HRA: Third Annual Hall of Fame
Meet this year’s inductees into the Hawaii Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame.
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Seiichi and Matsuno Nakagawa
Seaside Restaurant and Aqua Farm
Hilo, the Big Island
It’s one thing to run a restaurant, but to have a restaurant stay successful for three generations is an entirely different matter. Seiichi and Matsuno Nakagawa opened the Seaside Restaurant and Aqua Farm in 1921, and after 88 years, one tsunami and a world war, it remains the place to go for fresh fish.
“I’m proud of them for setting up the restaurant and farm,” says Colin Nakagawa, the couple’s grandson. He now runs the restaurant and farm, and says, “It’s very time-consuming, and so you’ve got to give them credit. They were pioneers.”
“Time-consuming” is an understatement. What Seiichi and Matsuno established took tremendous patience and commitment. All seven types of fish in the Nakagawa’s 30-acre fishpond are raised from eggs, so they take anywhere from eight months to five years to reach market size.
In addition to being the only restaurant in the state that has its own fish farm in the back, Seaside Restaurant is one of the few places left where you can still find fresh fish wrapped in ti leaves and cooked with nothing more than onions and lemon. It sounds simple, but this recipe was one of Seiichi and Matsuno’s proudest accomplishments.
“They would want me to carry on their traditional recipes,” says Nakagawa. “I think they would be really happy if I just carried those on.”
Hideo and Fujiko Nonaka
Kauai residents and those in the restaurant business remember Mike’s Café as one of the staples of the Kauai tourism industry. The Nonaka family remembers the restaurant, which they operated from 1962 to 1982, as the place where they grew up.
“My parents had a lot of contracts with the tour companies,” says Grace Hall, Hideo and Fujiko’s daughter. “During lunch hours we would have hundreds of tourists stopping in.”
While Mike’s Café served up American cuisine catered especially to Mainlanders, Hideo and Fujiko also ran a huge farm with their relatives, all of them living off the profits together.
“Four different families were raised on the farm, all together 22 kids. My dad and the corporation supported all of them to go through college,” says Hall.
Hideo and Fujiko worked endlessly to keep the restaurant opened for lunch and dinner seven days a week. They held birthday parties, wedding receptions and graduation parties.
“My dad and mom made a lot of sacrifices,” says Hall. “By the time they came home we were already sleeping. When they left in the morning, we were still sleeping!”
“My most treasured memory is working together as a family,” says Hall. “My dad and mom did a great job keeping the family together.”