality philosophy.
“He wants us to be respectful of the business and of his reputation, not to cut corners and maintain the quality,” says Louie. “It’s OK if we want to bring some new items to the line but we need to keep the standard of the entrées the same. I think that’s what sets us apart from other fast-food places.”