Editor’s Page: Mahalo to a High School Foodie

If it wasn’t for one of my best friends, I may not have ventured outside life next to a Lazy Susan.
Christi Young

W hen you grow up in a Chinese family, dinners out tend to be—surprise!—in Chinese restaurants. As a kid, my family followed a fairly strict circuit of Maile Chinese Restaurant in Mililani for quick weekend treats, Doong Kong Lau in the Chinese Cultural Plaza for extended get-togethers, dim sum at Wo Fat and Mei Sum in Chinatown, and weddings at the former Lau Yee Chai in Waikīkī and Royal Garden in the Ala Moana Hotel. When we felt fancy, my high school friends and I would have a “nice” dinner at Yum Yum Tree.


Then my best friend, Erik, got his first job at Star Market. Yes, Erik bought his first car, a Honda Accord. Yes, he bought a stereo to play CDs. But what Erik chose to do with the rest of his paychecks was go out for dinner. Thankfully, he needed a companion.


Roy's Hawai‘i Kai
The opening of Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai in December 1988. Roy Yamaguchi (right) with his original partners (left to right) Mike McKenna, Vince and Judy Sykes, and Fred and Myrtle Lee.
Photo: Courtesy of Roy‘s Hawai‘i Kai


We started our expedition into the local dining scene at Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai. We were juniors in high school, overdressed and intimidated—at least I was—but the service was gracious, the food delicious and the experience thrilling. A few months later, we sat in a booth illuminated by a single overhead light at Matteo’s in Waikīkī. I jumped every time a waiter silently appeared out of the darkness to refill my water. Through the years we hit Sam Choy’s on Kapahulu Avenue, Alan Wong’s when it opened on King Street, Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas in what I still call Restaurant Row, 3660 on the Rise and more. When Erik moved to Japan, I enlisted others to continue my culinary crawl, introducing new friends, and eventually my husband, to the Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine scene.


When I joined HONOLULU in 2011, my inner foodie rejoiced. My first daughter was not yet 1, which meant my fine dining days were on pause. So, in the office I would sidle up to the always affable dining editor, John Heckathorn, to chat about, and live vicariously through, his most recent finds, chef stories and all-time favorite dishes. Things were changing. That year, Eat the Street mobilized the food truck scene and Downtown became the hub for cool casual bistros where up-and-coming chefs flipped old favorites into modern Instagrammable hits.


All of this is reflected in our 35th annual Hale ‘Aina issue. What we love almost more than trying dozens of amazing dishes (almost) is the chance to tell the stories behind these local businesses. That’s why food and dining editor Catherine Toth Fox got up before sunrise to spend a day with Pai Honolulu chef Kevin Lee and headed to a farm with chef Peter Merriman to talk more about his culinary journey; editor at large Robbie Dingeman sat down with chef George Mavrothalassitis to learn about the challenge of introducing tasting menus to a state known for packed plate lunches; and senior editor Don Wallace visited three original Hale ‘Aina winners that are still winning today. So, enjoy, dive in and feel free to pause at any time to make reservations for your next great meal.


Christi Young


Got a good story? Reach me at christiy@honolulumagazine.com


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